We are hardwired to fix. But then there’s reality. Not everything broken can be fixed. Not every disappointment and heartbreak can be taken away. This can feel so disempowering…
Sometimes as parents, all we can do, is hold.
A few weeks ago, early one Sunday morning, our cats brought a gift of a young mouse bird into the lounge. I heard the shrieks, rushed through and managed to rescue the terrified feathered little mite from further claws. Apart from being wet, cold and terrified, he seemed relatively unharmed, and we found a box to put him into for closer monitoring. The kids were delighted to be a part of the rescue team. Christian raced to the garage to find an old hamster cage to transfer him into and following a garden forage for berries and potential edibles, we rigged up a heat globe above the cage, hoping for the best.
For the children, the day was spent entranced by our little guest. Rachel spoke soft encouraging words to ‘Mousey’ and Christian collected ants and an earthworm. They both spent literally hours sitting alongside the cage watching him intently and talking to him, fascinated with the new arrival we hoped to be releasing as soon as he was strong enough to fly above the clutches of murderous feline plans. Mousey devoured his pickings hungrily and chirped away throughout the day and we were cautiously optimistic.
But then Monday came…he had deteriorated significantly despite our best efforts to support him. As the kids said goodnight to him on Monday evening, I tried to prepare them that he may not make it. He didn’t…
When the children woke up on Tuesday morning, I gently relayed that Mousey had died. Rachel said she loved and missed him, and wanted to see his body. With that she seemed satisfied. Christian however, was devastated. He was crushed. The little being he had tried so hard to help save, was no more. He sobbed and sobbed, through comments about how much he loved Mousey, concern about how ‘Mousey’s mom’ must feel and that Mousey was ‘still so young’. I pulled him onto my lap and let him cry for what seemed like ages, and did my best to answer his questions. When the tears eventually subsided, we made a box and he put a gently wrapped Mousey inside.
I couldn’t bring Mousey back. But I could hold him through his grief.
We can’t fix all the pain our children are going to experience. We can’t bring back all the beloved things they will lose; we can’t take away love lost, broken heartedness or disappointments. But we can hold them through it – whether physically, emotionally or both. The strength they draw from knowing we are there and feeling surrounded by our support and love is enough to help them process and work through the pain. Within our arms of protection they can feel vulnerable enough to fall apart, to be overwhelmed with grief and loss, and then to process it all.
I recalled my own childhood and teenage years, and the many heartaches and struggles, losses and disappointments I had gone through. Playground nastiness’s, bombed out maths exams, the drivers license I failed first time around…. although my mom couldn’t take any away, or fix any, or even always be physically present to give me the hug I needed, she was always there. She didn’t need to say much, but her emotional presence was the strength I needed to find my own way through the brokenness.
Later that afternoon when Christian and Rachel returned from school, we made cards for the gravesite, drew pictures for Mousey and said our goodbyes. And that was enough for my little boy to close the door. I couldn’t fix, but I could hold, and in doing so, he found his way through the darkness.
It may be a beloved lost pet, a hurtful friendship, an academic or sporting disappointment, a broken relationship, or saying goodbye to a rescued Mousebird. We can’t fix every problem our children are going to encounter. We can’t mend the broken or replace the lost. But we can do even greater. We can be there, and envelop them in our arms. Let them draw the strength they need and allow them time to heal from whatever hurt they are experiencing just by being there and allowing them to feel our arms embracing them. When we can’t fix- hold…and walk alongside them in the dark space until life becomes bearable again. Holding isn’t always easy. Holding means holding our children’s pain along with their hearts. But through the embrace, we give them the strength they need to walk the hard paths that life is guaranteed to throw at times. In holding, our children can heal.

With heartfelt love

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