Today, I have experienced a number of reminders of suffering – some large-scale, such as the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, some personal, such as hearing of the death of the sister of a friend, who had been caring for her as she died of breast cancer.
As difficult as it is to suffer oneself, it is also difficult to witness suffering – especially if the sufferer is someone you love, someone you want to protect. You want so much to make their suffering stop, even though it is impossible to do.
I am reminded of the times in my life when I have been confronted with the suffering of a loved one, which have, unfortunately, taken up more years than I care to dwell on here. I wish I had some great wisdom to pass on, but I’m afraid all I can say is that it is important to be available to the one who is suffering and to listen to them, whether that means hearing them speak, intuiting the meaning behind their words, or reading their body language. I think it also helps to concentrate on the other person, even though that may mean setting aside one’s own worries, sadness, and fears. The one who is suffering has enough to deal with without adding to their pain by their worrying about you.
You can take time on your own later to process the worries, sadness, and fears. Sometimes that happens later in the day or week, when you find some time and space of your own to reflect. Sometimes, it is years later when something reminds you of that period of time when your loved one was suffering.
A day like today.