Reality is not candy; life is not always sweet.
In the funeral business, we see as time progresses, generations are becoming less able to deal with the reality of death. In my opinion, the unjust practice of “Everybody gets a trophy,” plays into this lack of preparation for real life issues.
When we are children, our parents enroll us in activities to teach us life’s lessons. Currently, there seems to be a misunderstanding of what the goal is, when participating in such activities. One plays ball to learn good sportsmanship. In order to learn good sportsmanship, one must, at one time or another, lose the game. The disappointment of not winning, helps us learn and appreciate the value of good solid preparation. We eventually grow to understand that the other team prepared better and played better, rather than were unfairly blessed with a good streak of luck. Their win gleans the coveted trophy, while we go home empty handed. This experience creates new resolve and greater motivation to do better, to prepare better and to work harder. This experience develops character in our children and teaches them how to adjust to the pain of losing, overcome adversity and disappointment, and to become dedicated human beings. In short, they have learned good sportsmanship, and it’s by product, experience in overcoming disappointment and adversity. Their human nature has been tempered by the experience, and they have become stronger and better participants in the human race.
These small disappointments in childhood, prepare our children for larger disappointments as adults, and life in general. Losing games as a child helps one handle the stress and disappointment of losing a job as a teenager. In turn, this prepares one for the betrayal of a sweetheart in college, which may serve to prepare one for the responsibilities of adulthood. We hope these experiences will give us the wherewithal to cope with the many losses we will experience and endure, traveling through life. One of these losses will be the loss of valued and loved friends and family members. Without the childhood experiences of losing games and not winning trophies, one will remain ill prepared for life’s future disappointments, failures and opportunities for growth.
When we shield our children from pain, they grow up as mal-adjusted, soft adults. They are then, poorly prepared for what life will dole out to them. We set them up for complications in coping with disappointments, stress and eventually our deaths. In trying to protect them from pain, we set them up to experience the ultimate pain without any experience upon which to draw. Without these essential pain experiences as they travel through life, our children are unable to process the anxiety, fear and readjustments necessary to overcome the quintessential pain of all, bereavement.
The death of a loved one changes our identity, our social standing, our support structure, possibly our income as well as a truckload of other issues. If our resolve is experienced and tempered through baby steps of loss and pain, we will be better prepared to face the worst times of our lives armed with the ability to overcome adversity and grief.
Reality is not candy; life will not always be sweet. Prepare your children for the knocks and bruises that life will through their way, by allowing them to experience small disappointments and failures without trophies. In so doing, you will have prepared them to withstand the most adverse experience known to man; the experience of losing a loved one, the experience of losing you.