This is a story about how I lost my mom to cancer, if it helps just one person struggling with the same thing it’s worth it.
Part 1: Growing Up
Growing up with a sick parent really takes away from what most people would call a “normal” childhood. It didn’t make my childhood bad, though. I used to play outside with my neighbor's kids and we’d ride bikes. All activities that “normal” kids did. However, back in the house was when things stopped being so “normal”. When I was three, my mom was diagnosed with colon cancer, this eventually ended up spreading into breast cancer, then into lung cancer. Her illnesses eventually became terminal, and my parents both knew it was only a matter of time. Sometimes she’d have to lay on the kitchen table so my dad could pump her lungs before we went out of the house. Watching that process was always really unnerving, especially for a four or five year old child. Both my mom and dad tried really hard to make sure we had good memories with my mom before she passed. We went to Disney, we would go out for ice cream on fridays, and she’d help me with my homework. I do have a lot of good memories with my mom, and that’s something I’m so grateful for. However, the sicker she got, the less she was able to do with us; it got to the point where she wasn’t able to put us to bed anymore. We’d have to go into her room and kiss her goodnight, she’d give my sister and I each a stuffed animal she had been cuddling with all day so it would be “filled with love” by the time bedtime came around. This was the normal for my childhood, and it’s something that I’ll remember for a while.
Part 2: My Dad
My dad was a rock through this whole thing. I feel really bad for him because of the monstrosity of some of the sacrifices he made. The biggest sacrifice my dad ever made was turning down a job at Pixar. My dad's dream was to be a graphic designer, he went to school and got his degree for it. He’s always had a natural talent for art and he is so good. If you can think it he can draw, design, and 3D model it. He applied for a job at Pixar and they saw his work so they flew him out for an interview. When he came back from the interview that’s when he found out my mom was sick. About a week later they called him and told him that he got the job and that they wanted us to all move to LA so he could be close for work. He had to tell them that he couldn’t accept the job because his wife was sick and he wasn’t sure if she could handle that big of a move. This is probably the biggest thing my dad carries with him. He wouldn’t ever tell me the truth but after that call I caught him crying on the porch. I feel so much sympathy for my dad every day because of the things he had to give up to make sure my mom stayed alive. I know he felt really defeated when she passed, because it felt like everything he did was for nothing. My dad is one of the best dads in the entire world. After my mom's passing he was thrown into the role of a single father. He had to balance work with his kids as well as the death of his wife of 30 years. The couple of years after my moms passing were really really rough for everyone. Things started looking up when he met a woman named Angie. They got engaged and were together for seven years. Things didn’t work out and they ended up breaking it off, but those seven years taught my dad a lot and now he is overall happier and deals with his emotions in a healthier way. I can never forget how much effort and pain my dad put in to make sure my sister and I always had a roof over our heads, food in our mouths, and hugs to make sure we knew we weren't alone.
Part 3: My moms passing
It was winter break so my mom, dad, my sister, and I all went to CT to celebrate Christmas with my grandma. The month of December was really good but January is when it all fell apart. My mom went back into the hospital on January 10th, my mom and dad were really against my sister and I seeing her when she was sick enough to be in the hospital because they wanted us to remember her without all the tubes and wires. However, January 14, 2007 is a day I will never be able to forget. My grandma took my sister and I to visit my mom because she got a call that my mom was in a coma and that she might not make it until the end of the day. So we went to the hospital and my grandma let me purchase a “get well soon” bear at the store. We went up and a nurse stopped us before we went in. She said, “Children are not usually allowed in here, but all of the family here has voucher for how well behaved the both of you are, and I’d never forgive myself if I didn't let you see your mother.” So with that, she opened the door and let us in. I crawled up onto the bed and cuddled with her while my sister sat on my dads lap on the couch. I just kept saying over and over how much I needed her and how much I loved her. I told her to not give up and that she has to be here for me. My dad heard me talking to her and he started crying. The last thing I ever said to my mom was. “I love you, please don’t leave me.” Then, like it was God's plan, her heart monitor went flat and my dad grabbed me when nurses came in. I started sobbing; I knew exactly what was happening. I just watched my mother die, I felt the life leave her body. From this, I don't think I will ever fully recover.
