Such a secret place
“I did not know what to say to him. I felt awkward and blundering. I did not know how I could reach him, where I could overtake him and go on hand in hand with him once more. It is such a secret place, the land of tears.” —Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Whether or not one is alone, grief is a solitary experience. Very few are comfortable with being present in someone else’s sorrow. Words fall short; actions seem inadequate or misguided, and it is all too easy to withdraw from bearing witness to great suffering, not least because the stark reality of mortality erodes complacent illusions of control and well-being.
Just when connection is needed most, people mired in heartbreak tend to withdraw from others as well, doubling the gap that already confounds. Pride, despair or fear of painful rejection stymie any requests for practical help or emotional support which might give others a map for offering the assistance they desperately want to provide.
Yet there are determined souls who manage to meet each other across this yawning gap. There are those who risk failure or rejection to reach forth, feebly or fiercely, to connect despite the obstacles. Like a life preserver tossed into the darkness of a stormy sea, an act of solace may reach a person drowning in anguish and fear. No miracles take place; no dramatic resolution calms the storm or lights the sky, but in the cumulative power of even the smallest acts of hope and love, one may grasp the hand of another and be pulled toward gradual healing and survival.
The land of tears is indeed a secret place, but not impenetrable or impervious. I’ll meet you there.