With every piece of joyous information, there is always a pocket of commiseration. Celebratory moments have their share of instantaneous despair. Such is life.
The jubilant sharing of a pregnancy, and the hopes of a new life to be born, have a sobering effect on those who have miscarried, suffered stillbirth or infertility. It is impossible to rationalise just how deep the pain is in the loss of a new born life, that of a hope that will not go away that will never be realised.
Good news for some is never good news for all.
When academic brilliance is lauded by parents at the receipt of a scholarship, a special needs parent is once again reminded they have a child who will never achieve anything like that. Parents of special needs children face a grief that never goes away, for the reminders of their loss repeat each day. The same goes for parents with a teen or young adult who has gone off the rails.
There is shame at the same moment there is joy.
And yet the paradox of life presents itself afresh: those who struggle early in life often prosper later, and those who prospered early can often struggle later. Very few people go through life without having struggled.
That time when you are single, and a best friend tells you the wonderful news that they’re engaged to be married, you cannot help but feel lonely in that moment. Something deep inside a single person grieves such news because they know the relationship will drastically change, and often the married friend can seem to have no idea, or even resents that their single friend can’t accept change and move on.
For the divorced person, any reminder of a ‘successful’ family is likely to remind them of the failure that time cannot scrub away. Yet they know full well that ‘successful’ families aren’t always what they seem, for there are skeletons in everyone’s closet. Theirs are simply exposed, and that exposure has been opportune, perhaps, for a journey of growth in courage to be vulnerable. It’s the same with those with troublesome family dynamics who look on when other families get on well. There’s a grief that’s palpable. Separated families constantly face the grief of doing life without loved ones, and it’s doubly worse when it’s outside your control.
That announcement of a position secured within a company or on a board or at a school, the kind of position that you have often coveted, that has gone to someone else. Part of the disappointment can be the shock of hearing the news when we also experience others being universally joyful at such news.
It’s isolating when everyone else is celebrating and you’re reeling at the shock of news you didn’t expect.
When we move an elderly parent into an aged care facility, there is the sadness of a diminished life in that parent, but those who have lost parents well before age could weary them can have a different perspective. They may quietly think, ‘Well, at least you’ve had the last 20 years; I haven’t.’ Nothing spiteful, just reality.
The reverse occurs when someone cannot escape their grief or trauma and they seem to go on and on about it. Some would be tempted to give these people some advice, ‘be more positive,’ ‘count your blessings,’ or to offer some glib cliché. Of course, it all falls flat, because the advice is coming from a person very poorly positioned to comment. The evidentiary fact is the position of the heart to give advice to someone who has exhausted all simplistic solutions. Advice doesn’t work well in cases where the complexity is overwhelming.
When someone’s relationship is going gangbusters and yours is in the toilet, or when they’re being waited on and pampered, yet yours is a torrent of abuse or a sea of neglect with no horizon.