I was watching a promotional ad on television recently for the show “Intervention” and saw a quote from Ernest Hemingway, which read: “The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” Actually, this quote is a passage from Hemingway’s novel: “A Farewell to Arms.” Hemingway was one of the great American writers of his time, who died in 1961 as a result of suicide. As an aside, Neil Peart of Rush wrote the lyrics to a hauntingly beautiful song called “Losing It” which in part alluded to the rise and fall of Ernest Hemingway.
The first part of this quote: “The world breaks everyone,” may seem on the surface to be both morbid and fatalistic. The reality is that if we live long enough, we will become broken by events in the world that are tragic and painful beyond belief. I believe that loss breaks everyone to one degree or another.
When my daughter Jeannine died in 2003, at the age of 18, many parts of me were broken. My faith, my trust in a greater good, my values, my hopes for the future, were all shattered beyond recognition. During my early grief, I never fathomed that the broken parts of me could ever be fixed. I could not visualize experiencing joy again.
I am in the ninth year of my journey as a parent who has experienced the death of a child and I have been able to find joy and meaning again. In essence, I became stronger at the places that were broken after Jeannine’s death. I did it by reading about other parents who became stronger at their broken places after their children died, and finding out how they did it. I also availed myself of the support of other parents who understood my pain and together we discovered how to fix the broken places.
Fixing the broken places of our grief does not mean that our world returns to the way it was before our children died, or that the pain of our loss ever truly goes away. What I believe we learn to do is fix the broken places of our grief in a way that allows us to find significance in a world that is different without our children. Understanding that our relationships with our children continue after they cross over and that they communicate signs of their presence has also helped fix the broken places of my grief.
There is no time frame for fixing the broken places of our grief. It will take as long as it takes. As long as you are willing to work through your pain of loss, you will eventually learn new ways of dealing with it. Also keep in mind that hope for the promise of a new world after the death of our children, can come from the most unlikely of sources. Just be open to it happening and embrace it when it does.
David Roberts 2011