A single sentence, an idea, if we can hear it in all its splendor, can illuminate with meaning the darker days of our lives.
Some time ago, I was lucky enough to attend a gathering honoring playwright, screenwriter Tony Kushner. It was the week before the release of Lincoln, the film directed by Steven Spielberg for which Kushner wrote the screenplay. (Great movie by the way, if you haven’t seen it.)
At some point during the Q & A, talking about the iconic president, Kushner said: One of the attributes that made Abraham Lincoln so extraordinary was his great capacity for grieving.
What a stunning way to put it, I thought.
In the past I’ve often heard myself tell clients who were grieving over failed IVF’s and miscarriages that as deeply as I grieved with them, I also held on for dear life to a hope-filled view of their burdens.
Not is some placating—everything happens for a reason—kind of way.
Rather, what I have attempted to transmit to these broken-hearted moms is my faith that each of these brief lives had a purpose for showing up. And for leaving far too soon.
Each one, I would say to them, opened your heart a little wider, enlarged your capacity for sorrow and for joy.
That is one of the stories we can choose to live.
We can choose countless other stories but for me this is the one that can carry us through the abyss of despair onto the firm ground of the next beginning.
The events we experience as fracturing failures can be, if we make them so, building blocks of the human parents we—at the floor of our souls—yearn to become.
Tony Kushner was right. The capacity to fully grieve makes us extraordinary. At this juncture of the evolution of our species, that’s what our children need from us.
They need us to be extraordinary. They need us to expand our capacity to grieve and to rejoice. To be prepared for the bittersweet sorrow of scraped knees and the delight of squealing roller coaster rides. To rise to the challenge of being the most extraordinary fully human parents they will need to grow into their own extraordinary humanity.