Updated: Jun 28
As humans we seek connection with each other. We were meant for community. An old saying “Shared grief is halved and shared joy is doubled” is so true when we connect with each other on a personal, vulnerable level.
While recently on holiday, at the poolside, I met a man named Joe. Joe was a dairy farmer from Wisconsin who was on vacation with his wife, daughter, and grandchildren. A chatty fellow who was seeking connections.
After a brief conversation about the lovely weather and resort, Joe started to talk about his recent loss. Joe wanted to share the story of his daughter Rachel. Rachel died two months before after a short but aggressive battle with cancer - first in her breast, then her brain, then her bones. She was only 30. Rachel was a girl with autism who became a nurse and loved to travel. And so, three generations of family came on vacation together to honour her memory.
As he spoke, Joe became overwhelmed by the fresh grief of his story. His voice broke, his breath caught, and his shoulders heaved with a sob he couldn’t contain as he talked about his lovely daughter. I gently told him he didn’t need to tell me anymore if he wasn’t ready to talk about, it but he shook his head, took a deep breath, and with great pride, told me more about his lovely daughter Rachel. He was so eager to share his story, to tell me of his wonderful daughter and I was honoured to listen and to share in this human connection of grief.
After a pause I shared with him we had recently lost our son, who also had autism and cancer. Silent tears slid down both our cheeks as we talked about the grief and loss we had both experienced. At the end of our conversation he wrapped me in a fierce bear hug of gratitude and thanked me for listening, for sharing, and honouring the memory of his daughter Rachel.
Joe needed to tell his story of grief. He needed someone to listen. He needed to share the love and the memories of his daughter. Many people don’t want to talk about grief because it’s messy, it’s scary, and I think they worry they’ll say the ‘wrong’ thing. But we need to embrace each other in our emotions. We can’t be afraid of the ‘mess’ of sharing each other's sorrows AND our joys. I appreciate someone who will listen as I tell a story about Ben. Often we don’t have to say anything, just listen. Listening in itself is so important.
We need to tell our stories. We need to share our sorrows and our joys with each other. It’s how we connect as humans by being vulnerable and ‘real’. We all love, we all grieve and we all need to share our hearts about the loves in our lives. Those we have and those we have lost.
Small details shared. Small connections. Small differences. Big hugs. Tears and smiles. But shared human connections. I’m thankful to Joe for giving me the gift of himself that day by the pool. The day was no less sunny or warm for having shared an emotional moment with another human being. I think it actually got brighter….through my tears.