When something bad happens, something that is so disastrously wrong, the most common reaction from those around you is a good dose of buoying up. It will be alright in the end and if it’s not alright, it’s not the end, kinda stuff. Which is fine, if the person shaking their self-help pom pom’s at you has actually ever been through the gates of hell. Very few have, you find.
Rabbi Harold Kushner says that we should pray for the so-called ‘lucky ones’. The people whose lives have been seemingly untouched by sorrow, misery, profound disappointment, before they are forty. Why? Because the losses after forty are so deep, life grows with interest during its time.
Take for example two women I know of, both of whom have lost children. One lost a child as young age, under ten to a terminal disease, the other lost their son at twenty through a stupid accident, which was his fault. One mother was thirty when her child died. One mother was nearly fifty.
The pain those mothers feel is never-ending but one is laced with a bitterness in grieving that child. Which one? The older one of course. Bitterness that she raised a child for twenty years to see him take it all away from her and himself, through a decidedly stupid choice. Bitterness that he didn’t think through his decision. Bitterness that he could have had it another way. Bitterness that he was her only child and now she cannot have any more.
The other mother? She had more children. She loved her daughter so much and would have done anything to not watch her die but there was a sense of acceptance with her death. There was nothing to be done to save her instead she was loved every minute by so many people and so was her daughter. They let each other go with peace, at the end.
I remember the worst of my times. I have had a few. Tough ones, and when I was young and older. I think about what words resonated deep within me. The words I loved the most were the words of acknowledgement. Have you grieved yet? She’s got lovely eyebrows, hasn’t she. How’s Dave? How did you get through it? It’s so shit that this happened. You are the girl for the job, it was all coming to this when you look at your life’s journey. She loved you you know, but she was sick.
Not – you’ll be right, it will all work out, stay positive, don’t stress out.
Sometimes you have to stress out and be realistic. Sometimes it doesn’t all work out.
This week I spoke to a friend whose plans have gone awry. We spoke for a long time about what she wanted and what she had hoped for and how it’s all gone south. I knew she didn’t want buoying up, she was tired of hearing it. Instead I said to her, ‘Babe, you need an escape plan. If it all goes to the shit, which it is looking like it will, then don’t try to make it happen if you’re done. Instead do something else. Or travel. Travel is societies most acceptable form of running away…People accept travel, even though it’s none of their fucking business what you do.’
It was the panacea and permission she needed. Sometimes the words we need to hear aren’t platitudes or self help bumper stickers. They are the words of truth of the situation, the permission to fail, the acknowledgement of the loss, the recognition of the pain. This is enough.
When a friend lost a friend to death a while ago, she asked me how she would ever get over it, knowing I had lost my own best friend to a tragic death years before.
I shrugged and looked her in the eye. ‘You don’t,’ I said truthfully. ‘You just get used to living with missing them. Every. Single, Fucking. Day. And thats the scar you bear for loving. You get on with life, because you should, because life is great and death taught you that but missing them is constant. Even years later, I miss her. Love is a crap shoot sweetie, and this round she bowed out early in the game but don’t stop playing, keep going. Just because she left doesn’t mean you have to. Live life for her.’
And so it goes.
I spoke to a friends young daughter recently, who lost a friend early. Too early. Hard times. I explained to her that this, for better or for worse will shape her now. It won’t define her life but it will shape her. Nothing will ever be this bad again and she had learned it early. Sucks but her shell is tougher, her expectations gone, her empathy high. She will be a wise adult.
It goes on.
Take care but know you have been through this and you will go through the next challenge and life? Well, it goes on.