I walked a crowded street with my son yesterday. Part way through our journey he asked, “ Why are there so many people who seem so lost, so messed up?

I went through the list of most likely possibilities that came to my mind. Chemical imbalance or wiring problems was my first thought, people who have a “ medical condition” where coping with daily life is difficult.

From there I moved to substances that often get the better of us.

As I pondered for a minute he said “what about trauma?”

“Isn’t some kind of trauma responsible for so much pain for so many?”

In an instant I wished I had been smarter that day. It is any one of a number of life’s emotional traumas that go uncared for or that are simply too much for us that cause us to recoil, withdraw or collapse altogether.

So much mental illness, chronic loneliness and social abandonment is the result of emotional trauma that has never been cared for or addressed.

As I scrambled to “catch up to him”, I thought of how difficult grief can be for so many. There are many who experience such profound loss in their lives that they never recover.

Sometimes that grief and its enormous crippling weight have to do with the loss of employment.

Some people are never able to adjust to not feeling useful, to not being able to have the sense that they are worth more than their pay cheque. Losing a job because of dismissal, retirement, or your place of work no longer needs you can be too much for many.

From there they fall into depression or chronic sadness and then often into oblivion.

Maybe we saw some of them last night.

For others the grief that they were never able to overcome may have had to do with a lost relationship.

A separation or divorce where so much was invested, a love lost in the coming and going of life may have been more than they could manage.

When they woke to find themselves alone, they may never have been able to recover or manage the pain of their sadness and the weight of their love no longer being returned.

For others it is the loss of a life that pushed them into a spot of hopelessness.

We so often assume that the pieces are picked up, and that we can “get on with it” after someone that we love dies, but sometimes that’s not the case.

There are many who don’t find any help after the death of a loved one. There are some who simply get crushed by the weight of their pain.

For them the loss is more than they can bear and they have few options other than to fold under the strain of their hurt.

So many are sad and lost in our society and our world because they have had a loss that they have never had help with or because they simply did not know what to do or where to go, so they did the only thing they could …they came apart.

Sometimes these broken lonely souls can be helped.

If you know someone who finds the trauma of a life loss to be crippling, reach out to him or her. Try not to leave them alone, drowning in their sadness and loneliness.

You taking notice of them and their hurt may be all that’s needed to help them move from hopeless and alone to being able to wonder about hoping again.

In our fast moving, “I don’t really have much time” world, the ability to stop and see “who is around and who is missing” may be the very thing that saves a friend or a neighbor from the people that we passed last night.

The distance between those of us who manage and thrive and look forward with excitement, and those who have given up, is the smallest measurable amount.

Who knows, one day it may be your job, your relationship or your love that is gone.