Words of WonderFor suffering – John O’Donohue

May you be blessed in the holy names of those
Who, without you knowing it,
Help to carry and lighten your pain.

May you know serenity
When you are called
To enter the house of suffering.

May a window of light always surprise you.

May you be granted the wisdom
To avoid false resistance;
When suffering knocks on the door of your life,
May you glimpse its eventual gifts.

May you be able to receive the fruits of suffering.

May memory bless and protect you
With the hard-earned light of past travail;
To remind you that you have survived before
And though the darkness now is deep,
You will soon see the approaching light.

May the grace of time heal your wounds.

May you know that though the storm might rage,
Not a hair of your head will be harmed.

by John O’Donohue


This week I heard that suffering has knocked loudly on the door of a friend of mine, in the form of the sudden death of her beloved. It sharply brought me back to that uneasy space of questioning: how to relate to the heartbreaking things that happen in life? There are plenty of reasons for visiting that place – each newspaper is full with them – but there is something about the immediacy of an already existing connection that can bring this question very much to the foreground.

I’m not even going to try to come up with a ‘good’ answer here, as it feels hollow just thinking about what that might be. There’s a powerful definition in Dutch of the word ‘troost’, meaning something like solace, comfort: “consolation is acknowledging the un-consolableness”. And I’m very aware it’s not easy keeping each other company in that space…

But there are poems, blessings, prayers like this one that try to reach into the depth of suffering without trivialising or marching over the un-consolableness of what’s there, and try to softly widen the view into a surprising ‘window of light’ and point towards the ‘eventual gifts’. 

So to my friend and all those who are suffering: may you know yourself  ‘blessed in the holy names of those who, without you knowing it, help to carry and lighten your pain’…

Photo by Pablo García Saldaña on Unsplash