This week I have been smacked in the face by stories of grief and loss. The week began with the death of the old King of Cambodia. A national day of mourning was declared for a King who was loved by his people. Seven days later, streets are still blocked and horns do not beep around the Royal Palace. The strange silence declares their mourning. Many Khmer are dressed only in black and white to show their respect. Monks are still chanting throughout the day. The country still weeps.
With all of this occuring I was talking to one of our staff - light discussions about our families and our 'homelands'. She went on to tell me that her only surviving family is her older sister. Her parents and both of her brothers have died. She said this, and then went on to smile and joke around with me, seemingy unfazed by the losses she has experienced in her mere 23 years.
I then look at a young girl I know. Within the space of a year she lost her mother and a sister to a disease that is also slowly killing her. Within this time she also lost another sister to drowning. Yet her face rarely shows the pain of these losses. A smile covers the hurt.
Another girl told a story of being one of eight children. At 14 years old, she is the only surviving child. Disease and poverty claimed the lives of all of her siblings.
As I hear these stories and so many others, I am overwhelmed by the losses that the people in this country have faced. I cannot even fathom losses to that extent; to lose the majority or all of my family members; to be so accustomed to loss that is no longer feels out of the ordinary; to be so numbed to loss because having to feel all of that would tear you apart.
In the same moments I feel totally unequipped to be teaching about these concepts - loss and grief. What do I know about these? How do I even begin to touch on the pain, the broken hearts, the scars of memory?
As much as I don't have the experience of them, don't have that knowledge of such deep pain and loss, I hold those stories. I shed tears for them. My heart breaks for them.
I sit. I listen. I hold. That is all I can do. That is all I need to do.