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Finding strength in sorrowI listened to a comedian the other day who was commenting about depression. He was trying to make a point that it is normal to have chemical changes that bring ups and downs.  He was laughing about how when we feel good, we don’t try to analyze it, and figure out why we’re happy the way we do when we’re sad. We don’t get PTSD in reverse, and laugh years later because a puppy licked us.  The point he was trying to make is how silly he thought that it is for people to try to over analyze every time they feel sad.

I’m not sure I agree with this man’s beliefs, but the way he looks at the world, and our ups and downs, certainly caught my attention.

In the Book of Mormon, Nephi said

My heart hath been weighed down with sorrow from time to time”

Lehi, in speaking to Jacob said

…thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow.”

Sorrow and sadness do come up from time to time.  Sometimes there is a reason for the sadness.  Sometimes it is just a buildup of a lot of little things.  Sometimes it really is just a chemical reaction in our brains.

I know that I have seen my share of sorrow in my lifetime.  I have attended far too many funerals. I’ve heard so many sad stories of tragedies that have happened to friends and loved ones.  And I have lived through the effects of divorce and the fallout that comes with it. The sadness and despair return every time one of my children shows signs of suffering as a result of coming from a broken family.

I consider myself an optimist, but that doesn’t free me from the effects of sorrow in the world.

When I watched the “Two Brothers Two” video  that I spoke of a few weeks ago, I remember Sam saying that when you love other people, and they suffer, it opens you up to feeling that sadness also.

This is the type of sadness I have been feeling lately. I can handle my own suffering, but it is hard to see other people, especially people who I love, suffering.

When reading the Book of Mormon last night with my kids, as we read about Jacob’s suffering (see the quote above) it was followed with a special promise.  Lehi said

thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.”

I sighed a little reading that and asked my kids what they thought that meant.  My 17-year-old spoke up, “Of course he consecrates our affliction to our gain, because every time I have difficulties or a problem, I have to work to find a solution, and grow when that happens.  I love a challenge when I can learn something.” You gotta love his attitude.

When they went to bed and I had time to contemplate my most recent bought of melancholy, I found that I had learned something from this challenge, just as my son says that he does.

The sadness I was feeling was coming from empathy for a few loved ones who are currently suffering their own challenges.  Because I love them, I feel for their suffering.

If I could, I would take their suffering onto myself, so that they wouldn’t hurt so much.

And in a way, I may have been able to do just a little bit of that.

When I was going through my own biggest challenge, the dissolution of my marriage, I had several friends who talked with me, listened to me, suffered with me and cried with me.  Mostly they were just there for me when I needed friends more than ever. What they did may have seemed small to them, but to me it meant the whole world. They got me through a challenge that I didn’t think I could get through on my own. And I wasn’t on my own. The support of friends and family made all the difference.

So now that I’m on the other end, and I hear about the suffering of people who I love, I have a choice to make.

  1. I can ignore it, and go on with my life, saving myself from the sorrow and suffering, or
  2. I can empathize with them.  I can feel for them, and cry with them.  Most of all I can try to be there for them.

During that day, I had talked to one friend on the phone, and messaged other friends and loved ones.  We’d had some meaningful conversations, and I felt connections with them, as they related different struggles in their lives.

I realized that I would gladly take on the pain and sadness of the people I care about, if it would help them to feel less pain.

As I contemplated the conversations I’d had that day with these loved ones, I think that sharing of feelings is just what happened.  Knowing how it helped me in my time of need, I hope that maybe I helped someone else.

When I realized that I have a choice, to take on the pain and suffering with another of God’s children through exercising empathy, I felt a sense of relief. I was glad to be able to feel with another.

I chose to suffer this day with those that I love. As a result, that pain became consecrated. The sadness now has meaning, if it gives comfort in any small way to someone else.

Now that I feel that my sorrow has meaning, I wouldn’t give it away for the world.  This is a way that I can show love to people I care about.

I’m grateful for the opportunity that I gained yesterday, in learning the value of shared sorrow. This experience certainly has taught me something, just like my sweet son told me it would. — Laura

1 Comment

  1. I learn something new with everything that you write.

    Please, oh please keep it going. It makes me proud and happy that you are my daughter.

    I wish there were some way I could have shared more in the pain and suffering you have gone through.

    I would share in a moment any future pain you experience. If only I knew how.

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