I don’t know what’s worse: experiencing pain and hurt yourself, or watching someone you love and care about experience pain and hurt.
I’m talking about real pain, though. Not like your Fran time was 15 seconds slower or a friend hurt your feelings because of something he or she said. While those things aren’t great, they’re not the sort of things that, literally, make your heart hurt and make you feel empty and hopeless at your core.
If you’ve felt that sort of pain and helplessness, you know the difference…because it’s like night and day.
It’s when the person you are full-blown in love with tells you they don’t love you anymore.
It’s when your grandparent, your best most sweetest friend in the whole wide world, passes away.
It’s when you find out your childhood pet has to be put down.
And, it’s when you find out someone you love has been diagnosed with a terminal illness.
Feeling that sort of pain and loss yourself is tragic and completely heart breaking.
But, I think what’s worse than that, if it’s possible to experience anything worse than that, is watching someone you love feel those sorts of pain. Watching them just crumble and hurt so bad, in my opinion, is complete torture.
To make it even more challenging is the internal war you experience trying to know the right way to deal with it and support that person. What words do you formulate that will actually make them feel relief and not want be hurtful or insensitive? How do you know whether they need a distraction or if distracting them is making it seem like you don’t care about what they’re going through? And, how do you know whether they would actually appreciate you just showing up out of nowhere or if they would really just prefer an indirect email because they need space?
Sometimes it’s so hard to know how to help someone, but you understand the weight of getting it right…versus getting it wrong.
The fragility of the situation can be like nothing else in life.
But, I think that is the point when you know what it means to love…and, care…and, experience compassion. When we tell our kids that “love is caring more about someone else than you care about yourself”, this is what we’re talking about.
It’s not just caring enough to give them an extra one of your fries at lunch. It’s not just buying them a gift for Christmas when you really wish you had bought yourself something. And, it’s not just spending the holidays with your significant other’s family when you really want to be with your own.
Loving someone is sometimes wishing you could feel their pain, so they don’t have to feel it.