Watching Hurt

The parenting manuals never told me how much it would hurt watching my child’s heart break. I got a hint of it when her horse Beau Pony died. She was eight and stoic, her little face turned to the window as we drove away from the stables. A single tear tracked its way down her cheek but she didn’t say a word. We planted three apple trees in our front yard, because Beau liked apples. But we didn’t really talk about it. She never wanted to ride again, and eight years later hasn’t changed her mind. Some people say she’s stubborn. I think she’s true to her heart, strong in her convictions, and doesn’t live or love lightly.

And this morning a piece of her heart drove away to college, rending a tear of an intensity none of us expected. I feel utterly helpless in the face of this, as if any words I could offer would be only cold comfort and poor substitution for the face and voice and body and utter connection that she has lost. This young man, this boy, this bundle of insecurities wrapped in cockiness and twisted humour, was her center for ten months. And I think she was his. And now he’s gone and their future is uncertain.

This loss has been far more than a single tear’s worth for her through last night and this morning, and I feel a crushing heaviness in my chest as if grief wanted to push itself out so that I could breathe again. This is hers to bear, though, and yet as her mother I wish I could take some of it away, as if with company the pain would lessen. Maybe when she’s ready I can offer some things I’ve learned in my almost fifty years. Or maybe the truth is that I have absolutely no wisdom to offer.

Love really does suck sometimes, and life isn’t fair.  But the heart does heal, and the scars make it stronger. And for what it’s worth, she is loved by that boy, perhaps more than even he realizes. And loved by a mother who doesn’t have the right words but would give anything to be able to make this better, easier. And of course the reality is that I can’t. I can only stand by and watch her heal, one day at a time, bit by bit until the thought of him doesn’t wrench her heart so deeply. Watch her pull herself together and laugh again, because she’s one of the strongest people I know and I am so utterly proud of her.