Pain. It’s uncomfortable. Not only for those experiencing it but for those bearing witness to it. So uncomfortable people experiencing it tend to try to escape it, and those comforting those experiencing it, tend to dismiss it. We mean well; a friend is struggling with a breakup or tragedy and we usually muster up the words, “it’s for the best,” or “it will all work out,” or “everything will be fine, you’ll see.” I get it, and I’ve done it, the whole ‘inspiring hope thing.’ But now I’m sitting on the pain-side of this scenario in a case that it won’t “all be fine” and I’m struggling. I’m struggling with my relationships with people assuring me “everything will be ok,” and I’m struggling to just tell people my struggle. The harsh reality is that everything will not always be fine. When you find yourself in this situation, the last thing you want someone doing, is telling you everything will be fine, when in fact, it won’t.
My youngest daughter, likely has cerebral palsy. This is a harsh reality. So harsh I don’t even want to type the words “has cerebral palsy” because it’s too painful. She is almost two but I’ve known something was wrong since before her sweet little body was even born. For the last year I’ve fought with those closest to me saying something is wrong while being dismissed. It’s a strange thing looking tragedy in the face and seeing it for what it is. People don’t want to do it. We’re here now, Rose will be two on November 6th, and she doesn’t have the function of a six month old. So many emotions in this that I can’t even describe. Every new person we meet that asks how old she is, I feel as though I owe some explanation of why she isn’t walking, or speaking, or whatever the hell it is that the world expects from her. It’s painful. So painful I have a hard time talking about it, even with my closest friends. After much thought of why this is, I’ve landed on two reasons:
-I’m afraid that they will try to deny my reality
-I’m trying to deny my own.
I can’t describe the feeling I experience when I talk about Rose’s condition and get the response, “she will be ok.” Or “she’s just a slow developer, a lot of kids don’t walk when they’re two.” It’s heartbreaking. It feels like my reality is too painful for them to deal with, so they dismiss and deny it altogether- that my pain, that Rosie’s pain isn’t important enough to be real to them.
Then I ask myself why I have such a hard time sharing Rosie’s reality, my reality with my closest friends. Part of it certainly is out of fear of their response. That they will deny my reality. But I think another part of it is because I want to deny the reality of Rosie’s condition. That maybe if I don’t tell anyone, I won’t have to face it, and it won’t be real. That maybe I can escape it too.
Through all of this, I have learned so much through examples of the few friends and family members who are not afraid to walk me through my pain. Of people who show up even in the most uncomfortable of places and say “I’m here.” I don’t think I’ve always been that friend. I still struggle to hold space for other people’s deep pain. It’s hard. And it’s painful. But it’s worth it, because those who have the strength to do it, are few and far between.
“People who are hurting don't need Avoiders, Protectors, or Fixers. What we need are patient, loving witness. People to sit quietly and hold space for us. People to stand in helpful vigil to our pain.” -Glennon Doyle
May we all learn to hold each other, even in our pain.