A community of friends and family helps us survive and thrive.
Sometimes grief, the depths of depression, or the fear of vulnerability keeps us alone. These can keep us away from the support, solidarity, and empathy of a community.
A community can’t take away our pain or despair, but a community can accompany us with it; help us bear the burden of whatever we’re carrying.
I have recently experienced a trick that grief and your mind can play on you—to think that you ought to be alone, that you shouldn’t reach out, that you don’t need to burden others or remind them of difficult times.
This past week was the 6th anniversary of the long, heavy days of my mom’s dying, death, wakes, and funeral. Each day held heavy emotions of sadness, anger, disappointment, and thankfully, grace. Each year, this set of days always challenge me—and I see that this year’s cycle tricked me into enclosing myself from others, from reaching out. Part of me wanted to connect, name the memories of moments that seemed like yesterday, but another part kept me silent, alone.
The readings this week speak to the efforts that God created for us to be supported by others and to not be alone. In the first and second readings, we hear about how God knew we needed others, so God created a companion for us. We also hear how God knew we needed a friend, a guide, so God sent God’s son Jesus to accompany us. And in the Gospel, we hear how when God’s love bonds people, they ought to be together and that when we make commitments to supporting someone, we need to fulfill that promise.
It wasn’t until the anniversary of my mother’s funeral and after reflecting on these readings that I realized what God was inviting me to—to risk being vulnerable, to reach out and not be alone in my sadness. When I met with my co-escucha, or co-listening, group that night, I put my heart on my sleeve and opened up about how I was managing emotions from the previous days. Just as God imagined, my community accompanied me through and held me with empathy and compassion.
With so much political division, practices of pitting someone against another to get ahead, painful triggers of past traumas, uncertainty for our immigrant brothers and sisters—the list of despair can go on and on—we lose parts of our interconnectedness. In our grief, we can become disillusioned, fall silent on the injustices that happen, and convince ourselves that ‘there is little we can do anyway.’ Yet, God calls us beyond grief, beyond pain. These readings help us to realize the importance of staying vigilant to God’s call of vulnerability, to seek community, and work to fulfill commitments we make to others. Sometimes we are called to seek out others to not be alone, and sometimes we are called to help others bear their burdens. Whatever our loss and grief, God is with us, creating community to support us on the way.
Annie Boyd-Ramirez is a graduate of Marquette University and the University of Chicago. During her time as an undergraduate student, she studied abroad in El Salvador at Casa de la Solidaridad. After graduation, she served as a volunteer staff member with the Casa program. She is co-founder and executive director of Programa Velasco in El Salvador, focused on providing, through financial support, early childhood education, family support services, and women’s economic empowerment programs to those most in need.