On my business card I had “Honoring journeys, celebrating diversity and serving community”. The last two parts of that require me to care for others. The first part of it often makes that caring difficult.
The journeys that some people must take are extremely difficult. My heart aches to near breaking when I try to honor their journeys. I understand and sense their pain but too often there is nothing I can do to change their pain. It is their pain, their decisions to make, their journeys to take.
When my children were growing up I realized that I could not keep them from experiencing pain. If they were going to learn to walk or ride a bike they were going fall down. I had to let them experience that even if it hurt them.
Of course, life gives us much greater difficulties than learning to walk, although for some that is difficult enough due to physical problems. Problems like drug abuse, legal trouble, hurtful family relationships and terminal illness make for tremendously difficult journeys. If you love the one going through these kinds of journeys you cannot prevent them from suffering altogether.
So what can we do to show that we care? We can walk with them through it all. It is a gift more valuable than we realize. What we cannot do, if we truly care, is avoid their suffering when it makes us uncomfortable or reminds us of our own pains.
There is a faith tradition that has a ritual for dying. The loved ones of the person near death gather around. It is their job to remain calm, allowing the dying one to depart in peace. I am told it works wonderfully. The dead have their journeys the living can not yet take.
Know that you have served your loved one well by allowing them to take their own journey, face their own pain and go through their dark places while you walk with them. You honor their journey by trusting them to endure it to the end.