Sometimes you have to watch from around the corner while people endure the most heart wrenching pain imaginable. And, you are helpless to do anything that can make a difference at all....and so....you watch, you pray, you cry, you do whatever little things you can to help...and you learn.
You learn that during an inexplicable tragedy like the sudden loss of multiple lives, there is really nothing else on earth that really matters. Petty issues, problems, dysfunction, spats, quarrels, hurt feelings and unkind and unthinking words pretty much pale in comparison. You relearn that any issues you have with anyone had better be taken care of today....right.now. because that chance could be ripped away from you with no warning and you will be left with a whole lot of "things I wish I'd dones" and "things I wish I'd saids."
You also learn than no one owns the corner at the intersection of Heartbreak and Grief. We all get to travel through there at varying degrees. Some of us are merely riding through in someone else's vehicle trying to help, while others of us are driving our own car....and often, we feel incredibly alone even when we are not.
I think it is telling of us as humans how we handle the situations where we are unbelievably raw. Do we take the time to understand that everyone grieves, suffers, and experiences pain in different ways? Or do we expect everyone to respond exactly like we do?
It is my belief that we could avoid some of the pitfalls of dealing with grief if we could come to grips with whether our own responses stem from sympathy/compassion or empathy, even though those qualities are related. While they are related they are also different. Empathetic people have the ability to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of another person. Compassion/sympathy takes those feelings and thoughts and works them into the desire to help. So does this mean that these two qualities are two sides of the same coin? I think in most cases it does. We have to be careful not to get stuck in our empathy and not progress on to how we can best help to improve a situation. Narcissistic people cannot recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others and in my experience some of those people are rabid empaths. They feel the emotions at the center of the issue but they assume them as their own and it becomes more about them than anyone else. They are stuck in their own place, never moving forward or helping in any tangible way.
Feelings of grief are like fireflies. Even when the night has passed where they have burned the brightest, they sometimes flicker at the most inopportune moments in the light of day. Some of us need to release those feelings in very vocal ways while others of us internalize, and then one day, we are taken to our knees from the overwhelming weight of what we feel.
You see things everyday on television where people say things like "well she/he never even cried." Maybe not. Maybe they never did....maybe they simply just died inside. Speaking personally, I have a bit of a tendency to under-react the closer and bigger things are to me. When my mom passed away...I was pretty stoic...I was sad, incredibly tired, and more than a little confused. But probably my behavior wasn't as overtly grief stricken as some might deem appropriate. Then a month later, a little dog I cared about was killed and I went absolutely to pieces. It was about the dog....somewhat. But, it was more about the fact I had squashed down all that agony over mom and once I allowed it oxygen to breathe it roared into a fire I had difficulty dealing with.
I once had to try to explain to someone why they needed to try to realize that while the death of someone was painful to them, they needed to understand their own place inside the pattern. In this case it was the mother of their friend. She had treated them incredibly well and they had spent a lot of time around her and they were suffering, and I knew that. But I explained to them that to allow their feelings to overtake them when there were others closer to the epicenter of the issue would not be very helpful. That event firstly happened to the woman, then her husband, children, parents and grandparents if they were still living, and siblings, then extended family members - aunts, uncles, cousins and then friends and acquaintances. I had to gently remind my own suffering child that while he loved her a lot, he needed to try to stand strong for his friend who had justlost his mother. In that moment, he needed to express sympathy and compassion and find a way to help, even though I knew that he absolutely "felt" that pain. It was not intended to diminish his own feelings but to try to help move him to a place of positive contribution as opposed to rushing into a burning building carrying a can of gasoline.
In the long run, it is my hope that every instance of grief can serve as a catalyst to repairing relationships, healing hurt feelings, and learning to live life a little better day by day. To come more and more often from a place of kindness and love. To look more and more to the creator of us all as our ultimate destination on this journey called life which unfortunately is filled with many rest stops called grief.