...Pain comes from the darkness
And we call it wisdom. It is pain.
~Randall Jarell, from 90 North
It can feel an affront, in the wake of discovering a spouse's betrayal, to be offered up platitudes. "We aren't given more than we can handle," we are told by well-meaning friends. "There's a reason for everything," we hear, knowing full well that the reason that particular armchair philosopher has in mind isn't that our husband is a morally-challenged idiot. Or, perhaps you're told, that within all this pain is wisdom. Um...gulp...that one might have been from me.
Nadia Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran "Pastrix" who has this to say about platitudes:
"...when I've experienced loss and felt so much pain that it feels like nothing else ever existed, the last thing I need is a well-meaning but vapid person saying that when God closes a door he opens a window. It makes me want to ask where exactly the window is so I can push him the fuck out of it."Feel familiar?
Bolz-Weber goes on to explain, however, what she's figured out from working as a hospital chaplain, and being with people when they're in the worst pain of their lives – losing a child, a parent, a spouse:
"...when...someone says something senselessly optimistic to you, it's about them. Either they want to feel like they can say something helpful, or they simply cannot allow themselves to entertain...pain, so instead they turn it into a Precious Moments greeting card.... As a chaplain, I felt that people really just needed me to mostly shut the hell up and deal with the reality of how painful it all is."It's something so few of us understand about pain until we've experienced it ourselves. The cancer diagnosis. The death. The betrayal. And even then, some of us never learn. The continue to try and soothe us with well-meaning advice. Or quote-of-the-day wisdom.
Help, as my counsellor loved to remind me, is the sunny side of control. And control, many of us haven't quite yet learned, is what anxious people cling to because the alternative – that we're all just hanging on for dear life – is just too much to bear.
Those of us experiencing it right now? We don't expect others to fix it. We know they can't. But so much of the pain of betrayal is feeling as though we need to hide it.
Which is why those friends – in real life and in the virtual world – who can simply be with us in our pain are so valuable. They see us. Our pain is visible to them. And they respond not necessarily with advice (unless requested) but with compassion. They remind us gently that we won't always feel this way. They nudge us toward the tiniest bit of light.
As for me, I'll continue to write my experience. Some of what I've learned will sound like bullshit to you. Feel free to skip past it. As always on this site, take what works for you and leave the rest. There is no right or wrong way toward healing. There is only the way that takes each of us out of pain. If you want to share your own path, we're all ears.
Now I'll "shut the hell up" and listen.