Bearing Witness

dreamstimelarge_114050183 2The legal definition of bearing witness means to attest to something that is true. If you are called to court to testify, you bear witness to the truth of what you saw or what you know.

If someone is telling you their story of loss, they are bearing witness to you about the truth of their suffering. And you in turn are bearing witness to that truth by receiving their story. Bearing witness is not fixing the pain. It is holding the pain. Bearing witness is not trying to make someone who is grieving feel better. It is entering into their experience with them, whatever that experience may be. Bearing witness is not leading the one in pain. It is standing next to them in the sacred space of their suffering.

You will be called to bear witness. It may be your friend, neighbor or coworker who needs you to receive the truth of their story. In this last week we have been called to bear witness as a nation to the suffering that has occurred in other communities. It is an act of respect, compassion and love to attest to the truth of the pain for those who grieve.

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Dr. Patrick O’Malley is a psychotherapist in Fort Worth, Texas, specializing in grief counseling. For 35 years, he has counseled individuals, couples and families in his private practice. Dr. O'Malley has recently published a book, "Getting Grief Right" about grief recovery.

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