Emotional pain looks different for each of us and we all react equally differently to the situation in which we find ourselves. The pain can feel physical. It might be short-lived or it seems never ending. It can be buried deep within us or it can be right on the surface. Sometimes, it is all of that at once.
It’s those crushing feelings that can make us withdraw from life. The sobbing that sits behind our eyes waiting to escape in gasps of breath fighting to live. It might be an emptiness we don’t know how to fill and aren’t even sure that we want to fill. Perhaps it is a feeling like our heart is breaking and our gut is wrenching all at once. We want it to stop – or maybe we want to sit with it for a while and let it takeover. Sometimes we just don’t have the energy left to fight it again.
They are the sensations we keep to ourselves and don’t want others to see. It is the vulnerability that the strong dare not reveal. It is being caught between wanting to be cared for and wanting everyone to back off and just leave you to it. It’s wanting to feel loved and wanted and yet not want anyone to think we are too desperate.
Maybe it is depression. Maybe it is grief. Maybe it is sadness over a loss. It is like feeling disconnected in the midst of very connected and busy lives. There is an anger we can’t express or a love that is not returned. For some it looks like frustration at our inability to control the things around us. They want us to “snap out of it” and yet there we are – stuck in it waiting for that magical snap out.
How do we walk out of it when we want to sit in it? If we choose to sit with our emotions- how long is too long? What happens if we just need a minute, a day, a week to experience the pain before we can move on?
How long do friends and family let it go before they intercede? There is a fine line between respecting one’s privacy and a fear that they are drowning. If they are drowning, how do we get the life preserver to them? How do we love them when they don’t want us to but they do? What if what we say just makes it worse?
There is no cookie cutter answer. I wish there was. I would use it for myself. I would use it for others.
I know to pray. Pray that the darkness lifts. Pray that the love of God could be enough. I can start there. I can reach out and keep reaching out, even if they never respond or lie and tell me they are fine when I think they are not. I can throw out a lifeline and hope it helps. And yes, I can respect their privacy and let them process the pain without being intrusive yet making sure they hear that I care. Someone cares.
I only know that to walk out pain is a different journey for everyone. It may be quick for some and seem to take forever for others. It may seem as if all is good and suddenly some reminder pulls off the scab and the process needs to run its course again. We need to have a steadfast patience that in unobtrusively present in the lives of those going through dark times. We walk with, and sometime for, the ones who cannot walk alone until they are strong enough to stand firmly again.
However long it takes.