What do you say to someone when they’ve experienced a tragedy?

Have you ever felt unsure what to say? Have you ever let that stop you from reaching out to them?

My sister’s best friend’s brother killed himself just a handful of weeks ago.

I didn’t know him at all, and I don’t even know the family very well. But suicide hits my heart in a very deep way. I cried for him, and I felt called to reach out to their family.

I asked my mom for their phone numbers. I still felt nervous to reach out. It is such an intimate act to reach out to someone who is grieving a loss and create connection with them.

I was very aware that I hesitated for a week and a half. But I made the calls. Unfortunately none of them answered so I left voice messages.

What did I say?

Not much more than “I heard about what happened with your son/brother. I have been through periods like this in my own life and I was thinking of you. If you ever want to talk, for any reason, I would love to do that.”

When I think about it a little more, the essence of it is simply “I was thinking of you.”

I know that when I’m hurting, even if some part of me wants to totally isolate myself from the world because I’m in such deep pain, deep down beneath it all I simply want to feel connected. To know that others are out there. It’s hard-wired into our nature as mammals – our survival over millions of years has depended upon our ability to empathize and create connection with each other.

I don’t want peoples’ pity. I don’t want their fear. I want them to do the personal work it takes to show me love. Even if that come in as seemingly insignificant a form as “I was thinking of you.”

It’s so small, but who knows the impact it might have on another person? Who knows the seed that might be planted in that moment, even if I never spoke another word to them? The seed that was planted when they knew that they were thought of and cared about. The seed that might lead to deeper healing for them.

Or not. Maybe nothing would ever come of it.

But it’s not up to me to decide what they’ll get out of it. It’s simply my job to pay attention to my intuition, my gut, and reach out to create connection with others.

It’s up to me to lead with the love and honesty that I am committed to in every part of my life.

Not because I might get something from it.

Not because someone else might get something from it.

Simply because it is the most core human trait we have and depend upon… to feel connected to each other. And connection is what I am committed to creating as much of as possible within this beautiful speck of a lifetime of mine.

Even (especially) when it feels vulnerable for me to do so.

Who do you know that you’ve held back from reaching out to?

What would you want if you were in their situation? For people to ignore you because they felt uncomfortable or didn’t want to disturb you or didn’t know what to do with their own awkward emotions?

Would you want to know that others were intentionally not showing love to you because they were too scared to do so?

Or would you want to know that they loved you, even if them loving you simply meant that they thought of you… that you were important enough to them to occupy a few moments of their time and a place, no matter how relatively small, within their heart?

What’s the difference you might make simply by reaching out to someone else who is in pain, instead of isolating yourself from them?

What’s the difference you might make in their life?

And what’s the difference you might make in YOUR life?

And in the end… what are you committed to (even if you don’t get it “right” all the time)?

Fear? Or love?