A parent’s worst nightmare: and what I learned from it

Death is never easy. When it’s the death of a child, it seems unforgivable. I spent this past weekend with my childhood friend celebrating the life of her twelve-year-old son who lost his battle with cancer. Cancer sucks.

The gathering was everything you would expect: tears, memories, grief, laughter, and more tears.

What did surprise me, though, was the incredible outpouring of strength.

It was more than offers of condolences, held hands, or passed boxes of kleenex though.

stephIt was a physical- and energetic- embrace that grounded you to the earth and gave you the courage to face another moment.

Because sometimes in life that’s what we need: the courage and strength to make it through another moment. Not a month. Not a day. But the next 60 seconds.

For some absurd reason, though, we often expect women to innately have the strength of 40 people.

We don’t expect a baseball player to play every position on the field, or a football player to simultaneously play quarterback and running back. But, too often we expect women to play every role, and do them perfectly.

We silently scoff at the package of store-bought cookies next to the plate of homemade. We judge decor, parties, and projects by their “pintrest worthiness.” And, we feel the need to apologize out for so-called imperfections.

This doesn’t seem to happen with men. A guy who cooks, cleans, and is handy? Well, that tends to equate to finding the Holy Grail.

We accept our children’s individual strengths: art, science, math, music, athleticism without expecting them to effortlessly excel in each area. So, why is so difficult to support each other’s strengths as women.

Put a minor obsticle in front of me (denied reservations at the car rental, upgrades reformatting my comfortable computer settings) and I start to unravel; give me a true crisis, however,  and I am your rock.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, I believe it takes a village to raise a parent.

can-cer viveWe need each other’s different strengths.

We need the friend we can call when we need to laugh, the friend we call to confide our darkest secrets, and the friend we call who can stay silent on the other end of the phone and let us sob without interruption.

Rarely are they the same person.

That’s what I recognized this weekend, the power behind individual strengths.  There were caregivers, organizers, distractors, and experts. But they all meant the same thing- I am here, not for you, but with you.  Use this strength of mine to fuel your own.

Imagine the possibilities if we fed off each other’s strengths as opposed to feeding each other, and ourselves, negativity.

Someone told me: death is never convenient, it will never come at an acceptable time.

Combining our individual strengths into one powerful energy, however, can help ease the pain and make each 60 seconds a little more bearable.
 

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14 responses to “A parent’s worst nightmare: and what I learned from it

  1. Stefanie,

    Thank you for this post. I, too, unfortunately, have found women to often be the last in my corner. I know there are historical, sociological reasons for that, for making us compete for the limited spots in limited fields of action for women. It’s changing, though, and your post indicates that. Thank you for talking about it.

    I am very sorry for the loss of your 12 year-old friend. This kind of loss is unfathomable. When I hit that emotional impasse , I turn to poetry. Attached please find a few poems that might speak to you in your sorrow.

    Hugs and Strength to you, Sue

    • Thank you, Sue. I agree- survival is in strength- and I hope the focus will shift from competition to community.

      I don’t think the poems attached, if you get a chance to try to attach them again that would be wonderful.

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  3. Please direct your friend to compassionate friends group for parents who have suffered the loss of a child.

  4. Reblogged this on Praying for Eyebrowz and commented:
    Beautiful and true.

  5. May his memory be a blessing. Your thoughts today are a testament to your strength. As the gender gap is called into question more and more I think that we’ll see better support like this both from and for men.

  6. Struck a cord and made me cry, thank you .

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  8. Pingback: Saying goodbye | ftedailygreen

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