Monday, August 26, 2013

So Much Sorrow, So Much Love

The first few weeks and months, I was overcome with how much sorrow there is in the world. It was as if I had suddenly sprung an antenna tuned to signals I’d barely noticed before. Sorrow flooded in full force from all directions, just as simple happiness had once surprised me in pregnancy and early motherhood. Awash in the universals of death or birth, there was no filter to sentiment or sentimentality. I felt weighed down by the sorrow around me, especially losses other parents had to endure like a living hell. 

There are so many ways to lose a child. The hand-wringing helplessness of losing young children to disease before they can even enjoy their childhood. Anguish at the randomness of losing children to violence or accident. And the living losses that last for years or a lifetime: Losing teens to addiction, anorexia or depression. Losing adult children in faraway places to family estrangement. And especially, losing young adults to serious mental illness, struggling to keep them safe and healthy while subsisting on remnants of relationship. I’ll never know if that might have been our family's trial, too, trying to banish the demons that had moved in on our child’s sense of self, praying they were only temporary.

I was going through this litany of losses with a friend, someone who lost a living brother long ago to mental illness. I was about to say how much sorrow there was in the world when she said, “I know, there’s so much love in the world.” She reminded me of the surrogate brothers who had blessed her life, of the many people who stepped up to support us since Noah’s death, of the ways families keep hoping for healing. 

To sense life only as a world of sorrows is to think like Noah may have done—to feel only the unbearable pain, tuning out a world of love. There were so many people who loved our son and hoped to reconnect with him when his troubles eased. Even when laid low with pain and loss—especially then—we need to leave ourselves open to the gift of simple happiness, however fleeting.

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