Tag Archives: Grief

Cancer, Cats, and the Grief I Didn’t Know Existed

This has been a slow blogging year for me.  I normally blog about whatever gripping issue I can’t get off my mind, but this year, I haven’t really been able to talk about what has been on my mind.

In February, my mom was diagnosed with glioblastoma, which is stage 4 brain cancer.  I’ve had so much to say about it.  I’ve wanted to write so many things.  I’m not sure if not talking about it here has been the right thing to do.  Either way, it’s been hard to not synthesize my thoughts and send them out into the world.

I normally talk about general issues that kind of and sort of apply to potentially everyone.  Am I vague enough?  My point- I don’t feel like anyone is very invested in anything I have to say .  This topic is very different.  I don’t want to upset people.  Especially not my family.  It’s not that I might say anything cruel or untrue, but, to be supremely euphemistic, it is a sensitive topic.

There is so much I could say.  So mush I will say eventually.

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Stake conference rolled around several weeks after my mom was diagnosed, and it was a struggle to get there.  I remember laying in bed and thinking to myself, “nothing they are going to talk about has anything to do with me.”  I was wrong.  A young woman whose cancer was in remission had been asked to speak.  Now the fact that she had cancer, while coincidental, is not the point of this story. The point is that she said words similar to these, describing how she reacted to her diagnosis: “I had just been going about my young single adult life, having fun, when I was hit with this.  I had had no idea that the sadness I subsequently experienced even existed in the world.”

That is it.  I had no idea that this kind of sadness even existed.  That is really what this post is about- sadness.

This has been a weepy week for me in particular.  I’m not sure why, nor do I care.  I don’t owe anyone an explanation and neither do my emotions.  It’s so funny though, the times it hits you.  In the bathroom at a dinner party, in your chemistry lab, getting out of the shower, listening to a friend talk about their new car.  It sometimes stays for hours, or minutes, or sometimes it’s just a twinge, hardly even present enough to be noticed.

It wanders around my life like a spoiled and independent house cat.  It can’t be summoned- strangely enough, I have tried.  There have been moments when I didn’t feel like I felt sad enough, especially when having to listen to the lamenting of others.  It also is not easily shooed away.  It just lifts its head, stares you in the face for a few moments, and then settles back into it place.

It also usually hides when company comes over.  Most people wouldn’t even know that you had a cat.

Lately my life has been really great.  I have a job that I enjoy and where I feel appreciated.  I am maintaining my 4.0 and actually am having fun in my labs.  I’ve been camping 6 times in the last five months.  I’ve decided to train for a half marathon and that is coming along slowly, but surely.  I love my ward and feel more comfortable at church than I have in years.  I have a number of true, close friends who I feel like I can be completely genuine and even vulnerable with.  So things are going great, and I think that that’s how it probably looks to others.  What in the world do I have to be sad about?

And I even allowed to be sad?  Sometimes I feel like I’m not.

Tonight after my institute class I did my regular socializing and mingling.  I was happy to be there, but as I found myself staring into people’s eyes as they spoke to me about their surgery, or their boyfriend, or their classes, or whatever, and thinking, “I wish you knew how I felt right now.  I wish you knew that I am on the verge of weeping.”  It’s like half of my brain is there with them, laughing, flirting, talking about nothing, and the other half only experiences hurt. I want people to know, but I’m not going to tell people, because then what?  What can be said?  Nothing.

Now, I do appreciate people’s kind and supportive words.  I feel their love and love them for it.

But love and grief can coexist.

And so can joy and grief.  Maybe not in anyone else, but they can, and do, in me. I will never let sadness feel welcome in my heart, but, while it is here, I am willing to acknowledge its contribution.  It is the greatest educator I have ever had.  It is the most refining fire I have ever endured.  It is the most fruitful field I have ever been forced to reap.

Grief has made me calmer, kinder, and more gentle.  It has made me more grateful and less expectant.  It has opened my eyes to the good of this world, and has shown me how pathetic a negative outlook is. I feel like this is where  I am supposed to say that I am grateful for my trials- that they make me stronger.  I’m not grateful- as a matter of fact, this trial can go die in a fire.  I will never thank my circumstance, because it is horrible.

But I will be thankful for the fruits of my trial.  I am contained to be so, I feel like I have no choice in the matter.  My thanks is to God.

Life is beautiful, and also sometimes horrible.  One single moment can be both grand and devastating. We do need to know the bitter to know the sweet, but the bitter will never be sweet to us.

