In Our Heaviness
Life is heavy and I’m not okay.
The emotional impact of the past two years of infertility has caught up with me.
The loss of our unborn babies and the emptiness of my arms aches daily.
The depression I have been experiencing all my adult life has yet to clear.
The work of processing childhood trauma is a type of difficult I cannot find the words to express.
The cumulative stress has taken a toll on my body and the chronic health diagnoses have piled up.
Today is one of my favorite feast days precisely because of these sufferings. Throughout my childhood I struggled to connect to Mary, she seemed too perfect and too distant. But Mary as Our Lady of Sorrows, I can relate to. Suffering and sorrow I understand too well. Most of my prayer life has been spent at the foot of the cross, expressing grief I cannot put into words.
I don’t have answers yet for the suffering. These days I’m wrestling with the reality that all lives don’t seem to have an equal amount of suffering. That I can be drowning in the heaviness of life as others are blissfully unaware. I wouldn’t want their lives to change, but I wish the weight of mine was lighter or at least less invisible.
Today we celebrate a mother who gets it. A woman who understands when life is unbearably bleak and heavy. Mary, nearly crushed by the pain of watching her Son die. Even more though, she also stands as an example of hope. Not some fluffy idea of hope that everything we want will be ours. But the hope that is certain of Who God is, hope that is certain that He is for us and with us, a hope that is certain even as her Son dies that God’s plan can still be accomplished.
Even if Mary knew that Jesus was to suffer, die, and rise again, witnessing His brutal death caused her immense suffering. Her anticipation of the Resurrection surely didn’t take away the horror and grief. As St. Bernard wrote, she was martyred in spirit when her Son was killed, united with him in love (Sermon by St. Bernard, Abbot, quoted in Office of Readings for September 15th).
It can be tempting to dismiss our own pain, how can it compare to hers? Mary desires to be close to you though, to be with you in your suffering. Imagine her coming to you today, in your own heaviness. She wants to be with you, to empathize with your pain and stand as witness so you are not alone. She understands what it is to nearly die of a broken heart. She knows what it is to think you can’t take one more step with things the way they are. She understands that faith and the perspective of Heaven is not always enough to clear through the pain that you feel right now. She knows what it is to feel hopeless and yet somehow still stand as a witness to hope. Let her minister to you today.
Our Lady of Sorrows feast being in September seems providential. September is national suicide awareness month and last week we marked world suicide awareness day. If your suffering feels too much to bear, in addition to prayer it can be so helpful to connect with crisis counselors or mental health professionals. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (in the US) at 1-800-273-8255 or reach a crisis text line by texting HOME to 741741. Know you are not alone, especially this year many people have thought about suicide and there is no shame in asking for help!