I see you. I don’t know the unique ache of your heart; maybe it’s a recent diagnosis – you or a loved one. Maybe you’re unsure if your sister, dad or co-worker will live through the holidays this year. Maybe you’re in the hospital at this very moment and have been told it could be hours, days or weeks. Maybe there was no heartbeat at the last ultrasound. Maybe you buried your best friend this summer. Maybe your parents are in the middle of a nasty divorce. Maybe depression and anxiety have crippled you and left you looking for a new job. Maybe after years of caring for your wife and best friend at home, you, against her wishes, had to move her into a nursing home. Maybe your friend lost a child and you are overcome by helplessness and guilt for not being there. Maybe conflict and betrayal is everywhere you look and you’ve lost trust in humanity. Maybe your husband left you. Maybe the patient you’ve so faithfully cared for couldn’t fight any longer and you can’t stop asking yourself if there’s anything you could have done differently? Was there something that you missed? Or, could you have prevented this altogether?
Maybe this is your first Thanksgiving as a widow. Maybe there was an accident – you got away with a couple bruises but your cousin just learned he will never walk again. Maybe your nephew overdosed or your aunt took her own life. Whatever it might be, I see you and I honor you. Life can be so, so hard sometimes.
Maybe it’s been years since you put your loved one to rest, but it still feels like you’re standing out in the cold, watching through a window while everyone else is enjoying the warmth, love and togetherness. Maybe you watched someone take both their first and their very last breath this year. Maybe you’ve had to make some really difficult decisions. Maybe cynicism is eating away at the very core of your soul. Maybe your time is split between the cemetery, Netflix and your bed.
Whether it was heroin, cancer, an aneurysm, a genetic disorder or a drunk driver that took your son, mother, niece or friend; whether it’s been a couple of days, a few months or many years since your life came crushing down; whether every day is a struggle; whether you’re crying yourself to sleep every night or you’re feeling guilty for not crying at all – I see you and I honor you. I see the hurting heart behind your smile. I see the mask you’ve had to put on and I see how you try to convince yourself and everyone else that you’re OK. I see your pain. I see and I know the guilt that you carry – If I had only done more, fought a little harder, if I wasn’t so selfish…..But please know, it’s not your fault. You didn’t bring this upon yourself. Suffering does not discriminate. You did your very best, dear one, and you are not alone.
I see how strong you are and I want you to know that it’s OK. It’s OK to hurt. It’s OK to cry. It’s OK to scream. It’s OK to be angry. It’s OK to question. It’s OK to wrestle with your faith and with God. It’s OK to be you and it’s OK to struggle. I see the love and compassion in your eyes. I see your worth, your courage, your determination. I see the battle scars and the war wounds. I see how hard you work to grow and I see your dedication to heal. I see your hopes, dreams and fears. I see how far you’ve come. I see the sacrifice. I see the endurance in your heart and the perseverance beyond what you thought you could bear. I see your pain and I am so sorry. But don’t give up, dear one. Continue to fight and continue to take up the space that you need. I promise it is worth it.
You don’t have to choose between grief or feeling grateful, smiles or tears, sadness or joy; you may be bruised and overwhelmed, but there is still goodness to be welcomed and blessing to be claimed. You are enough and your grief is not too much. Let pain and sorrow do the necessary, invasive work in you that they need to do. You don’t have to stuff your feelings for the benefit of other people. Allow people who love you to bear your burdens and sit in solidarity with you. You are not alone. And, your loved one is not forgotten.
I see you, dear one.