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Just as a P.S., we keep a blog for my mom called Marcia the Outlier, which we share to keep people informed on her condition, and also as a form of outreach to other GBM patients and their families.

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When You’re Dealing With a Broken Heart

I got to play chauffeur last night.  My client: a 16 year old boy.  His task: to break up with his girlfriend of over a year.

English: Women with Broken Heart

They talked in her front yard, I sat in my car and waited.  My phone died after about 5 minutes, so I wasn’t able to distract myself with the usual wastes of time (Candy Crush, Reddit, Instagram),  which meant that I really didn’t have a choice but to roll down my windows to get some fresh air and some fresh teenage break-up conversation.  (I’m nosey…it’s a weakness)

But she lives on a busy street so it was hard to hear.  I actually didn’t hear any words…I only heard her crying.

Now, I don’t really know this girl, and I have been lobbying for the ending of this relationship since the time it started, but my heart broke for her and with her.  I really believe that what he was doing was right, but when you’re young and in love, what’s right is not nearly as important as what is familiar, safe, and validating.

Her tears took me back two years ago, to a different summer night in a different city with a different boy and a different girl, but with the same plot.  He is ready for it to be over and she just…doesn’t understand.  She tries to make her reasoning his, but he has made up his mind, and, honestly, has already moved on.

My eyes were puffy for a solid month from crying.  As the love and ease of summer turned into the labor of fall and then the loneliness of winter, I struggled for reconciliation- not the reconciliation of our relationship, but the reconcilaition of who I thought I was and what I had worked for with the fact that I was told that he would just “never be able to love me.”

I really did love him, and I really did miss him, but what I missed more was that feeling of being indisposable- that feeling you get from knowing that somebody chooses you over the billions of people on the planet, that of all the beautiful creatures in the world you are the one who somebody wants to come home to…so when they don’t want to come home to you anymore, you feel disposable, and disposed of.

I don’t deal well with being broken-hearted, but I don’t know anybody who does.  I guess I eventually “got over it”, but it took a while, and the older I get, the longer it seems to take.  I want to give a few suggestions on how to deal with a broken heart.  Really, it’s more like how to deal with life in spite of having a broken heart.  I don’t really know of anything that fixes heartache except for time and Jesus, but I do think that there are things we can do to make life more bearable.

1. Talk about it, cry about it.  You really don’t need to pretend to be strong.  Really, it has nothing to do with strength.  You can talk about it, even if it feels like you are saying the sam thing over and over again.  You can cry about it, even if it feels ridiculous.  It is okay to feel sadness.  Allow yourself to experience this emotion, and when the proper time comes, allow yourself to let it go.

2. Do things, even though you don’t feel like it.  Don’t put your life on hold.  Even if you are not ready to enjoy “getting out and doing things”, I know that doing so will help you prepare for the rest of your awesome life that you have yet to live.  Don’t deny yourself experiences that could potentially lead to something awesome.

3. Don’t assign blame to your ex.  First of all, it will make you look stupid.  Second of all, as tempting as it is to “get back at them” by hating them and telling all your friends their faults, it doesn’t do anything to help that broken heart heal, and it really just makes you hard and less capable of giving and receving love in the future.

4. Try to feel grateful.  A few nights before my big heartache, there was a giant thunderstorm.  My boyfriend and I laid on (which, by the way, is very different from laying IN) his bed until 2 or 3 in the morning just listening to the thunder and the rain, waiting like anxious school children for the next flash of lightning to illuminate the room.  I’m bot really sure why, but it was one of the sweetest, most serene moments of my life.  I’m so glad it happened.  The fact that he broke up with me two nights later doesn’t make it less important or less special.  Aprreciate what happened for what it was, and understand that most good things have to come to close.

I wish I could take my mended heart and transplant it into the chest of this sweet 16 year old girl.  As I heard her cries last night, I wanted to get out of my car, push him to the side, and just promise her that things were okay, that in a few months (maybe even a few weeks or days) this wouldn’t even hurt anymore.

And if your heart is breaking, know that it will get better.  I don’t know when or how, but I know that it will- it has to.  I know what it’s like to hurt, and I know what it’s like to be healed.  I would never try to talk you out of being sad, I would never try to convince you that your pain isn’t real or that you don’t have a reason to feel grief.  But I need you to know that this feeling isn’t forever.

One last thing.  This is Jesus speaking in Luke 4:18:

 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.

He came to heal your broken heart.  In Him, you are already healed, whole, and perfect.

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