Loss. So much loss, so lately, and everywhere. Heaviness is palpable as exhausted spirits suffer under the sheer weight of the loss that hangs thick in the air. We need help bearing this burden.

The most sincere act of love I have experienced in my darkest moments of grief has been acknowledgment. It’s a crucial response and it begs to be an immediate one. Not advice, not answers, not even prayers.

Acknowledgment — the act of seeing and validating a person or experience.

Reader, it grieves me to tell you that of all the well-meaning people I had in my life during times of overwhelming pain, very few were comfortable enough, or perhaps available enough, to sit and acknowledge with me. But, oh, how grateful was I for the ones who did. It can mean the difference between losing yourself entirely to a horror or coming back from it, between merely surviving a thing or thriving afterwards.

Perhaps the thought of adversity frightens us, so that distance from those in the center of their own storms seems the only safe place to position ourselves. Do we dread unfortunate circumstances so much that it keeps us from extending support to those who have just been touched by the unthinkable, the “bad news,” the horror of loss? Why, when not one of us can escape tragedy in this life, do we swerve past and step over the unpleasant realities we see our friends and neighbors wading through?

Where is the space in which love overcomes passivity, denial, fear, and frozen intentions? And how do we serve the hurting there?

With ACKNOWLEDGMENT.

Be Available: Make it known that you see what has happened, you see where they are, and that you are there, in the midst of it, with them.

Allow the wounded a space for their pain: When one experiences a blow (of any kind) they need a place of safety. Don’t try to fix anything. Don’t tell them what to feel. Let them speak, or not speak. Let them be angry. Let them be angry for as long as it takes. Let them be sad, even if there is no end in sight. You are there to serve the broken. This is not about your comfort zones.

No Rushing: There is no timetable for grief. It is an individual journey. We’ve been taught to rush, to hurry past the unpleasant, to not stay in one place for too long, to not dwell on the bad. When did pain become so taboo that sweeping it under a rug was more acceptable than naming it? “God is good!” Beloved, if one more person tells me “God is good” while I am hanging on by a thread I’m going to use my Bible for more than just reading. Bible Belt mantras can be so utterly damaging. Read the room, brothers and sisters. We mumble out an “Everything is OK” too soon. No, it’s not. But, it can be — if we are handled properly.

Respect the space you’ve been offered: If you have been invited into someone’s pain, if you have been entrusted with a broken heart — well, this is life’s most sacred work. You should feel honored. Saving lives isn’t so hard, we only need to see past ourselves.

May there be less and less of us who find ourselves alone in the center of loss, and more of us brave enough to embrace the mourners and sit with them in the dark.

There IS strength in numbers. There are so many hanging on by a thread. Let’s gather ourselves. Let’s join our threads together and make an indestructible rope we can all hold onto.

Born in Rome, Olivia Gunn returned to her roots after a brief time of study at a university in Scotland. She is an honors graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in English from Gordon State College and is currently working on a book of essays and poetry as well as a memoir.

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