In the depths of Emma’s sorrow and outrage at losing Tori and everything that it did to our family, her counselor had some words of wisdom for both of us.

She prefaced it with the understanding that she knew it would be cold comfort, and that it wouldn’t make us feel any better. She told Emma that she had a path before her that few had the chance to travel. That it was a sucky, difficult path, but that it could mold her and shape her into something magnificent.

There are people who lose their parents or siblings when they are teenagers who turn into extremely compassionate, emotionally aware people. These people are able to plumb the depths of their souls and share their love with others. They are able to access compassion in a way that normally wouldn’t be available to them.

She wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But, if it is your life to suffer such tragic loss, then there is beauty that can follow. The broken hearts can be filled and mended with love.

The counselor was right, it is cold comfort. The results of this kind of loss, and the choices that are made afterward won’t be understood for a long time, maybe even years.

Though I cannot diminish the effect of Tori’s death on our family, I do understand that it is a first world problem. Tori died because of a terrible genetic mutation that no one could have seen coming. There is no cure. How would we feel if we had to raise our family in different circumstances? How would it be to know that I lost a child due to a completely preventable disease, because we lived somewhere that didn’t have access to clean water? What if the infrastructure was so poor that simple medical care wasn’t available? What if we lived in a country that was under the control of terrorists, and our sweet children were stolen from us to serve the evil whims of a corrupt and evil government?

I wonder this, because as a mother I realize that these things ARE happening every day around the world. The ache that I feel for my lost daughter is no harder than the loss of a mother whose toddler fell out of a rubber dinghy in the Mediterranean while trying to escape a war-torn country. The refugees from Syria hope to find freedom and safety in Europe.

My own ancestors left Germany in a bid to find a better life for their families. It worked. We are so blessed to live in America. We have opportunities that people generations ago couldn’t have imagined. My husband’s own ancestors were evicted from the United States and had to walk across the country from Nauvoo, Ill., to the Utah territory, which was then part of Mexico. It was a hard life, with many people succumbing due to the rough conditions. But look at us now! Time does heal, situations do improve.

There is so much that is horrible about the situation the world is in right now. I hear people say that things couldn’t possibly get worse, that they are already so bad. But I feel like we are up to the challenge. It seems like every generation has had terrible truths to face. The Cold War, which for decades struck fear in the hearts of parents all over the world, luckily was resolved without a nuclear solution. The World Wars eventually ended, and societies rebuilt. Plagues that wiped out millions have been contained.

There is so much to be sad about, but there is also so much progress that has been made. Life DOES keep getting better.

A few generations back, it was rare to have all of a family’s children make it to adulthood. It shows how far we’ve come in a short time that we just expect all of our precious children to have long and healthy lives. There are more opportunities than ever. It is the best time on earth to be a woman. Human rights are expanding.

This does not assuage the horrible grief when something goes wrong, for someone that we love, but there is so much to be hopeful about. It is not naiveté, it is experience that shows us that things don’t stay the same. Some things get worse, but overall things get better.

As a mother, this is a very important lesson that I hope to teach my children. Life is hard. Bad things do happen, but we don’t have to let it poison us. We can and must have hope for the future, or we won’t do anything to make it better. We must improve the things that we can improve.

My hope is that our family can come out of our sadness with renewed strength, with more compassion, and with more open hearts than we had before. We can use that resolve to do our parts, where we live, to make things better for ourselves, those around us, and those who will come after us.

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