Sitting with sorrows

Lately I’ve been working to learn how to sit with the big sorrows of my life. Some of my sorrows are not fixable. They are permanent parts of my life (though with differing intensities), they stay with me, and in some instances even partially define my life and my sense of self. I’m not always comfortable talking about those sorrows, but they are there in some relationships and will, I assume, be there for the life of those relationships.

I tend to like to fix things, to find the right “belief” that will turn my sorrow to peace and the right advice or insight to help my friends find peace and love in their circumstances. But I can’t fix everything. There are so many sorrows that can’t be fixed, either in my lifetime or in the life span of humanity. There must be something to the need to sit with sorrow and let it be sorrow, rather than obsessively trying to make the feeling go away.

And that’s the distinction for me, I think. I can use my sorrows to spur me on to do something to fight the injustice related to the sorrow, and I can do that with or without trying to assuage the feeling of the sorrow itself. There are definitely some sorrows built on lies that we can counteract while working on the injustice itself; there are also some sorrows that should be sat with and accepted, felt deeply and allowed to exist as part of the recognition of the inherent pain of a life lived in an imperfect world. I need to get better at sitting with my sorrows and stop trying to fix them, whether in myself or others.*

I wonder if this is also one of the most important parts of a good relationship — being able to sit with someone in their sorrows, providing nothing more than understanding and some form of non-intrusive comfort. I get this from and give this in my marriage, and I have a couple friends whom I can always count on for that help (and who, I hope, know they can come to me when they need someone to sit with them with and even in their sorrow). I treasure those relationships most of all, I think. It takes bravery and a certain selflessness to resist shying away from sorrow, and especially to choose to let in the sorrow of those we love. The characteristics of bravery and selflessness may be most indicative of really, really good people and really, really good friends.

* I want to emphasize that I’m not talking about depression here, but sorrows. Depression is a whole different beast and while I’m currently fighting depression as well, the sorrows I’m thinking of are situational or circumstantial.
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