Lessons from crying over a teenage sick love story

I accidentally watched the The Fault in Our Stars last night and I wept. Accidentally as in Martha and I watched the end of Big together before her cell meeting and it was on next (free HBO for a few more months). I think I kept watching it because my kids and I just saw the two star-crossed lovers play siblings the other day in Insurgent and I was pleased they were getting along so well.

I don’t remember crying so much during a film. Maybe I cried because I was alone and my tween & teen daughters were upstairs asleep and I’m vulnerable to sentimental stories about losing daughters. Maybe I burst into tears because my friend Karen finished her long battle with lupus last week and I’ve been suspending my feelings about my loss until her memorial. I don’t think it was because these winsome teenagers’ humanity and process of staring death in the face put me in touch with how precious and fragile life is – sharing romantic love or feeling deep gratitude for what we’ve been given speak to me.

You may actually think Young Adult books or movies based on them are silly, overly simple, or not worth your time. You may think the story is basically a melodramatic illustration of the five stages of grief. As you learn to live with pain or learn from someone suffering with a long-term illness, I hope some of my takeaways from the film could be useful to you.

You carry your pain with you, and others can sense it even if you hide it. Trying to put on a brave face all the time or pushing it down doesn’t actually fool those close to you. It’s like dragging luggage around. Wouldn’t it be better to have some help carrying it while you need it?

Gratitude is a powerful friend. Sometimes it comes easy, sometimes you need to practice. Even for something small like flowers blooming this week in Philadelphia, being grateful can shape your experience.

Have the feelings you have, not the ones you think you should have. Likewise, others not having the same feelings doesn’t make them not understand you or not love you. What you feel at the moment is relevant and those feelings don’t need to run your life.

Have a process with others without punishing yourself for setbacks. Let others in to help you find a path through the pain and get led on a journey. If it’s not linear you’re human. Don’t quit trying.

Jesus not only came into suffering (our suffering and the suffering of all of creation) but suffered. He wasn’t usually stoic yet He became who He was given to be. If we don’t learn how to grieve well, our grief will overflow in more damaging ways. There will be other, smaller things from traffic to mean people or microbetrayals to inconsideration that will beg for our fighting juices. I’m grateful for people like Karen, who not only suffered faithfully but taught us how to fight the Good Fight rather than getting caught up in the tiny battles.