I’ve been reading: “Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart, A Buddhist Perspective on Wholeness” Epstein, M.D. and he tells a wonderful story about a time when his young son suddenly became very clingy and upset every time they had to leave him. Previously he had no problems with separation. They tried treats and cajoling and nothing seemed to work.
Indirectly, through play they learned that he was aware that his grandmother had cancer and though very young, he knew that people died of cancer without having the words for it. It was so indirect that when he said “daddy makes dinner” and he was asked where mommy was he answered, “she died of cancer.” Obviously the fact that people die was something he was trying to process on his own. This was when Mr. Epstein wisely said, “You know, some people die of cancer but some people get better. Grandma is getting better.”
The fear of separation disappeared immediately. The acknowledgement that some people die was as important as some people get better. The fear had a name and a context. It became something that could be expressed and something that he could express with his parents.
While acknowledging emotion and circumstances we are releasing them for ourselves and our children; secondly we are better at coping with the impact of difficulties in our lives and so are they. Once this is done it is important to get back to living.
I won’t pretend to have handled these things very well all the time but I do remember the times when through luck and maybe a bit of understanding I was able to recognize what was going on and address their concerns and how wonderfully healing it proved to be. While on a train, having said a difficult goodbye they were gripped by fits of tears. There I was with three bawling kids and I was falling apart too. I had recently started seeing a Buddhist monk who was giving me a lot help with the tidal wave of emotions that difficult time in our lives had brought with it. This little gem was so important: “You won’t feel like this forever.”
While we might think impermanence is something to fear, it is a part of life and at times it can be what we can recognize as a beautiful and generous, like laughter after tears, or the glistening raindrops held briefly on the petals of a flower after a storm.