"Too Much" is Just Right

March 15, 2024

"Of course, we are never outside the presence of God, even when we do not believe that or know that.  The "way," the "path," leads to the place where we do know that.  (Marcus Borg)

"It's too much."

What do you say to a person dealing with grief or with trauma?  It's a question people often ask.  I can tell you what phrases I don't find helpful-"This will make you stronger," This too shall pass," "Everything happens for a reason," "If it's not a blessing, it's a lesson," and finally, "God never gives us more than we can handle."  I feel yucky just thinking about those phrases.  The most comforting phrase that people have ever said to me is, "Oh Corey, it's too much!"  This recognition of how much loss and heartache I am experiencing in such a short time is like a balm to my soul. It is not a negative phrase, but an affirming one.  It often feels like God does give us more than we can handle.  I know deep down inside that that I do not even believe that God gives us things at all but that God and I work together.  When we work in harmony, then I am able to somehow keep on going and I find my options and choices more easily.  When I am out of sync with the holy, then life seems too much and too overwhelming and I cannot internalize that I can handle the situation, for I really cannot on my own.  I know deep down that I can ultimately handle this situation in that I am not going to kill myself, but my soul feels affirmed.  I cannot radically accept my situation until I acknowledge the amount of pain and overwhelm that I currently feel.

Next time someone is grieving and in great emotional pain do not try to make them feel better with positive phrases.  Instead, exclaim that it is "too much."  Confirm their present emotional state and offer them compassion and empathy instead of pity or sympathy.  Imagine how you would feel and know how trite those toxic positive phrases feel when someone is in pain. Acknowledging that the situation is "too much" eases their pain just a little bit and lets them know that you are a person that can be trusted.  This is a person you can turn to when feeling too low, unlike the person who gives a casual platitude.  If we are really serious about preventing suicide, self-harm, and mental damage, then we have to be real and authentic to one's current emotional reality.  Empty phrases let us know that the proclaimed person's concern and empathy are not actually real.  I will always remember how my middle school church youth group leader disregarded my pain when I told her that I sometimes thought about killing myself.  All she said was that I could come to her when feeling that way.  Sounds nice, but the words were hollow.  Teenagers do not disclose these kinds of thoughts often and when they do, the moment needs to be seized.  If my youth minister had said, "O Corey, you are going through too much; we need to talk to people that can help you better than I can." I might have denied it, but I would have felt so affirmed and I might have discovered recovery much sooner than I ultimately did.

"It is too much," provides way more comfort to a person deeply struggling than a promise of good news in the moment.  Put away your urge to fix and just confirm that in the moment the emotions and the situation are indeed, "too much."

Sometimes life is "too much" and we need to rest.

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