This past week when I was on Facebook, I began seeing multiple posts from someone I used to work with–I’ll call her Mary–in which she was sharing photos of her two-year-old son. Mary is not someone I see often on FB, however occasionally she posts pics of her children, and when I began seeing these pictures of her son more frequently, I thought nothing of it. I simply “liked” them for their amazing cuteness, and since there were no descriptions accompanying them, I scrolled on down to the next item. Then yesterday I was absolutely horrified to see her tagged in a post by one of her friends which explained that Mary had tragically lost her son in an accident.
I am sixteen years out from losing my own child to leukemia, so my first instinct was to reach out to Mary and try to offer some words of comfort. Ultimately I did offer her an ear if she needs one, but really, what kind of comfort can I possibly offer? She and her husband are in the deepest, blackest of holes, enduring the worst emotional pain a person can endure, and honestly, what do I know of her grief? Sure, I know more than most people because I’ve also lost a child. But what do I really know of her personal grief and the loss she has suffered? I don’t know what it’s like to lose a child in the manner Mary lost her precious little boy.
I would like to tell her that, for some time, her older child will be the only thing that gets her out of bed each day, so she should be exceedingly grateful to still have her; not that her daughter can in any way serve as a replacement for her beautiful boy, but she will give Mary a reason for living. Because in truth, on most of the days immediately ahead of her, she won’t want to live.
Then I stop and think, “Grateful? She should be grateful?” That’s about as dumb-ass a sentiment as saying everything happens for a reason.
I clearly remember a day a few years after my daugher passed away, when I received a phone call from a friend who was close to hysterics. Through sobs, she shared how her daughter had been killed in a car accident. Someone blew through a stop sign, slamming into their car and her daughter was thrown from the vehicle. She didn’t know what to do. She needed me to tell her how to get through, how she was going to survive her loss. I was the only person she knew who could tell her, and there was such urgent desperation in her voice. I’m sure those weren’t her exact words, but that was the gist of her plea.
I was dumbfounded, speechless, paralyzed by my ineptitude. There simply were no words, only my heart shredding into a million little pieces for my friend. I’m sure I must have offered some empty platitudes, but really, what can one say except, “I’m sorry, and I’m here for you”?
Everything happens for a reason. I believed that once. I don’t anymore. Well, I guess it all depends on what day you ask me, but I certainly never say it aloud these days. And I mean no disrespect to those who do believe that, or think that God has a plan. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs. I still have a strong belief in God; I’m just not so sure He plays such an active hand in our lives as we’d like to think. Yes, God is good, but prayers go unanswered all the time, and the idea that He answers the prayers of some and not others doesn’t sit well with me. I do know life can be cruel, and the older I get, I personally feel it’s all a crap shoot. Everyone thinks that losing a child, or experiencing some other calamity, is something that happens to other people but never to you. Until it happens to you.
I’ve wasted years of my life mired in the “why’s” and can’t help but slip back into them when something like this happens. Each time I see another picture or video of Mary’s little boy, whose life was cut much too short, there’s this screaming in my head. “WHY?????” We see countless memes online about how adversity only makes us stronger. I say screw that noise. There may be some truth in the adversity/strength argument, but I can guarantee you that Mary would much rather have her darling angel by her side than any strength she will gain from such devastating loss.
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