“When her pain is fresh and new, let her have it. Don’t try to take it away. Forgive yourself for not having that power. Grief and pain are like joy and peace; they are not things we should try to snatch from each other. They are sacred. They are part of each person’s journey. All we can do is offer relief from this fear: I am all alone. That’s the one fear you can alleviate.” – Glennon Doyle Melton
I recently finished reading Glennon’s latest book, Love Warrior, and it left me spinning with thoughts and reflections. It is so raw, so honest. Of the many takeaways, perhaps the one that spoke to me most profoundly was her message about the gifts and opportunities that we have in our struggles. She wrote candidly about a time when her children witnessed a tense moment between she and her husband, and instead of allowing them that space to cry and process and own it, she did what many of us do in an effort to protect our kids…she glossed over it with reassurances that everything was okay.
It made me think about parenting and about all the choices we make to protect our children and shield them from pain. We want only good and lovely things for them, but that’s not only impossible, it’s also detrimental to some extent. It robs them of the lesson that they can, in fact, walk through really tough stuff and come out stronger on the other side, and it robs all of us of the silver lining to the emptiness Glennon describes: “the unfillable is what brings people together.”
I thought of Eliza most especially. I remember the first day I learned about PWS and how impossible it was to imagine a time when my precious daughter would come to me and say she was hungry only for me to tell her no…no to that banana or cracker or cheese stick, no to that snack she sees her friends eating. That coming reality still breaks my heart to imagine. Truly, thinking of how real that hunger will be (they say to imagine how we would feel after not eating for 3 days and live in that state constantly), leaves me feeling helpless and desperate to somehow take that struggle away.
It certainly fuels the fire to raise awareness, fund the research, and set healthy habits at home. But until there is a cure, there will be nothing I can do to protect her from the onset of unrelenting hunger, and that crushes me. Simply writing that sentence brings me to tears.
But Glennon’s words have seeped into my mind and left me with a new goal for when that moment comes: that instead of pretending it is all okay, instead of shushing her tears and reassuring her that everything is going to be alright, I should wrap her in my arms and let it be hard. I should honor the times she struggles and suffers by acknowledging them and promising only what I can: that no matter what, I will be there for her. That while I can’t take away the pain or the hunger, I can sit with her in it. That I can pray with her and cry with her and love her through the darkness as best I can.
To be honest, it still doesn’t seem like enough, and it leaves me angry that I can’t do more. I will never stop wishing that I could magically remove this unfair disorder from her life and shield her from suffering. But I also trust that she will get through it and that she will rise stronger. Her pain will give her compassion, her trials will give her courage, and her struggles will draw her closer to the God of grace and mercy who understands a broken heart and an unfair hand more than any. And for that – for the knowledge that she will never, ever be alone in this – I am thankful.