Reflecting on Suffering

This evening I was at an event where the Episcopal Bishop of Rhode Island, the Right Reverend Wolf spoke. She recalled her time spent living in homeless shelters as a homeless person (this was during her sabbatical and she readily admits that the fact that she always had a home to go to made a great difference in her experience from those she was with). Bishop Wolf compared her time with the experiences that those of us in Louisiana are going through and have gone through since Katrina. She related one story of a woman who would cry herself to sleep at night, every night. Bishop Wolf commented, “I cannot imagine what secret she hides so deeply that it comes out at night in her tears. A secret that she may not even be aware of herself.”

This is next door to our old home. We had moved out of it just a few months before Katrina hit.
This is next door to our old home. We had moved out of it just a few months before Katrina hit.

This afternoon I picked up our daughter from school. On the way home we talked about why one of her classmates has become so mean and is acting out. I tried to explain to her that I think the storm affected her more deeply than anyone may have realized. Izzy said, “But the house was fine. The storm didn’t really hurt them.” Oh, but it did.

All of this and much musing over the last 5, nearly 6, months caused me to think about how we suffer. Our home fared well in the storm and we have often felt a little sheepish about that. Others, who have lost everything, are still in shock. One colleague who lost everything is more calm, balanced, and peaceful than ever before. Most of us try and help others as part of our healing and recovery. Yet I wonder about the children and those who may not realize they are suffering (or think they do not have the right to suffer and mourn). I am no psychologist. I do not pretend to understand or explain how and when or why we suffer. But I can see emotions and feelings beginning to bubble up. We cannot always explain our own feelings let alone the feelings of others. Tears come unbidden and we feel guilty for them. The woman cried herself to sleep every night. Was it a secret? Or simply suffering?

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