Part 4: Dealing with Death
Everybody deals with death and loss differently. Honestly, there is no right way to deal with it. There are wrong ways, though. It is important not to stress getting over it. In all honesty, you're going to "get over it" quicker if you let yourself be insanely sad for a short period of time. Say three days. It's easy to take three days off work or school; you can use those to let all your emotions out. For example, during my last breakup I cried for probably a consistent 48 hours, and the last 24 in the 72 hour break off of life I took was on and off crying, and then ultimately not crying anymore. It's ok to be sad and grieve. There are the five stages of grief for a reason. Something that no one really tells you when it comes to loss is how the saying "time heals" is a load of bull. Time can help, but if it is someone you were really close to it's never going to heal. What they SHOULD say is, "Time doesn't heal, but it makes it easier to resume your daily life." Time helps you live with the grief easier. My mom died 12 years ago; life has gotten easier but I wouldn't say I'm healed. I went to visit her grave the other day and it sent a wave of just grief over me. It was important to go though. When my mom first passed away, just thinking about it made me cry; as time progressed only talking about it made me cry, and now I can talk about it and be ok. It doesn't bother me in the same way it used to. There are details and stories that still make me cry when I talk about them, but I'm sure even that will dissipate over time. When I was writing the section on her death I cried a little, but I'm back to my life now. The point I am trying to get across is no one is expecting you to be ok. Just be sad and let it out, because the sooner you do the faster you will start to heal. The scar will always remain and in weak times it can be a harsh reminder of the things you have gone through but its also a reminder of how strong you are. You don't have to be superman to deal with grief and loss, you just have to be optimistic to moving on. It's not going to be easy, it never is. 12 years later, and it's still not easy for me. I still get down during the holidays, her birthday, my birthday, ect. I cried during my own graduation because I was sad she couldn't be there, but I did it and the rest of my family was so proud of me. Everyone tells me she's up in heaven watching me and looking down on me, but I don't really believe that. I think she's in my heart; I feel her sometimes. It's important that while you deal with this loss you do it in a healthy way. My advice is don't turn to drugs, or alcohol. Don't give up and fall into a never ending depression. All of these things will keep you feeling worse for longer. No one enjoys feeling sorry for themselves and its important to know that you're still in control even when it feels like you're not.
Part 5: My Final Thoughts
I hope that this story really helped or moved some people. I have been through a lot and maybe I will write about more in the future. All my friends tell me I have really wise advice. I feel like I have gone through enough tragedy and hardship in my life to cover a thousand lifetimes. It's important to remain optimistic though. You will always hear, "Think positive, just be positive." I like the word optimistic better. It's more realistic. No one can be positive 100 percent of the time, especially if you are experiencing loss of a friend or loved one. It's ok to not be ok. I don't like the idea of forcing yourself to be happy when you and everyone around you knows that you probably aren't. Talk to your friends, talk to your family. Hell, talk to me. I will ALWAYS ALWAYS listen. My point is, it's possible to remain optimistic even if you're sad. A thinking technique I like to use is: Acknowledge, Accept, Understand. A line of thinking using that technique would look like this.
Acknowledge: "I am really upset right now because of ________"
Accept: "It's ok to be sad and I have a right to be upset right now."
Understand: "Although I am really upset about _______ right now, I understand that eventually I will be ok and able to resume my daily life. I understand I may have to put in a little effort to get myself feeling better and that's ok."
It may not look exactly like that, but I hope you understand what I'm getting at. In any case no one is alone, if you need someone to talk to asap and there is no one in your immediate area I have a website I am going to recommend: Seven Cups.
I have been using this website to talk to people since middle school; now that I am doing better I use my extra time to be a listener on the website. Seven Cups gives you free emotional support. There are groups you can join where everyone is sharing similar experiences, and you can interact one on one with a listener. I highly recommend it! If you feel like you may need council, they also offer confidential online therapy for $150 a month.
I hope that me sharing my experience and advice when it comes to loss really helps someone.
Feel free to reach out. My email is [email protected]