There is a story of a woman who approached the Buddha. Having lost her son, she begged the Buddha to bring him back to life. He agreed if she could do one thing. She said she would do anything. He said that she must go to a house that had never suffered a loss. Of course, the woman could not find any such house.
I have to admit that I never found this story particularly comforting. I couldn’t see how knowing that other people had suffered grief could make mine any less. I thought the Buddha had failed on this score.
But then my father died last week. My grief has been immense, and I have no sense when I’ll feel anything like normal again. But the cards, emails, and gentle hugs in the hallways did more than express sympathy. Over and over again, I was reminded that everyone has gone through such a loss: grandparents, parents, spouses, children, and friends. Although belonging to this community of grievers did not lessen my own pain, and my life will always have this hole in it, I also now know, from the wonderful examples of my friends and colleagues, that life will again hold happiness and purpose.