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Welcome your pain

The airplane accident with Chapecoense soccer team has recently shocked the world. I know it hurts and it is going to hurt for a long time, more than all the commotion. When facing another tragedy I have learned it was needed to welcome pain with patience. The poet Rainer Maria Rilken's words were with me all the time those days.

Image: unsplash / matheus ferrero

It was just another morning, June 1st, 2009. I left home very early in order to do my car inspection and my phone rang. It was a friend of mine asking me in which flight my boyfriend Lei, had boarded the night before. It was Air France 447, going from Rio de Janeiro to Paris taking 228 people and their dreams; crashing and destroying everyone who loved them.

Minutes later, Brazil stopped to tell such a sad story. There was no Facebook yet, but TVs, newspapers, magazines, websites, and Orkut played their part. It was weeks of coverage by the press, months of searching for wreckage and bodies, years until the completion of all red tape processes and investigations.

The accident became a public show, but our pain was absolutely private.

I did little to follow what was said and shown: I was not interested in the accident; I tried to digest the news that he had suddenly been taken out from our lives. The noise inside was already too high and I chose to be away from all investigation and news about it, the kind we see all the time in the media. The little energy I had in the first few weeks I used for my personal care, visits, some phone calls and emails, readings and writing. Leo’s family and friends were my peers, and I had no contact with other victims’ relatives.

More than seven years have gone by and it has been one week I try to find words to say to the families and friends of the tragedy with the Chapecoense team. Each sentence I write is deleted immediately. I just know it hurts and it will hurt for much longer than the national commotion.

I wish my words had the strength of a hug, but I’m not such a good writer. So I decided to borrow some from a real poet, who helped me so much, without knowing, in my most difficult times and inspired me to patiently accept the pain I felt. Rainer Maria Rilke’s words in ‘Letters to a Young Poet’, a book I received as a gift from a dear friend and who has been with me for many, many years. The book is a classic; it can be found in any physical bookstore or online. It’s not about grieving, but it’s about the life and courage it demands from us. And also about the importance of accepting a phase of sadness and its transforming power in our lives. I picked some passages from ‘August 12 letter’, my favorite, to share with those who need strength and affection. May you be surrounded by love and care. I’m sorry.


“Borgeby Gard, Flàdie, Sweden,

August 12, 1904

I want to talk to you again for a moment, my dear Kappus, although I can say almost nothing to help you, almost nothing useful. You have had many great sorrows that have healed. And you say that even this passage was difficult and disturbing. But please judge whether these great sorrows have not penetrated within you, if you have not changed much, if some part of your being has not changed while you were sad. Only the sorrows we carry among the people to subdue them are bad and dangerous; as diseases that are treated superficially and lightly, they only recede and, after a short pause, erupt even more terrible. These sorrows accumulate inside us and constitute the life, constitute a life not lived, disdained, lost, of which one can die. If we could see beyond the reach of our knowledge, and still beyond the preparatory work of our intuition, we might bear our sorrows with more confidence than our joys. For they are the moments when something new has entered us, something unknown; Our feelings are silent in a kind of shyness, everything in us recedes, a stillness arises, and the new, which no one knows, is found right there in the middle, in silence.

I believe that almost all our sorrows are moments of tension, that we feel like a paralysis because we do not hear the echo of the life of our feelings that have become strange to us. This is because we are alone with the stranger who came into our house because everything that was reliable and common was taken away for a moment, because we are in the middle of a transition, at a point where we cannot remain. That is why sadness also goes away: the new in us, the addition, has entered our heart, reached its most intimate place and even there it remains no longer – it is in the blood. And we do not realize what happened. It would be easy for us to believe that nothing happened, however we change, as a house changes when a guest arrives. We are not able to tell who has arrived, perhaps we will never know, but several signs show that the future enters us this way, to become “us” long before it takes place.


The future remains, dear Mr. Kappus, but we move in infinite space.


So it is not necessary to be frightened, my dear Kappus, when sadness rises before you, as great as you have never seen; when a restless feeling passes over your hands and pervades all your actions, as the light and the shadows of the clouds. One must think that something happens to you, that life has not forgotten you, that she holds your hand and will not let you fall. Why do you want to exclude from your life any restlessness, any pain, any melancholy, without knowing what these circumstances bring? Why pursue yourself with these questions: where cans this all come from and where are you going?


There is so much in your heart now, my dear Kappus. One must have patience as a sick person and have confidence as a convalescent, for perhaps you are both. Moreover, you are also the doctor who has to treat yourself. But in every disease there are many days when the doctor can do nothing but wait. And it is more than anything else that you, as your own doctor, must do now. “