A recent article in the NY Times by K.J. Dell’Antonia was fascinating and relevant. Giving a Child Permission to Be Miserable. It specifically addressed issues of parents and children. But the issue is far more expansive in its implications. How do anyone of us deal with the pain and suffering of those we care about?
Of course when dealing with our children the situation may be more pointed. Parents feel an obligation to guide, heal and shelter their children from suffering. But in truth this is often not possible and perhaps not always desirable.
In generations past parents understood that their role in their chidren’s lives was to be as supportive as possible. But I think they understood that life will present challenges, failures and disappointments that are inevitable. The article points out that always stating that “life goes one”, “things will get better”, “don’t worry, this too shall pass” while well intentioned, just doesn’t work very often
It also may be true that the lessons each of us learn best, that remain as lifetime guides and lesons, are the ones we personally experience. Sometimes the suffering of our loved-ones was self-induced. They may have been responsible or created the conditions which led to such situations. Sometimes, in hindsight (always 20/20) they should have “known better”. Other times they were truly the unwilling or unwitting subjects of serendipitous events.
We need to come to terms with the truth that all suffering is deeply personally felt and that empathy ancd compassion, although powerful, cannot ulimately take away the suffering of othres.
Perhaps the best that we can offer our loved-ones is our support and presence. If they know that someone is there for them, cares deeply about their suffering, will help if possible….that is enough. Unfortunately, there are many individuals, of all ages, who do not even have that knowledge to comfort them.