We Are All ConnectedMay 29, 2023
I happen to be in Arkansas visiting my family, and my parents were so excited that I'd be able to join them in going to their neighbor's Memorial Day get together. My dad, especially, gets a kick out of the fact that his neighbors are Doc and Ashley, and some of my friends have nicknamed me Doc.
"I can't wait for Doc and Ashley to meet Doc Ashley!"
Turns out, they're lovely people. Friendly and instantly likable, as were their friends and family who were also there.
Good food, good people, beautiful weather, and gorgeous scenery. What a way to spend a Saturday.
Memorial Day weekend is always a poignant time for me. My little brother died 12 years ago today.
As is often the case, over time, the loss has become less noticeable. The waves of grief come a lot less frequently and don't wreck me the way they used to. Still, I never quite know what to expect on this particular day.
This morning started out like any other, except that I happened to be with my other brother, soaking up some quality sibling time, which we don't often get, living in different states.
I was aware of the day's significance and acknowledged it in my own way, but wasn't acutely feeling the loss.
Then there was this beautiful, overwhelming moment at Doc and Ashley's.
We Are All Connected
Doc gathered everyone inside to fix plates and enjoy some food. As we stood in an impromptu circle around their kitchen and dining room, he took the opportunity to say a few words.
He started by thanking us, a group of maybe 15, for coming over. He acknowledged that Memorial Day is about remembering those we've lost in service, and those we've lost in general and how our lost loved ones would want us to celebrate.
He mentioned the son he lost.
My dad shared about his son.
Another woman observed that every single one of us standing there was connected by loss - she and her husband had lost their son, too. She spoke about how we have this common thread, this unspoken understanding of each other's pain, and how we help each other heal by connecting and giving hope.
Hope. That glimmer of light in the dark that lets you know you can keep moving forward.
I felt a well of emotion as I blinked back tears.
What a beautiful message.
I'm now back at my parents' house writing, which, truthfully, is so often more about me sorting through things than it is about you. Thank you for that, by the way, for allowing and supporting that exploration and for being part of my community.
As I reflect, I am struck by a fundamental truth:
We need each other.
Humans are inherently social beings. We are quite literally wired for connection. We are designed in such a way, on a biological level, that we need each other, especially during hard times.
Leaning on others for support. Offering our support to others in need. Bringing out the best in each other. Cheering each other on. Acknowledging and respecting. Seeing and accepting. Extending compassion and embracing. Cooperating and helping. This is us at our best.
I had a conversation earlier this week in my psychology practice about the importance of coming together in the wake of a death and how not having that chance to mourn collectively, to remember jointly, is a loss in and of itself. I am struck by how many people were robbed of that chance in recent years.
And I am struck by how often we feel isolated in our pain, regardless of the source, whether it's loss of a loved one, a job, health, a relationship, a goal, or an ideal. I can think of a dozen examples from as many different kinds of situations and people where it is hard to share our pain, to let others truly see what is going on and to be there for us, to take on some of the burden, knowing it isn't actually a burden. Why is it often difficult to share our pain or to sit in pain with others when that is so desperately what we need?
Meeting Our Needs
I am a big believer that needs need to be honored and that problems arise when they aren't.
We need to internalize the idea that love and pain, joy and sorrow, are two sides of the same coin for we can not have one without the other.
We need to be brave enough to face and explore our pain points.
We need to have the courage to embrace the vulnerability required to let others see our pain.
We need to acknowledge our need for help and support. We need to accept it when it is offered and seek it out when it isn't.
We need to approach others with empathy, not only in their moments of vulnerability but always. We never know what someone else has gone through and what heartaches today might be bringing them.
We need each other.
"We need each other, deeper than anyone ever dares to admit even to themselves. I think it's a genetic imperative that we huddle together and hold on to each other."
- Patch Adams
Written by Dr. Ashley Smith
Peak Mind Co-founder
Build psychological strength right from your inbox!
Get actionable information and tools to build psychological strength at home and at work.
We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.