She sits on the floor in a ball sobbing, her heart breaking in front of you, the next minute screaming and shouting, overcome with anger and despair. The man she loved, the person she expected to share her life with gone forever and her future feels overwhelmingly scary and desperately lonely.
Not many people knew, they were waiting until they were certain everything was ok but then it was gone before it had really arrived but it was here long enough to allow dreams to bubble up, for the excitement to start to build. It feels like it is happening for everyone else and she simply has to smile and share their joy but inside it is like a knife going into her deepest parts.
The anxiety overwhelms him, his hands shake not so that many people would see but you know and you see. Sleep will not come easily in fact most nights it is broken. Exhaustion overwhelms him. He puts a good front on but inside he feels like he is falling apart.
You aren’t meant to bury your children. That is not the right order of things. The thought is too unbearable. But it is their reality – it is the nightmare they find themselves in. Their baby cruelly and shockingly taken with no warning, just as he was becoming a man, as he had his whole life ahead of him.
He had studied for years, so so hard, you had watch the years of spending hours with his head in a book, and he did it, he succeeded, he thrived in his career, he was good at it. Then the bullying came and the accusations leaving him broken, exhausted and wondering what the future held.
She had always dreamed of her wedding day, of what she would wear, of the flowers that would fill the room, the words that would be spoken. Each year that passes the more the disappointment grows.
We all know these people , maybe there is a little bit of our stories in those stories. These stories are not easy story. They are not fun. They are not particularly attractive. But they are real and they are all around us everyday whether we see them or not or often whether we chose to see them or rather look away.
These are all stories of people I know and love. They are the stories that have broken my heart. The stories that have had me cry oceans of tears. The stories that have had me on my knees until they are sore.
I don’t have the answers. I wish I did. I wish I could have made these situations right. If it is one thing I have learnt its that I can’t fix everything, I don’t have a magic wand that can make it all better, that can change the past, or direct the future.
I have had lots of conversations over the years about how to be in those situations, what to say to people when their worlds are falling apart, how best to help people, and I think my answer is probably that to some extent it depends on the person and the situation and in some situations it may well be different things on different days but the overwhelming thing that people need to know when faced with the unbearable, when everything is closing in on them is that they matter.
I have recently finished reading the book “Option B” by Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, who in 2015 lost her husband suddenly leaving her a single parent to two small children, and trying to navigate the complicated journey of grief and at the same time learning how to be sole parent. As the cover of the book sets out it is about facing adversity, building resilience and finding joy.
It is a book that I really recommend whether grief has been part of your story or not, as it is not just a book about grief in terms of death, included in it are lots of stories of people finding their life in pieces and how they overcame in amazing ways.
There were lots of things in the book that resonated, that touch cords and that have been filling my head. One of the things she talks about is about the fact that it is really important that we as human beings know we matter. That may sound a really obvious statement but I wonder often how well we do that especially when things are hard.
Sheryl Sandberg talks about how important it is in recovery from life’s tragedies and hurts to know you matter, to know that other people notice you, care about you and rely on you.
My experience is of having good people around me who have repeatedly told me and showed me that I still mattered – sometimes that was a one-off, the words, prayers or actions of someone I didn’t know and maybe would never see again, but more often it was the consistent, faithful and patient presence of people who didn’t give up, over many years (bless you and thank you for not giving up on me I know it wasn’t pretty!!). I think it is only with hindsight I can look back and see how much their actions spoke of how much I mattered, because it was truly ugly at times and not for the faint hearted and it went on a long time. I know without a shadow of a doubt God put those people around me because I know I wouldn’t have come through those tough years, when it felt like one by one those that I mattered most to and who mattered most to me were taken, without those people surrounding me, holding me up, showing me I mattered and most importantly that I stilled mattered to God.
Who in your life needs to know they still matter?
Please keep telling them. Be it a text to say why you love them, why they are special or that you are saying a prayer for them. Make them dinner or take them flowers. Allow them to be part of your family by including them at meal times or bank holidays – I cannot tell you how hard those days are for people on their own, and for people who have lost and how an invitation can turn a painful day into a bearable day! Remember the key days. Let them know you haven’t forgotten. Let them have space to talk – be there to listen. Be consistent in telling them and showing them they matter.
Those you don’t know too – those you see sat on their own, please go talk to them, given them time, show interest. Lets encourage our children to do the same – I have had a gutful of playground politics recently, lets be raising our children to be kind, to include people, to let people know they matter and the importance of telling them they matter.
And I get that that isn’t always easy, and that often in the hard stuff of life it is uncomfortable to get alongside hurting people. That you can end up being battered in the process. But I say this with love you have to get over it because I guarantee however hard it is for you what they are going through is so much harder and one day you will need those people to do exactly the same for you. Love and life is messy, and after 40 years I have come to a joyful acceptance that it is always going to be that way and the only way to know the abundance of life, love and relationship is to walk those messes with each other.
I have a very special man in my life – he has become my surrogate Dad and he will never know how much he has meant to me. He has helped me through some hard stuff recently, repeatedly telling me I matter, and that I am important. The thing is I am not the only one he texts regularly to care for – I see him doing it over and over with so many people, people struggling with their health, with their pasts, with loneliness – he is probably one of those most loved people I know because he sacrificially shows people that they matter and in that brings light into the dark places.
Showing people they matter, over and over again, changes situations. I have seen it in my life and in other people’s situations. I think we need to learn to do it better, to get over our embarrassment and fear of vulnerability, because it brings life, it brings hope and it brings something beautiful. I think it is probably what our world needs most for people to know they matter.
And if you need to know you matter today please hear it deep in your heart – you do matter, you are precious, you are needed, and most of all by your heavenly father – he’s got you, he loves you, he’s fighting for you and has gone ahead of you x