In the past not-even-a-year, four friends of mine have either gone through losing a parent to cancer, or are going through a parent with cancer. Seriously? I mean, really, cancer? Could you not touch my friends and my friends’ families? That would be fantastic.
I don’t mean this in a crass way, but I love talking to and helping people who are going through dealing with such things – though I would never, ever wish this on anyone. At the time of my dad’s decline because of his liver-and-lymph cancer(s), I was pretty much alone. I don’t mean in the sense of not having friends or family for support, but in the sense that nobody close to me had ever gone through this at my age or around my age before. The last half of my senior year of high school was wrought with tears and a horrible sense of loneliness that I couldn’t shake, no matter how much I cried on Joseph about it, no matter how much I tried to not think about it and tried to have fun. All of my cousins have their healthy parents – and I wish no less for them, of course! – and my sister was going through this with my mom and I, and she has a family of her own, too, so it wasn’t like I was going through this with someone my age.
And honestly, I’m glad I don’t have siblings my age. I don’t think I would have handled it well with them, and that’s just me, personally. I don’t want to imply it would be the same for all siblings close in age.
And so, when I talk to those who have gone through similar things, it makes me feel good that they can come to me for support from someone who has been through it. Even if I don’t know what to say (and believe me, I don’t – I’m so socially awkward, even if I come across as not sometimes; I’m just a mistress of disguise, I guess), I can share my experience with them and talk about it with them. I found a quote on tumblr the other day that was “If you have ever lost someone very important to you, then you already know how it feels; and if you haven’t, you cannot possibly imagine it,” and god, that’s so true. I think you can hypothesize about how it would feel if you were in that position, and I think you can have sympathy of course, but it’s such a profound thing that it really almost forms a bond between two people who have gone through it.
I was talking to one of my former professors, whose mother recently died of pancreatic cancer (and who had been diagnosed the semester I took her class) and we talked about how, when people say they’re sorry, they mean well but it’s just not what we want to hear; that’s not why we tell our story. She went on to grasp my hand and say, “We’re sisters in this.” Tying in with the quote above, I really think she’s right – it’s not a club you want to be in, or anything cool, but it’s something that links those of us who have experienced such soul-wrenching loss.
The other night I had a breakdown, which you can experience if you wish here, and I think the combination of me not having cried that deeply about him recently, stress of school and the milestone of graduation approaching, and just life in general brought it on. I really thought I wouldn’t be able to stop crying. It gets easier, sure, but I think I’ve just grown numb to it instead of letting it truly affect me, and all the emotions I’d shoved aside in favor of “being stoic” (which is stupid, in my opinion – just cry if you want) came to the surface and boiled over, and I cried for an indeterminable amount of time before I fell into an uneasy and not-long-enough sleep.
Anyway, I kind of digressed… but going through this helps me help people; yet, it’s a double-edged sword, because when I talk about my story and listen to people tell their story or vent or whatever, it takes me back to that time. I’ve turned back into the scared 18-year-old I was before college and during the beginning of college, spending time away from home so I wouldn’t have to face it yet wanting to savor each conversation I had with my father and each night we spent watching the Food Network – of course, I am not this person anymore. Time has made me a still-depressed but better-at-handling-it person, and a more confident young woman. Grief closes up my throat and sometimes it’s hard for me to talk, but I will. Anytime, I will be here, because having been through that ‘alone’ (again, because no friends of mine had been through that exactly, not for lack of bodies/people to sympathize) sucked.
It’s a loss which has affected me in ways I’ve felt and in ways I can’t even begin to imagine yet and while I don’t want it to necessarily define me, it’s something that defines my life as an adult. Everything takes on a new meaning now. But to those struggling with similar situations, you have a friend and an ear (or eyes, depending on your mode of contact) in me. We’re all brothers and sisters in this, after all.