Taking the Suffering Seriously :: How We Are Alone In It

Storm over farmland.

I’ve been thinking about the loneliness of suffering. 

The reality is, no other person can be completely inside our experience.

One of my best friends lost her son at 16 days old. Sometimes I sit and think about the reality of the loneliness of her experience. No matter how many other mamas she meets who also lost children to congenital heart defects or for any other reason, no matter how many friends will sit and be with her for as long as she needs to talk or simply cry and cry and cry, there is a fullness of suffering specific to the particulars of her own heart that no one will ever fully know but her.

It hurts my heart to know that.

There’s always separateness between us and what others know of us in our suffering.

I felt a loneliness like that when I went through a marital separation and divorce in 2003-2004. I was the only person among my married friends who knew separation and then divorce, so I felt like an awkward, sore thumb sticking out among all of them. I had many close friends who were single, and here I was, having moved into marriage and then beyond it.

Even those in my life who did know divorce didn’t know my experience of it. They had their own particular experiences of it, their own process of living through it to the other side, their own sense-making process for their own experience that was not my own.

I walked through that experience carrying a whole world inside myself that no one ever fully knew.

Do you know this aloneness in your own suffering?