4.4 Sustaining

Where reconciliation or healing are impossible, or not possible in the short term, pastoral care-givers may attempt to sustain the sufferer. Sustaining

consists of helping a hurting person to endure and to transcend a circumstance in which restoration to his former condition or recuperation from his malady is either impossible or so remote as to seem improbable. [...] But it goes beyond mere resignation to affirmation as it attempts to achieve spiritual growth through endurance of unwanted or harmful or dangerous experiences. (Clebsch and Jaekle 8-9)

At the most basic level, the hope and happiness generated by romance’s optimistic endings may assist in “sustaining” readers such as the mother with a dying son, described above, and the reader mentioned in the previous chapter, whose romances helped her to “live with” depression. Bestselling romance author Berta Ruck, having lived through the First World War and its aftermath, was most certainly aware that she and her readers existed in

a world in which war still exists, rages. Also disease, crime, poverty. A world where men can be cruel, nature relentless; where love can turn to indifference, unkindness, hate! A world where any day death can swoop, to snatch young, promising, cherished lives. (46)

In such a world, all of us are “hurting” and restoration to a state of childlike innocence of these threats is “either impossible or so remote as to seem improbable.” However, romance, through its happy endings, argues that, as Ruck put it, “happiness is life's true stuff, with trouble the mere superimposed pattern” (Ruck 47). An emphasis on the joy that is still available in the midst of suffering may assist us in enduring the troubles we encounter but it can also go further and help us to refocus the narratives we tell about our own lives so that they stress the positive, and are directed towards hopeful futures.