When nothing much is a whole lot
I have asked myself numerous times what I might have done to change the course of events in which my friend took his life. There are those of my readers who have asked themselves the same question. You have also asked me what to do going forward when you lose someone you love in tragic circumstances — the pain you feel, the guilt you bear, the loss you suffer.
I often say to my patients: “What do you need; how can I help?” I had to ask myself the same question. Over the days following his death, I groped for the answers. There were those who suggested that I should go away for awhile, take some time, and get some rest.
What I discovered was threefold: what I needed was familiar people and places; that everyone is carrying a burden; and even doing something small can help.
In the beginning what I wanted to do was isolate myself; what I did instead was plunge myself into my work because there are those who need me more than I need to be alone. Being alone doesn’t work for me, except in limited ways. In my work and in my daily life, I find that there are those whose burdens are heavier than mine; and whose need for compassion is great.
So I went to work. In reaching out to others, I left myself behind; in a healthy way. I stopped on the way back from an out-of-town trip and spent the afternoon on a back porch with a friend drinking ice tea and laughing. We grilled hamburgers and ate s’mores. Comfort food; comfort people.
I am fortunate to have my office in the home where I grew up. There is a room, my grandfather’s room, where I can sit on the window box, overlook the backyard and find comfort. And I did. Comfort places.
I talked with my pastor Margi Colerick, whose sage advice and pastoral wisdom gave me the hope that in spite of how he died, my friend would find peace in the embrace of the god who created him, and that one day, we would see one another again.
The final piece of the puzzle was set in place by my attending a performance of the Laramie Project at the Jewish community center. In the program, the Director of Cultural Arts, Krista Lang Blackwood, writes: “the question of how to treat others is a universal human question.”…”one way to heal is to walk out of this theatre resolved to do good things”…”open a door,” “smile at a passerby.”
She writes the principle of compassion in the Torah is Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This, she states, is the ethic of reciprocity; the golden rule-which exists in all world religions.
To heal, bear another’s burdens. “Sometimes nothing much is a whole lot.”