I watched as a young girl, whom I have come to know quite well these past few years, walked up and spoke name after name into the microphone. She took her time, didn’t rush, and made sure to read every name carefully and with intention. Not yet 18 years old, and this little girl read upwards of 15 names. Hot tears streamed down my face.
One of my greatest joys of being at PBMR is working with the youth — particularly the young women. They are brilliant, strong, creative, wise individuals who never cease to amaze me day after day. But in moments like these, I am reminded of the invisible, unbelievably heavy burden of trauma and pain that these young people carry. Because of the neighborhoods they’re born into, the dangers they face, and the color of their skin, they are burdened with a level of grief and loss that I will never fully understand.
These kinds of wounds live beneath the surface — no one can see the trauma that another person carries — and yet our wounds are crying out for someone to see, touch and heal the broken pieces of our hearts. But where, when, and by whom can we let ourselves truly be seen? Is there anywhere or anyone safe enough to let our walls down and share our sorrow?
One mother spoke about how, before leaving the house, she puts on a full face of makeup in hopes of covering up the pain and depression that she battles daily. Here in this room, her tears wiped away this protective mask, and she shared how losing her husband, sister and son, coupled with the stress of struggling to take care of her family, often feels like too much to bear. Folks in the front and back of the room nodded in understanding, communicating that they too feel what she feels. By sharing our wounds with one another, we didn’t sink from grief, but found community and solidarity which kept us afloat.
There is a deep need and hunger for sharing our wounds in the context of community — to let down walls and unpack the hurt. I also believe that spaces safe enough for this type of healing are few and far between, especially for folks in our neighborhood. People have been hurt time after time, from such young ages. While safety is a basic human need, our youth, parents and families often lack safety of any kind — whether it be psychological, emotional, physical or spiritual. Nowhere and no one feels safe, and so people stay bottled up, wounded and alone, unable to heal or move forward.
And we wonder why things aren’t getting better.
This year, PBMR is focused on healing — on creating more spaces and places where people can be vulnerable and allow love to touch their wounds. If we want to bring healing to the visible exterior in our community, we have to begin with the invisible interior. We have to begin with seeing, hearing and holding the hearts of those we love, and becoming vessels of love and care for one another.
As the young woman placed her cross on the wall of remembrance, we began to see that all the crosses organically were forming the shape of a heart. The pain of loss and grief of our hearts was momentarily flooded with love, and for a second, we gained a glimpse of the yoke being easier and the burden light.
— Story by Holly O’Hara, Coordinator of Communications, Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation and a candidate for the Sisters of the Precious Blood