My friend is having emotional disturbances in his live – again. I recognize this as his problem – but still I feel sadness. He has lost his family over bitter disagreements about child raising. He attends a therapy group where he can talk about what happened. He reports his findings. There are several in the group so many times his role is to listen and comfort others. There are times when his issue is the focus of the group. I can see him sorting through the debris of his wrecked life. Such sadness.
Is there anything worth the trauma of losing a family? If a grandson falls in the river and is drowning should the grandfather jump in to save him? Well that is obvious. The grandfather knows how to swim and to do anything less would be unspeakable. Bad analogy I think. The swimming grandfather would be called a hero. What if the parents did not want the boy saved? Perhaps they believe that the boy must learn to swim on his own and the best way to teach swimming is to throw the student in the river. What if the parents thought that by saving the struggling boy the grandfather denied the boy a chance to learn to swim? What if other family members agreed with the parents – the boy must sink or swim? What if the grandfather came out of the water screaming mad at the parents? And add this to the equation – another son had been thrown into the river and he drowned? The grandfather sees that the parents learned nothing from the earlier tragedy. Screaming mad at the fear of losing another grandchild, the grandfather is chastised by all for his anger. That might be a proper analogy to what my friend believes happened to his family – he was the screaming grandfather.
We do not know if the second child would have drowned like the first or learned to swim.
My friend is sorry for his anger – but he is determined to never apologize to what he believes are thugs and bullies acting as parents. And there he sits, in therapy, trying to reconcile life. I sometimes give him a ride for, on occasion, he is too distraught to drive himself. I go back to give him a ride home – he comes out of his therapy session with red eyes, wiping tears away. Sadly, he has resolved that he must learn to live the rest of his life without his family. Judging right and wrong is not my place. I am just a friend.
I know my role is important to him – but I fear nothing can fill the gaping hole in his heart.
What is our role when another is deeply wounded? Does it make any difference is they are right or wrong? My friend says his support group does not give advice. They do not tell him what to do. They only tell what happened to them, what they did in response, and how they are doing now. After listening to their stories he admits that he can see where his anger was detrimental to the situation. He said that others in the group have been through similar circumstances. Some of them admitted they were wrong, some will never admit they were or are wrong. Some say ‘surrender to that which is out of your control’.
I think I see where the group is going. But I am reluctant to suggest anything for fear my friend will bite my head off. You might think, “If he will bite your head off for trying to help then he is not much of a friend”. I think differently about his state of mind. We have to consider his level of pain, his fears and hurts, his struggle. If we do not take those factors into account then we are not a very good friend.
My friend was once an avid reader. He has not read a book in two years. He can sometimes focus enough to read an article in the Smithsonian Magazine. He has thrown himself into volunteer work around the front lines of social work. He works with some of the most difficult people in society. I don’t know those people like he does and sometimes I fear for him. I wonder sometimes if he has a death wish. That does get a laugh from him. He accuses me of being culturally prejudiced. He maintains that the people he works with are just like the rest of the world – except they have anti-social behavioral problems, obsessive compulsive disorders, and addictions. Last Friday and Saturday he had no time for me because he was focused on getting one of his ‘new friends’ into a mental health treatment facility. His claim is that this work gets him out of himself, it teaches him that others are worse off than him, it brings meaning to his otherwise meaningless life. I asked him about his reading habits and he simply says, “I am unable to focus”.
So here it is. He is without family. He goes to therapy. He helps others less fortunate. He says things like, “Life is unfair but it has been unfair in my favor. I must help those less fortunate than myself.”
Geez, who is less fortunate than a man who has lost his entire family because he did something that he thought was the right thing to do?
Personally, I shall focus on writing jokes about priests and golfers.