In a world full of busy people, who often go to great lengths to avoid interaction with others in public, I believe in the courage of individuals to provide a personal, healing touch to a complete stranger. I came to this belief while grieving the death of my mother.
I often grieve in public places—in places where I know no one—as a silent call to kindred spirits to provide a healing touch. Many of my closest friends offered their warmest embraces after my mother’s death, and I was comforted. Yet, it is the uniquely healing quality of the touch of a stranger, a grieving kindred spirit, that I believe is equally powerful.
I believe that the authenticity of the experience of great loss is what gives others the courage to provide a healing touch to a stranger.
One day, just a few days after my mother’s funeral, I was sitting in a lounge at a doctor’s office, when I told a woman of my recent loss. With a deadpan face she said: “I have no words that can take the pain away. I know this because I lost my mother several years ago. I still long for her. The emptiness and loneliness you feel will stay with you forever. But, in time, it will subside.” After a brief pause, and in a tone that was meant to acknowledge our relation as both strangers and kindred grieving souls, she asked: “Can I give you a hug?” Another stranger said to me: “I know it feels like someone reached into your chest and ripped your heart out.” I found healing in the realness of these strangers’ words.
I believe that grievers find ways to invite strangers to provide a healing touch.
I often read about grief in public places, as a silent call to those that I hope might offer healing words to soothe my aching soul. Who else, besides a kindred spirit, would dare speak to me after reading a title to one of my books, such as “Grieving Your Loss”?
One day, I shared a row of seats on an airplane with two strangers, sisters, who answered my call. When one read the title of my “grief book”, she simply asked: “Was it long ago or recent?” “Recent,” I responded. The other told me how to find a website that they’d found helpful after grieving a similar loss. These young women, both twenty years my junior, had the courage to break the invisible wall between our seats to provide a healing touch to me—a stranger.
Now, even as I grieve, I choose to answer the call of strangers in public places, reaching out to provide a healing touch.
I believe that if the deepest calling of friendship is to weep with and comfort others, then at the moment that I touch a stranger in a healing way, our respective circles of friendship expand, and perhaps for that moment, we are no longer strangers.
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