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I’ve always wondered why Sigyn is not insane.

There are many accounts of Loki as Breaker of Worlds: a madman driven to the brink by His suffering in the cave. But, I have neither heard an account of Sigyn as rage-filled and blood thirsty, nor have I encountered Her this way myself. I have no doubt that She suffered as much as Loki: watching Him there bound with their son’s remains. All the while, they are both starving, and only the bowl cupped in Her venom-pitted fingers halts Her husband’s agony from the poison of the snake draped above His head.

 I have always viewed the myths as much symbolism as a written history of our Gods. Since our family’s last year has been filled with grief and trials, the ending struggles of Sigyn and Her Beloved have been at the forefront of my meditations.

I believe the answer lies in how She has come to handle grief, and within it is an amazing lesson for all of us.

Everyone wants to protect their loved ones. An insult to them is an insult to us. We fear for their safety when they are in danger. We share in their grief, their laughter, their pain, much in the same way that Sigyn shares in Loki’s suffering.

Within the cave, Sigyn is not bound. She is under no oath about how she may handle His pain. Yet, she does not throw Herself on top of Him. Wouldn’t the true sense of devotion be to drape Herself over His head that She might bear the poison instead of Him? She doesn’t spend the first millennia or so sawing away at Narvi’s intestines trying to free Loki. Sigyn does not hold the bowl past filling, tilting it to burn herself and sloshing it onto the floor to burn her legs and feet.

Yet, we do these things with one another.

It’s a very difficult to endure someone else’s pain. We’ve all been in that situation where we see someone heading down the fast road to disaster. Perhaps it’s something that we’ve experienced before, and we try so desperately to get that person to understand/

“Damn it, I’ve been here and done this. If you’d just listen to me, you’d save yourself a world of hurt!”

Many relationships between friends, lovers, and parents/children get scarred for that mindset.

It’s because they don’t know. Unfortunately, sometimes those lessons are necessary, harsh ones, and nothing we say or do can alter that person’s mind until the inevitable end.

That brings us to the hardest part of bearing suffering. It’s not experiencing the grief, it’s that simple and awful act of letting go and bearing someone’s suffering knowing that you can do nothing to end or change it.

It’s Sigyn walking from the cave to empty the bowl that has grown too full. It’s hearing Loki screaming and not dropping the vessel, burning Herself, and running back to His side. It’s watching that person, so dear to you, slide face-first down the ravine of loss, grief, or misguidance. The only comfort sometimes is that you are still there with them — that you will get to return with the bowl or still be standing there with the bandages to clean up the scrapes when it’s all said and done. Like Sigyn, you must come to accept that which is necessary or unchangeable.

When my fiancé lost his father, I wanted nothing more than to take every tear and wring every ounce of grief from his heart. Having lost my own mother just as suddenly five years before, I understood his pain. But, it was all I could do to hold him while he wept, to stand beside him, one hand on his shoulder, while he stared at his father in the coffin. I lifted him up when he stumbled and was his shoulder to lean on when he could no longer hold himself, but nothing I can ever do will take that pain away. It is a scar on the heart that never truly heals. Even though I was never close to my mother in life, I’m certain that I will always cry when I put irises on the ancestor altar every Mother’s Day.

It is so easy to get overwhelmed when you share those emotions with someone experiencing it as equally.

We have to remember to empty the bowl. Sigyn’s vessel is not endless and neither are our hearts nor our endurance. When you are that support for a loved one during suffering, you must always remember to take a moment to breathe, to separate, to disengage. Take the time, as Sigyn did, to walk to the door. Breathe. Empty your bowl. Find strength again. Grief and pain come in waves, and we all must take our time bound upon the stone. We all survive through the support of one another, and in the strength and acceptance necessary to hold the bowl.