"Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow" is supposed to be a Swedish proverb. I'm not sure about the authenticity of the source, but it is an idea I have been thinking about lately.
Recently, my sister Becky has been experiencing something that, while the specifics aren't identical, is eerily similar to a trial I also went through a few years ago. "Went through," I write, as if it is finished; it isn't. In a sense it won't ever be. I'm being vague on the details because her story isn't mine to share, but the experience relates to grief. It is about the loss of possibility. About how hope can sometimes be a chain that holds you to something that is impossible to obtain through hope. About looking at things as they really are instead of how you so desperately want them to be. Accepting what is and letting go of the future you imagined: Hallmark doesn't make a card for that.
For a few months, Becky didn't tell me what was happening, I think to spare me the resurfacing of my own heartache. (She has been properly chastised.) What she didn't know is that for me, revisiting the experience with the intent of helping her actually helped me. Being able to share someone else's sorrow because it so closely mirrors your own is a unique blessing of that sorrow. It gave something that was entirely about loss a sort of redemption, because at least I could share my process of mourning. At least I could tell her how I arrived at my hard-earned and sharp-edged peace. I could tell her honestly: this doesn't stop hurting, really, but your relationship to the hurt changes. You come to understand it; it becomes a presence in your life, hovering over your right shoulder until you wouldn't be yourself without it. What lingers continues to tie you to what you lost and become a sort of solace.
I want to give her what I know so that she doesn't have to travel the long pain of it—but I know I can't suffer for her. And I want her to learn different things, to let it make her more resilient and forgiving whereas it made me a little darker around the edges; more jaded and less trusting. I hope she can arrive at a place where she feels more dedicated to faith instead of slightly abandoned by it. And while I can't turn on the light or find a short cut through the darkness, I can give her the map I used. She will find her own trails and destinations, but perhaps knowing someone else has also walked in that strange country will strengthen her endurance.
I cannot fix it. I cannot give her what she wanted. All I can do is tell her yes. I felt that too. Here is what I understand now. In sharing grief, the sorrow isn't halved for anyone. But it is made easier to bear.