“You are not alone.”
Sometimes I think those are the most powerful words a hurting person can hear. This simple expression of support from someone who is willing to come alongside and sit with a person in pain is invaluable. It’s an even richer gift when the words come from someone who has experienced a similar hurt or situation or challenge. There’s something about knowing that we are not the first person to feel a certain way is a powerful reassurance.
For example, I love to read the stories of others who have experienced depression because it assures me that I am not the only one to have struggled with that black beast. When I find in others’ stories similar experiences, it brings the comfort of knowing that I’m not alone. While my depression may be unique to me in its particulars, I am not the only one to go through this.
During a time a deep grief, I remember being reassured to learn that other grieving people also experience extreme exhaustion. I wasn’t alone in this, and discovering that the exhaustion I was feeling was a normal part of grief was a comfort.
Likewise, I’m not alone in experiencing the world as an INFJ (Myers-Briggs personality type), or as a writer who sometimes struggles to write, or as someone who came out late in life, or as a person who has struggled with questions about her faith. In every case, finding others that have experienced similar challenges or circumstances has been a reassurance to me that I’m not the only one.
There is such encouragement in knowing I’m not alone, such reassurance in hearing someone else say, “me too.”
I have had the opportunity to see this dynamic played out a number of times lately in a virtual community that I belong to. Person after person finds this community and is so encouraged by finding others who are on a similar journey. You can hear the relief of discovering they are not alone as they encounter others expressing similar experiences.
Similarly, as this group has bonded over time, we have shared in one another’s heartaches of all kinds. People from all over meet the member who is hurting with support and presence, letting them know that they are not alone in whatever they face. The group is large enough that often there are people who have experienced similar griefs and losses and can offer that sympathetic solidarity that comes with the assurance that they are not the only ones to undergo this kind of trial.
This does not negate the fact that all of our life experiences are unique. My grief will never be the same as another person’s grief. My struggles will never be an exact echo of someone else’s, no matter how similar the circumstances. My answers will never fit another, as your answers will never perfectly fit me. I am not saying that we can overlay our experiences on someone else. Each person must find their own way and their own answers, but we can keep each other company on that journey—not as teachers or fixers or guides, just as companions on the way.
I’m increasingly convinced that the only thing I really need to communicate to hurting people I encounter is that they are not alone. Whether that means that I am simply willing to sit with them through the hard time or whether I can offer the deeper assurance that comes from shared experience, I don’t need to fix anything, I don’t need to have the answers, and I don’t need to try to make it all better. I just need to be present with them so that they know are not alone.
After all, that’s all we can ever really do for one another.
Do you agree? Do you also find comfort in knowing that you are not alone?
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