As we work to create life for others we naturally light our own way.

     Mary Anne Radmacher

 

An NPR news story today that focused on how people cope with loss and grief caught our attention.  The central focus of the piece was that … research suggests one of the best ways to heal is to help others.

The specific story related the efforts of people with no religious beliefs to find solace in their losses.  But the universal antidote to beginning to heal – for both people of faith and those who are non-believers – is to find ways to connecting with and helping others in their need.

It is easy for us in times of loss and discouragement to go internal with our problems, focusing solely on ourselves.  It is easy for us to start feeling sorry for ourselves and to stay in that lonely, dark place.  We tend when we are hurting to be self-absorbed, thinking that our problem is the only problem in the entire world.  Pain has that effect on us.  It demands constant attention and forces itself on us every way it possibly can.  It isolates us and takes us to even darker places.  But ultimately, we can begin to use our distress and what we learn from it to help bring healing and wholeness to others who need relief from their pain too.

The best response to pain is not to live in a state of resentment of or to wallow in our sadness about it.  But it is to ask ourselves what can we learn from it, what can we do with it to redeem and create something good and valuable out of it? 

One family we know well has suffered a variety of painful losses – that of a child, that of mobility and ability due to debilitating physical pain, of financial security.   But when you talk with this family they never start out a conversation talking about their own distress and disappointment.  But they always first reach out to ask how we and others are doing.  In spite of their financial instability they are generous with what little money they do have, and they are also generous with their time and support of others.  They are masterful at encouraging others and just do not let the struggles and intensity of them keep them down.    They use their challenges in very positive ways.

We have another friend who, when she was young, lost a beloved sister.  Out of our friend’s pain and grief from that devastating loss, she founded a non-profit that helps other grieving children and their families who have lost someone they love.  Her sadness compelled her to bring hope and healing to those in similar circumstances.  She has, through her mission, helped countless children and their families to find comfort and relief.  In doing so, she continues to find comfort and relief herself. 

Again and again, studies and evidence show that reaching beyond ourselves and using our pain to help others is a healing response to pain, especially the pain that is emotional.   In eventually getting to that place in which we are able to look beyond ourselves, outside of our pain and our sorrow, we can begin to find the relief that we so deeply need.