Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. -Leo Tolstoy
I’ve been meditating lately on this famous opening line of Anna Karenina and wondering about its truth. It does sometimes seem like we are alone in our grief, that our sadness is unique only to us and that we can’t explain it fully to anyone else. I was feeling that way on Sunday in church, pausing in reflection and feeling acutely how much I missed my father.
Tommy saw the expression on my face and leaned over, “Are you feeling sad about Poppy?” he asked in a whisper, his eyes full of kind concern. I nodded.
He patted my arm. “The last time I was at Jesse’s house I was looking at this book of folktales from around the world. In one of them, there was a woman whose father had died and she was feeling really bad. The Buddha told her that to feel better she needed to travel and go see lots of families until she found a family that had never lost someone they loved. She traveled the whole world and couldn’t find one. Then she realized that everyone felt the same way she did and it made her feel better.”
Maybe Tolstoy had it wrong – perhaps our unhappiness is more similar than we know. And perhaps travel – and connecting with others – is one great way to overcome it.
I’m so grateful for my children.