Sometimes there are no answers. No explanations. These are the words I heard repeatedly today at an event that gathered over 1000+ people – the funeral for the most wonderful, well-respected, incredibly loved 16-year old girl. 16 years old. My daughter was just with her a week ago. Then Wednesday, we heard the news, she was in a coma. Having lost a friend just over a year ago, my daughter began to get very, very sick. She sensed something terrible was going to happen.
At our synagogue, a service was held and close friends from her youth group gathered; they then spent the night crying and hugging one another, as the morning loomed. My daughter fell asleep at midnight and we were both an exhausted mess, wondering what the morning would bring. At 6:00am, I raced downstairs to check the news on Facebook. Horrified and shaking, I could not believe my eyes. She was gone.
I knew my daughter needed to hear this nightmarish news before she read the gazillion texts on her phone. Thankfully, we have a house rule that no phones are on and in bedrooms at night. As a mother, our roles are rough at times, but this- this was the roughest news to share that would knock the wind out of her. When I heard her stirring in her room, I tiptoed in quietly. Her beautiful blue eyes sparkled and I was so thankful she was no longer sick. But I knew her smile was about to crumbled when I explained what had happened. I took a deep breathe, held her hand and told her, “She is gone, honey. I am so, so sorry.”
Shock and an avalanche of tears followed. As a parent, you can’t imagine losing your child and my thoughts were with the horror her friend’s parents and younger siblings were feeling. “What!? What happened to her?!” my daughter cried, but no one knew. And all I knew was that my daughter needed me more than ever on this day, and I would listen, hug her a lot tighter and try my best to ease her pain. Pretty impossible, but I would do my best.
Here’s what I know about loss and grief. Life knocks the wind out of you. You can’t breathe. You can’t even remember how to breathe. The pain is unbearable. You never think you will heal that cavernous hole in your heart, and the pain that drags you to the ground is monumental. But somehow, slowly you do. And today, as I listened to hundreds of children cry at the funeral, my heart broke for their loss. My heart shattered for her family and everyone that knew her. The service was incredibly moving and beautiful, filled with more people than I have ever seen at a funeral. There were endless tears, kids hugging their peers, children and adults singing songs, and stories I will never forget.
Our incredible community arranged for counseling for anyone who knew this wonderful young teen. When I asked my daughter if she would like to speak to someone, she told me, “No.” She explained that speaking to a stranger would not help her. “Because I have you and my friends to talk to, I will be okay.” I get it. She just needs to keep communicating and sharing her feelings, she will move through her pain and heal. I explained that the best thing she can do is try and shift her perspective, her thoughts and her actions when she is overcome with grief. Of course, she needs to cry and not hold in her pain, but I also want her to walk, breathe and allow herself to feel joy. There is no timeframe for healing. Grief is a very personal experience, but we just keep moving and remembering how blessed we are to have known whomever we have lost. Their light, their love of life, and the gift of having known them, lives in our hearts and minds forever.
I explained to my daughter that life is filled with tough times and beautiful moments; it is up to us to learn resilience and have life skills to handle the tough times. We must treasure and remember those who are no longer with us.
We will celebrate her life by making something she loved – cupcakes, and asking her youth group to join us. In moments like these, we all need to squeeze each other a little tighter and a lot more often. Only time and love gets us through these unexplainable moments when life knocks the wind out of us.