I’ve watched cancer take away my 1st boyfriend, my step dad, my aunt and my uncle. If you were a friend I’d offer my ear, my couch and my car. Instead I’ll give you my money and hope your niece tells cancer to go fuck itself.
This was my response to a tweet posted by Jim Beaver. He’s an actor, he’s been in a lot of things but I know him from a show called Supernatural. If you’ve read any of my blog you know how obsessed I am with this show. I promise this isn’t another fan girl type of post. Beaver had posted about his niece being diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer and that he wanted people to donate money to her gofund me campaign.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a bleeding heart and a sap (thanks mom.) But this was different. Not because I’ve known anyone who had brain cancer but because of my own history. That tweet I wrote wasn’t just for show, it’s all true. I didn’t lose them all in one go, thankfully. My boyfriend I lost my sophomore year of college, my step dad was my senior year of high school, my Uncle Stephen was a couple of years ago and my Aunt Joy was a number of years ago. Enough time has passed that I don’t remember exactly when I lost everyone, so sorry if I got the timeline wrong. Even though Beaver’s niece is still alive (that I know of) and fighting for her life, she will lose her battle someday. Hopefully after she’s made a lot of good memories with her friends and family and she gets to do a little growing up. I can’t speak for her, I can only say I hope all that happens.
I could end this post there. It would be short and sweet but it would get my point across. Anyone who has talked to me for any length of time knows I’m terrible at that, I’ll try not to ramble endlessly. What I want to say is that loss sucks, no matter if it’s a quick death or a prolonged one. I’ve stopped trying to count all the people I’ve lost and I’m only 32. At this point I’m inclined to write it off as good writing material. I know that sounds terrible but I’m writing this post aren’t I?
More importantly, you’re reading it. What I want to try to do with any of my writing is to help people. It doesn’t matter the message, I just want others to know they aren’t alone. That it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling. In this case it’s okay to hate the world, it’s okay to say why me? If you’re religiously inclined it’s okay to say why has God decided to screw with me? If he’s real then why did he let this crap happen to me? If you’re not that’s okay too, just take the previous sentences and take out God. Blasphemous I know right? But I’m not here to coddle the Christians or make the Atheists feel better. I’m here to try and help whoever is reading this.
We’ve established loss sucks, but grief is worse. Not only have I gone through it, my mom, my aunt Jean, my boyfriend’s family, my current boyfriend’s family and my dad have gone through it too. Yeah you saw what I did there didn’t you? My current boyfriend lost his mom to lung cancer, and my dad lost his mom to ALS. I’m not trying to keep score or compete to see who has more misery in their life. I’m just trying to show I know how much it hurts. How do you get out of bed in the morning knowing your step dad won’t be sitting there reading the paper? How do you celebrate Christmas or Thanksgiving when your loved one isn’t there to celebrate it with you?
The first year is the hardest. The loss is so new you don’t now what to do with yourself. You can’t imagine not texting your best friend on her birthday, or not celebrating Thanksgiving with your grandma. After that first year it gets a little less crappy. You learn to remember the good times not just the bad. For me it was remembering the times my friend Brittany and I stayed up watching Sailor Moon or how she got me through losing my first boyfriend Joe. It’s laughing with my mom every time we see a bunch of pink petunias in a planter box on the highway. When he was alive my step dad would complain about the flower displays that decorate the median coming into town from the airport. “No one’s going to be driving along saying, oh look, pink petunias! Oh look, pink petunias, oh look…” and so on. It was a funny thing at the time and after he passed it was a way to remember him that made us laugh not cry.
But what if the time you had with the person was so short you don’t feel like there’s any memories to remember? I only went out with Joe with for a year. I can’t say I didn’t know what I was getting into either. I knew and he knew too, but we did it anyway. I don’t regret it. I only wish he was still around so we could be friends. My point being I remember the time we spent together. I remember how he made me laugh and that he treated me like a decent human being. Since he was my first boyfriend I do have some memories. We shared my first kiss, my first dance, my prom (though that was before we were dating.) Sure, it sucks he’s gone, but I still have those feelings, those few moments to hold onto.
There’s one thing that’s bugged me. People want to help you, to try to relate to your situation any way they can. I get it, you want to make the person feel better. I’m guilty of doing it too, we all are, its human nature. I know when I was losing my boyfriend my mom went through something similar with my step dad. While I understood what she was trying to do, I was angry with her. Not because she was trying to relate to me, but because Joe wasn’t Roy. My step dad was a good guy but he got to live his life. He died leaving behind two kids, plenty of grand kids and a loving wife. Not that Joe didn’t have a family and me but it’s not the same when you’re only a teenager. He never got the chance to get married, to have kids, to go to college and he never would. I’m sure my mom knew this but at the time it felt like she was equating the two of them. She meant well but she didn’t know how to help me. It’s okay to do that, just know that whoever you’re talking to won’t appreciate it at the time. Who knows maybe you are one of those people. I just know I wasn’t. I get it now, and I don’t blame my mom, nor do I hate her for trying to help. It’s one of those things you don’t get until some time has passed.
You’re probably wondering where’s the uplifting message? Where’s the hope here? I’ve got some bad news for you, there isn’t any, not at first. Time does help, it dulls the pain a little, at least it did for me. Now I remember the good stuff and I can think about the bad stuff without crying, or getting pissed off. My experience is not your experience, and that’s good. Everyone’s experience with grief and loss is different and they are all valid. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
What’s the point of all this depressing stuff? It’s to let you know that life sucks, a lot sometimes, but it gets better. It may not happen today, or tomorrow or ten years from now, but it will get better. If you feel like it’s not and nothing seems to help or you feel hopeless then it can help to talk to someone. Whether that’s a therapist, a priest, or a support group it’s okay to ask for and receive help. Holding stuff in didn’t work for me and blocking it out made the feelings resurface years later without warning.
Well what have we learned? We learned loss sucks and grief makes it that much harder. We learned that memories are important no matter how many or how few you have. It’s important to have your situation validated and heard no matter how trivial or insignificant others may think it is. It’s okay to ask for help if you need it and to seek it out in whatever form helps you most. Most important we learned that no one is alone in their loss, their grief, or how they deal with it. I hope if you’re reading this and dealing with your own loss that it helps in some small way. If you’re not hopefully it can help you understand what your friend/family member/co-worker is going through (even if it’s just a little bit.) If nothing else it can give you insight into how I dealt with my own loss and handled my grief. While I hope you never have to deal with those feelings, you probably will. I can only hope these words help you when the time comes.