They climb in the car and slowly back out of their driveway. Brynn and I stand at the edge of ours, as she tightly clenches my hand and tears run down her face. We wave and cry as her very first friends drive away, never to come back. They are moving across the country.
I grab Brynn and pick her up. She sobs. At just a few months passed four years old, she is experiencing her first heartbreak.
“Why do they have to go, Daddy?”
Her question is asked through sobs and gasps. I hold her tight, shedding tears for and with her. Her hurt courses through me. “Their daddy got a new job, sweetie. They are moving to where his work will be and back where their family is.” She cries more. “But I was their family, too,” she says.
I just hold her and tell her it will be alright.
Every day for the past six months, Brynn and her friends from across the street—two little boys her age—have been inseparable. They would yell to each other out the front windows. They would get gifts for each other, paint pictures for each other and trade toys and hats with each other. Now they were gone.
We come back inside and Brynn sits in front of the window, staring at the empty house across the street and crying. “I want Porter and Jack,” she cries and I stay close by. Her hurt is like the hurt of a first breakup. Her world has come to a painful end and she doesn’t understand why.
An hour passes and she still sits in vigil, mourning the friends she will most likely never see again. We are all friends on Facebook, but to a four year old, the connection is gone. Running across lawns at dark, her first fishing trip, her first time at the fair—all of these memories have Porter and Jack from across the street.
I sit down with her and offer her chocolate, but she refuses. I ask her if she wants to watch George, and she says no. “Do you want to got to the playground, sweetie?” She looks up through puffy eyes and begins to cry again; “I want Porter and Jack!” She falls into me and sobs. “I know sweetie. I’m sorry,” I say.
It’s hard to see our children hurt. It’s painful for us to watch them suffer and know there is nothing we can do. Time will be the ultimate healer for this but it’s the time in between that gets us.
I sit back and think about the Buddha’s teachings on suffering. He mentioned moments just like this and our attachment to them. To a four year old, this is meaningless. Even to adults, we often fail to differentiate between non attachment and callousness. We become angry at our hurt instead of sitting with it.
We hold on to the feeling of loss instead of the feeling of shared love and memory we had.
I try and talk to her when she settles down. I explain to her that she will always have the memory of them and we can look at pictures and tell stories about the fun times had, and I wonder if I am saying this for her or for me. Am I teaching her about healing or soothing my pain at seeing her hurt? Maybe both.
I tell her that we can call Porter and Jack when they get to Utah and she can talk to them on the phone and ask about their flight and their new home. She brightens a little. “Can we call now?” I smile and stroke her hair. “Not yet, babe, but soon.” She lies down on my lap and rubs her nose. “We watch George?” she asks. I click on the TV.
Dealing with real emotional pain is hard. We hurt. We experience pain, loss, sadness and a whole gamut of negative and positive emotions. So often, we confuse non attachment with non feeling and when we are in a state of upset, we become angry by this. I know I have.
What the Buddha meant though was not to be uncaring, unfeeling and unmoved by life, but to remain unattached by the aftermath of emotions. Like Brynn losing her friends, or us losing our first love, we tend to hold on to the hurt we feel. We cling to it, chew on it, roll it over and over in our minds and it grows. As it grows, we strengthen our grip and the pain never seems to subside.
We have a hard time looking back and appreciating what was because we are too angry that it changed. This anger blocks us from appreciating life—the life we have right now. The new moments that open up and blossom right in front of us.
It is okay to hurt; it is even okay to be sad or find ourselves angry.
The problems we face lie not in experience and appreciation but in our attachment to the idea that these things must remain the same in order for us to continue to be happy. Brynn will continue to cry for her friends for the next couple of days but she will also be excited to go to school and see her teacher and her friends there. She will be excited to tell me what she learned or how she can spell her name. She will find herself deeply immersed in new moments of life.
Because I am an adult, and stubborn, I will probably find myself chewing over how much it hurt me, to see her hurting for her friends. I still have a lot to learn.