As time passes, what does a shift in your grief, even a tiny, momentary one, mean to you? What does it say about loss? Or love?
I consider losing someone to cancer as a horrifying experience. I am so sorry for those who share in this process of loss. To watch my 6’2″ partner literally shrink from his 235 pound solidness down to barely 130 pounds of a skeletal frame near the end was enough. The man could not eat, so his own body was his food source. The only thing that grew was the fucking cancer. (The F-word is appropriate, and I think of using it more often in these writings.) Once diagnosed with stage-4 cancer, after an emergency surgery for a bowel blockage in January 2013, his fight and decline began simultaneously. He always believed he could beat it, and we all believed that he could. His mental determination was so set, he even managed to work the whole time. It kept him active and his mind focused on something he could control.
Time is something none of us can control. During Jon’s cancer battle, I was held hostage by time. I was fighting every day just to keep the kids and house going in the present, while on a parallel existence I was terrified of his having a shortened life in the future. Neither place felt comfortable to be or go, I became numb to my own inertia of not wanting to be here, not wanting to go there. I was stuck. He was stuck too, until cancer made the decision for him to die.
Death ended my inertia and began my race. I am in a race now against time to somehow get to a future I can only imagine. The grief rages when it wants to, I am not the best parent right now. My teenagers are often parenting me. At the end of the day, we are holding each other up as equals in solidarity going forward together in our brave new world. Our family of three, with the absence of their father, my husband, whose love for us was so intense as his life slipped through his fingers, now brings out in us an oppositional defiance to normal, structured family life. Call it an intermission like at an opera or maybe it’s more like a computer system reboot, but if we all could just get more sleep at night, we might be more pleasant to to deal with each other and have better parent-child boundaries and relations. Unfortunately, loss and grief makes that near impossible, so for those who think there’s a pick up, chin up and carry on type of solution out there, I appreciate your hopefulness, but it is what it is here.
Eight months since his passing, we have now witnessed others losses. It’s always a family discussion of comparing our story to these others. We talk about those families and what they might be going though. It creates fresh grief for us. As time passes and our dates special to us come and go, that adds other layers of fresh grief. I have to wonder when will this cycle end, and then I know it just will not. My kids and I love the ocean, so did Jon. We liked to swim out and ride the waves together. As a mom, I was focused on my kids, the water, and surroundings, teaching them how to be safe and how to have fun at the same time while bobbing along with the waves. Seeing my kids having a great time while swimming in the ocean makes me happy, it’s like sharing a gift. I have found comfort in letting grief wash over me like the ocean’s waves. Wave after wave will keep coming now for my family, but I hope we will learn to be better swimmers and I am determined that we can do it together. ~Paula