For the good of my daughter I need to let her experience pain, hurt, and loss
By Dani Higginbotham
I sat and waited. The cold wooden bench beneath me was no comfort, as I anticipated the bell to signal the end of the final day. Parents lined the tight corridor walls, prams parked, scooters at the ready. Children disembarked the classrooms, enthusiastic squeals for the long beach days ahead.
I didn’t expect excitement today, I knew her too well. Arms laden with books, dwarfing her 6-year-old frame, she dragged her feet slowly towards me with her head hung low. I put my arm around her delicate shoulders and before I asked, she offered, “I’m going to miss Mrs Cooper, she’s not going to be my teacher next year.”
I was going to miss Mrs Cooper too - she had been an answer to prayer, a dedicated teacher who had patiently loved and understood my complex girl in a way that was beyond the call of duty. My shy firstborn, who was afraid to try in case she failed, had miraculously developed into a girl who was becoming ready to take on the world because this lady had taken the time to see her.
As we stood outside the classroom, children racing past oblivious of our moment, I felt an urgency to break through the pain and bring hope. “You’re going to have an amazing teacher next year and lots of new friends, and we’ve got loads of fun things planned for over the summer…” But instead, before the sentence left my lips, I stopped. I paused and I heard that still small voice.
Pulling her closer, we took a seat side by side on the hard bench. I made a choice in that moment. I chose not to minimise what she was feeling. I chose to let her feel the pain. I chose in that juncture to affirm her feelings, “You’re right, it’s really hard”. I allowed her space to grieve a loss that was big in her world, something that was sad and was deserving of our time.
That day I gave my daughter more than a moment, I gave her a gift that I have rarely allowed myself - permission to feel the pain, to hear the hurt, to acknowledge the loss; not to silence it or run over it as if it were merely an inconvenient side-story.
That day on a school bench I chose for my daughter and for myself that we would embrace our emotions, the good ones and the others that we so often deem bad. Because to feel is to be alive.