A dear friend of mine has agreed to write a series of posts about losing a parent to cancer. I am grateful for her insight on this particular experience of loss and I am deeply moved by this first post. Whatever your circumstance, I’m sure you will relate to what she has to say here – such an intuitive description of grief.
About Katie: I am a twenty nine-year-old who loves to inspire and be inspired. I love that I get to teach for my job. I currently work in a school for special needs kids, and they remind me to laugh and find the joy in every day. I think they are amazing. I live in Calgary with those who know me, support me, and still love me—my husband, my family, and my friends. This is also the city I grew up in, and I am surrounded by constant memories and reminders of Dad—a bittersweet thing. Dad was diagnosed with multiple myeloma cancer in 2001. The doctors gave him a timeline of a year and a half, but he took on the challenge and battled the cancer for ten years before he passed away in February 2011.
The thing about writing about the loss of something is that you can’t honestly write about anything until you’ve addressed your own grief and how it has changed you. This has been particularly hard for me because I don’t want to give the grief that power over me, and so I avoid having to think about it. I do think about Dad, I do think about the ten years of the ups and downs of cancer, I do think about the hospital and the hospice, and I do think about my family, their strength, and how loss and grief has changed them. But I’ve avoided addressing “the process” and the change in myself, claiming always that I’m still in the “denial stage”, when really I’m unwilling to truly see myself through the pain and loss.
It’s been just over a year since Dad passed away, and about eleven years since his battle with cancer began. I’ve been through “the process” dealing with the grief of a parent being diagnosed with cancer. It’s there I learned the depth of the difference between trust and hope. But that was an incredibly different grief than learning to live in a world where Dad no longer exists.
The absence of Dad is the weight of the gray cloud that has followed me around for the past year. My body often grieves better than my mind. The weight of the missing-ness hits whenever it wants…there is rarely a rhyme or reason. I can be in the middle of a chore or enjoying a beautiful day. My eyes will start weeping, usually taking my mind a confusing few moments to realize that I am acknowledging the absence of Dad in my world.
I don’t understand the grief. I do know it has changed me. My definitions of happiness and joy have changed. My role in friendships has changed, many friends not knowing what to do with me, me putting up walls to keep others at a safe distance. How can I expect them to understand me when I don’t even understand me? I now most often prefer to spend time alone; I can get anxious or angry when I am about to spend time in groups of people. I hope this is a stage or phase. Sometimes the “grayness” is too much for me to fix my attention on much else.
Acknowledging the grief is important. This I have learned. As much as I despise that word, and as much as I’m cynical about “the process”, the grief is real. It takes its toll whether you let it or not. I am learning to live with my unpredictable self, and have hope in knowing that though I have changed, I have not stopped changing and growing. I’m not stuck here. This grief may change me, but it will not consume me. Dad taught me to truly live life, learn well, and to hold on to hope. And these I still plan to do and do well.