No Comfort: There Is None

For all of us there comes a time when we are unable to comfort someone we love. There is nothing we can say or do that will ease their pain. We can only mutely register their need and pray that God will do what we cannot. It is at such times that we know our own fragility and are humbled by our incapacity. We discover that all our ambitions and dreams are as nothing compared with this desire to help another. We are finally freed from our obsession with self, but at the cost of feeling a pain so intense that it numbs us utterly. Overstatement? If you think so, you probably have not yet experienced what I am describing. This morning that experience of aching helplessness is being undergone at many a hospital bedside, in prison waiting-rooms, refugee camps and behind the curtains of respectable houses on respectable streets that give every appearance of knowing no need. Most of us have a busy day ahead, filled with plans for this and that, shot through, I hope, with moments of joy and gladness. Let us remember, and pray for, those less fortunate — those who grieve silently, inwardly, for whom there is no comfort, given or received. It is the work of the Communion of Saints and, as such, our work, too.

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9 thoughts on “No Comfort: There Is None”

  1. Thank you for remind us that while we think we can fix everything, that some situations leave us feeling helpless.

    Being beside others is one of the things that I feel called do, but it can be frustrating when you see someone you like and respect deeply, struggling to just stand up unsupported or unable to breathe without a tube in place. Suddenly, our own vulnerability comes to the fore and we can be emotionally drained, but not showing it too much is something that we need to do, to encourage those that may be supporting.

    I have found that often it’s practical things that are needed, from perhaps taking them out or to church, doing some shopping for them, or even tidying up a little bit.

    What I have found difficult in the past has been comforting the bereaved, the tendency to become emotionally involved is huge, and we need to guard ourselves and those we support against our feelings being put onto them. As one wise priest told me,”When walking beside someone in a pastoral situation, dip one food into the stream, but keep the other firmly placed on the bank” and it works most of the time.

    I have found dealing with my own grief at loss the greatest difficulty. 18 months ago, a close friend of ours, died suddenly and totally unexpectedly while undergoing surgery, leaving her husband and family totally bereft and grief stricken. Being beside them was important, talking about her and the good times, seemed to help them as well as me. We even managed to laugh together about some of those happy times. I felt that we were able to honour her memory and strong Christian faith and the work that she did for many years on social deprivation in our area, without being maudlin about it all.

    God worked in her life and inspired her to reach out to others and many of those she helped came to her funeral.
    We still miss her, but appreciate that the good that she did in her lifetime would be remembered, at least while we survive.

  2. Thank you Sr – wonderful words. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have understood your point but following a life changing experience then when my wife almost died I do now. Fortunately we both survived! DG

  3. You take my breath away – that is exactly how precise your description is.

    Thank you for reminding me, because we all need reminding, not only of our own fears, but also of the plight of others.

  4. I had to think about this post for a while before commenting.

    We learn, often through trial and error, that we cannot fix everything. Sometimes we cannot fix anything. Every person’s life is immeasurably valuable. That’s something we need to keep in mind.

  5. Beautifully written and so true. The comments are also extremly helpful, from those who have suffered for others in their own grief.

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