While driving home today, my 6- and 7-year-old daughters opened up about many hurts in their hearts. I have found that car rides are the safest place, to them, to open up and chat. In this conversation there was much talk of divorce and missing their family. My girls have experienced a lot of loss in their short lives. Losing Madeline, their older sister, hurts every. Single. Day. Losing their parents' marriage soon after has hurt their hearts very much. My girls are extraordinary; they have seen and felt things many adults have yet to. They talked about how unfair it is that they have to feel this hurt. They told me I was lucky to have parents who were together, because I never had to know what divorce felt like to them. They told me I cannot understand what it feels like to lose their sister. They felt jealous of others who didn't have to feel that pain. They told me how unfair it is that they have to feel this.
I sat there not wanting to respond in a way that was argumentative. I mean honestly, I lost my daughter. My husband left. What about me? I don't feel that way, though. It was one of those moments when I got to share a big piece of me and life with them. I told them that we all have hard, that it is extremely unfair that they have to feel this pain. I told them that it is sooooo unfair that they lost their sister, their parents are divorced and it hurts. It is unfair. I told them that life is full of pain, hard stuff, unfair and broken. That they will have more pain and hurt in their future. I reminded them that they would always have missing and hurting when they think of Madeline. That their sister doesn't get to grow up with them and help them along the way. I told them they are right, that I do not know what it is like to lose a sister. I have all of mine and I love them very much. I told them I have never felt the pain that they have to feel in this divorce. I can never know exactly how much this hurts them and what it will change in them. It felt like a bleak moment... I assured them that I am always a safe place for them to talk. I told them that I will help them carry and heal and break and cry and laugh.
Then I said to them, "Did you know that some children do not have 100 cousins (on only one side)? Did you know that not everyone has a family that loves them for whatever they are and they become... and not just loves them -- celebrates them?" I asked if they knew that some kids do not get to go to the lake with cousins, don't get to travel all over and explore. I told them many kids don't even have enough, enough food, enough school supplies. We were able to get new clothes, new shoes and $30 worth of color-coded folders. I told them they are so lucky to be loved and get to be a part of so much. "Do you know that you are so blessed right alongside your pain and hurting?"
I didn't want to go all "look at what you have, there are starving children." This is not the point I wanted to make. This world is full of pain, broken hearts, corruption, loss, grief. Hard. There is so much hard in this world. We all have hard. Loss of a sister is hard. Divorce is hard. Hard is here and never going to leave. We can experience a childhood full of hard and our adulthood could be chock full of it too. We don't get to pick. Down every road, around every corner there will be hard, there will be disappointment and there will be hurt. We all have hard. My hard might even look easy to some; I might get jealous of someone else's fortune. We cannot wake up and loathe our hard and look at others and wish for theirs, or focus on the 'why me's?' on this journey.
I told the girls that around every bend, down every road... there was something amazing right next to the hard. That we are extremely blessed in this hard life. When my 5 ½-year-old daughter, Madeline, passed away, the world carried us, supported us -- and still does. Every. Single. Hard sat next to an amazing, a beautiful, a kind. In this loss of Madeline we gained an angel, a new purpose. We gained a painful and hard hurt that we own. She was ours. We got her, she is our amazing and special forever. It hurts, always. It always will, but right next to that pain is solid faith, firm carriers and joy from her smile. I reminded them that this divorce, though it hurt and stings, has brought many amazing things. I am so much stronger and focused on my girls. They gained a brother and they have two other parents who (as far as they know) communicate and like each other. They have two safe homes. With their pain there is loads of love. I told them that in my whole life every hard and painful and hurting period or experience had an amazing right next to it. I couldn't always see it right then, but in retrospect I understood that I didn't know the plan anyway.
We don't get to pick our hard stuff. We are made for it; I know that. Each of us will have different hard stuff, different tools and experiences to stay afloat and heal. Losing Madeline produced many different hurts with different experiences and reactions. I lost my daughter, my girls lost their sister and Madeline's friends lost a friend... all are different hurts with different obstacles and ways to heal. We will all experience much hurt and hard... but hard travels right next to amazing -- even if it takes retrospect to see it and know it. We are each programmed and created to handle our lives -- hard, good, empty, broken, amazing and joyful.
Life is hard. We are here for our journey... to connect and to build... to hurt and break... to laugh and cry. Aren't we lucky for all that we are gifted, even in the broken and hurt?