My youngest daughter, while walking out the door today said she was quitting her internship at the local NAMI art therapy position. I asked why? I thought it was a good fit? She went on to tell me how her instructor for the internship had told her that her losing her sister was meant to be and that she would be stronger for it. I was shocked that someone working with teens in the school system would say that to her. How could she not realize she just told my daughter that her sister’s death was the reason that she will do well in this world? I told her, unfortunately, people don’t know what to say, or how to just sit next to someone and listen. They feel the need to help, provide advice, even if none of it is helpful or is useful.
22 months ago, when my daughter passed, someone wrote to me in a card, “God only gives you what you can handle.” I actually had to look up the verse, 1 Cor. 10, because there is no way God would give me the death of my child because I could handle it?? Actually, in 2 Corinthians 1, Paul explains that he and his companions were “so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired life itself.” I am guessing that it didn’t sound as pretty in condolence cards. Instead, 2 Cor. 12:9 “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee for my power is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Again, maybe these words would be more helpful, but what people want to do, is to make themselves less uncomfortable when faced with the unexplainable, like the death of a daughter or sister.
Just recently, as if we haven’t had enough loss, my oldest daughter’s boyfriend unexpectedly left the relationship and then soon after also passed. The double loss for my daughter is unfair. Even I caught myself at first, trying to offer lame words of condolence to her, luckily I stopped myself. The loss is not rational. Taking my own advice, I just listened when she wanted to talk, I put my hand on hers when her eyes fill with tears at the restaurant. I cannot take away her pain, or make myself feel better with empty words. I can sit with her in her grief, acknowledge how she feels once again her life path altered. I didn’t try and tell her maybe it wasn’t meant to be, or she will be stronger for this, I just sat next to her.
My youngest daughter, who has some emotional regulation issues, burst into tears when she saw her sister walk in the door and move back home yesterday. She couldn’t express it, but she felt the sadness of her sisters’ new loss and her reaction was an honest expression of her love for her. She later asked me, why has this happened, again? (I even had a couple co-workers ask me the same question). The old me, before the unexpected loss of my daughter, might have tried to justify a loss in a way that could make me feel like it wouldn’t happen to me. I explained to my youngest this morning, that there is no good answer. We live in a messy world. I told her about my 18-year-old patient last week with facial bone cancer. He has about 5 years to live with that prognosis. I recognized the parents drained and exhausted facial expressions, like one I have held, as he was being prepped for surgery. The boy expressed content at whatever he had left, compelled to live his last few years to the fullest, the look on his parent’s faces seemed to say they felt differently. It is unfair and there is no answer. We can just love and support each other, sitting next to each other in the valley.