Tag Archives: pain of loss

All my Friends Have Grandchildren

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a grandmother catching a grandchild falling from the sky.Dear Friend who is Suffering Aching Throbbing Pain;

“Knives cutting through your heart,” you wrote to me. I’m sorry it hurts so much to see your lost dreams being lived by others around you. And I understand your “trying to sound happy” for your friends boasting of children graduating and getting married, for friends who get to vacation with their dozen or more grandchildren and are great-grandparents five times over. Yes, my heart has been shredded too. Having only one immediate family member (who lives far away), I often feel like a lone lost orphan myself.

Oh, bleeding heart. Violins are playing for what we’ve lost and all those things we will never have or get to experience. My suffering friend, we need to change that sad song or all this aching throbbing pain will make us sick. It will poison our lives. We have enough to mourn over without grieving the crazy-happy households of our past, the perfect problem-free progeny we’d always imagined, precious grandbabies video-taped all over Facebook … all the things we can’t have.

I’m not going to tell you we have to be grateful for what we do have. I’m not going to remind us that we can’t have everything, or that you and I really lead exquisitely privileged lives and there are infinitely more terrible tragedies in the world than not having a grandchild.

Life doesn’t last. Nothing lasts. Children leave home, grandchildren grow up, people we love die. And they leave empty black holes in our hearts. We need to learn to fill these with whomever or whatever is left, and allow ourselves to still love, and be loved. Easier said than done. This can be a lifelong project.

We can improvise. We can create. Dedicate our energies elsewhere. Volunteer. Find a cause, fund a foundation, or organize a food drive. Plant a forest. Mentor someone or adopt, (there’s gotta be a young child out there somewhere who needs a grandmother). Fill your life with other things. It’s all distractions. But they are opportunities to lose yourself and find yourself. And you might just make a difference in someone else’s life.

And when all these distractions are done for the day, when your most-fortunate friends disappear into their happy homes and you’re left alone with your pain, the best thing you can do is learn to love that aching throbbing pain. Because, reduced down to its common denominator, that pain is simply the love you still have for your beloved and the dreams that died when they did. So grab up the box of tissues, and wrap yourself in a warm blanket, and love your pain. Like it’s your grandchild.


How many grandchildren do YOU have? I really like seeing pics of people and their grandchildren. They make me smile. Can dogs be good substitutes for grandchildren?


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Hiding the Pain

In Ithaca, New York, Robin Botie's friend walks across her garden rocks, tiny and agile as a cricket.“You don’t show enough struggling in your blogs. I need to see more of the pain,” my friend, Lion, tells me. I call her Lion because that’s what she looks like on her good days. “I want to see the raw parts. I want to hear more about your suffering,” she says, seated across from me at Tamarind Thai Restaurant where I’m giving her a copy of my manuscript. Today is not one of her good days. It looks like she may cry at any moment. I’ve already shifted the conversation to avoid discomfort. How can someone in so much pain and loss stand to see more?

Only a few hours earlier I had photographed Cricket, another friend, leaning on a garden hoe, using it as a walking stick. It was hot and muggy when it wasn’t raining. And in between shots Cricket had retreated to her wheelchair to recover from the effort it took to stand upright for five minutes. But she was determined to carry on with the photo session.

“I want to be tiny in my garden, sitting on the rocks,” she had said. Hence the name Cricket. Afterwards, gathering the garden shots into Photoshop as she looked on, I quickly erased the photo I had not intended to snap, of Cricket wincing as she collapsed into her wheelchair. We watched as the other eighty shots flashed across the computer screen like a movie of her easily traversing the lawn. Before I left, I started to photo-shop together the pretty picture that would make us both smile."I want to be tiny in my garden, sitting on the rocks," Robin Botie's friend in Ithaca, New York had told her. So she photoshopped her tiny, in her garden.

“I want to offer my readers hope,” I tell Lion, over our Thai roasted duck. “They’ll never keep reading my blogs if they have to drag themselves through all my suffering.” But inside my head I wonder if the manuscript I’ve written is raw enough.

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