I am Sorry…

People tend to find it hard to know what to say when confronted by another’s suffering, particularly if they don’t know the person well. They may inquire as to how many children they have, and when the answer is “three; two here and one in spirit,” they don’t know how to respond. It is the same when encountering grief, serious illness, infertility or a survivor of abuse. It is tempting to apply a verbal salve to the savage wound, usually in the form of platitudes such as “chin up,” “you can try again,” “it will get better with time…” These words hold no healing, and are rather like acid being poured onto a vulnerable soul.

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I went to a Bravehearts luncheon the other day, and afterward, one of the women divulged the abuse she had suffered as a child. Those gathered listened respectfully, and afterward, I went up to her, hugged her, and whispered, “I am so sorry that you endured such things; so sorry that you suffered so.” I did this because  kind folk had said this to me. Others wanted to know how far I had fallen when I was pushed off that ledge as a teen; they wanted to know the details to satisfy their curiosity. I treasure those who cradled me, and whispered how sorry they were. It is the ultimate recognition of trauma. You aren’t attempting to fix the situation with glib words, nor paper over what a brave person has divulged. You have acknowledged their pain and the unfairness of what has transpired. “I am so very sorry…” That is all that is needed.

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I attended a White Balloon Day luncheon, to raise awareness and funds for Bravehearts, an Australian organization whose aim is to prevent child sexual assault. Their services include counselling for children and adult survivors, advocacy and support, an education program for children, research and lobbying, and community awareness campaigns. The more we talk and educate our children, the safer our society shall be. I would love to be able to give the gift of safety to our kids, so they have nothing to survive from their childhoods. That is their right and our responsibility as a community. I have hope that the tide is turning. Even a decade ago, such lunches would have been rare. The subject would have been deemed unpalatable. We as a whole are becoming more cohesive, aware and supportive. May it flourish at the same time as predators fall.