When tragedy comes, when bad things happen, when people are fallen and hurting and grieving and mourning, the thing I usually do is get quiet and listen.
I do not want my words to get in the way when someone else needs to speak their pain, and I do not want my talking to get in the way of my hearing.
I never, ever want to take someone else’s pain and make it about me.
But listening doesn’t have to mean silence. Listening is an active thing, a kind of togetherness. To invite ourselves into the grief, to sit in the place of fear and pain and suffering and say to each other: I see you, I’ve been there or I haven’t but I am with you, I am for you, I am listening, this is holy work.
When I don’t know what to believe in the face of pain and loss and hate and suffering, my friend Kate says: You don’t have to believe anything today. This is grief. You grieve. We all grieve together.
When I feel stupid going back to work, back to school, back to meals and carpools and coffee while flags are at half-mast and hearts are breaking, my friend Colby says: Sometimes carrying on is an act of resistance. Evil wanted life to end, but life will go on.
And if you don’t see the way in, if you aren’t sure how to connect with someone else’s pain without stepping on their toes, if you don’t know if you’re even supposed to, my friend Mathew says: There are people waking up today who will not hold their babies—their children—their grown, loved sons and daughters—in their arms ever again. Start there. Stand with those mothers and fathers.
But don’t stop with the mothers and fathers. Listen to the friends, the sisters and brothers, the husbands and wives, the lovers and neighbors, who have lost someone beautiful and beloved. Listen to the ones who cannot even breathe today. Be a witness to their loss and see them when they mourn.
For the communities who thought things were better, who believed this would not happen here—make sure they know they are not alone.
If you think your words do not matter, listen. I hear this over and over again: They matter to me.
They matter to me.
They matter to me.
I might not be sure (ever, always) if this thing I am saying is the right thing to say. But I hear that silence is deafening, and I know that I can’t let those in pain bear the weight of suffering all on their own.
I am listening. We are listening. You do not grieve alone. I—we—hear you, and see you, and stand with you.
And if you are not ready to stand, I will sit with you in the pit and help you claw your way out of the fear and anger and pain. We’re all in there already, whether we want to admit it or not. Might as well work together.
I hear you. I’m listening. You are not alone.