Muddling Through Grief

Grief is a funny thing. One minute you are doing laundry and paying bills, the next you are in a puddle of tears, frozen from the rest of the day’s to dos.

I always thought grief was strictly assigned to the death of a loved one. It wasn’t until my eating disorder recovery I realized grief goes far beyond the burial mounds. Recovery forced me to grieve memories, time lost and years of pain inflicted by a cruel disease.

While my eating disorder grief is far behind me, the grief I feel for my daughter stares me in the face daily. Some days I go through my day perfectly fine; other days I simply wake up with a heart ache and today was one of those days.

Whether it is a post on Facebook, a story on the news or an email from a reader, cancer and sadness seem to be everywhere. No amount of gratitude or joy can change the fact that people hurt. I hurt.

I don’t understand why parents have to bury their children or why cancer seems to seemingly strike out of  no where. I don’t understand why my daughter has had to fight so hard for her life. I don’t understand and I’m in that weird place of grief where sometimes I am paralyzed in trying to find the answers.

But at the end of the day, I know that answers don’t exist and the answer to my aching heart is to sit with it. To sit in the hurt, to cry my tears and to lean on those around me.

Early in my recovery, I would spend hours on the floor of my room reading through old journals and writings. It was as if my mind was trying to piece together my past. Part of it was truly therapeutic for me and the other part hindered my progress forward.

There is a fine line between grieving the past and getting lost in it. I honestly feel blessed to have experience in this category and know when I am getting stuck – or close to it. It is nearly impossible not to get lost on Facebook, reading stories of mini-cancer fighters. They seem to be endless.

Last week I had dinner with my sister in DC. I came from the Eating Disorder’s Coalition Lobby Day and MOM March where I had been with parents who had lost children to eating disorders or whose children were still in the depths of an eating disorder. That morning I had also seen where two parents had watched their children take their last breath as their battle with cancer came to an end.

As I began to tell Jess about my heartache, she put her arm around me knowing the emotions all went back to my Marjorie. Jessica told me I should stop reading these things online. I laughed and said “I’ve tried. It’s everywhere.”

I have removed myself from Facebook groups, etc. But it doesn’t matter. All you have to do is look online or turn on the TV. I used to see St. Jude commercials and feel bad for the kids and their parents, but continued on with my day. Now when a St. Jude commercial comes on, nine times out of ten I end up in a puddle of tears on my couch cuddling Marjorie.

But no matter how many days pass where I seemingly ‘do nothing,’ I know I have done so much more. I have made it through another day. Maybe it was a great day filled with laughter and to do’s or maybe it was a day where I walked aimlessly around the house, quietly rocked on the porch or spent hours reading through Marjorie’s story. Either way, I know my day was productive.

When working through grief, a productive day doesn’t always mean checking off to do items. It means honoring feelings by sitting in them, taking care of yourself and giving yourself space – which is the hardest thing. Some days I need a good cry and time alone, other days I need distractions and then there are times when I need to curl up and read through it all.

This morning I needed to write. So this is me, honoring my heartache. I don’t have a reason as to why my heart hurts other than cancer f&^king sucks and I am angry. But what I do know is that Marjorie will wake up from nap soon. I will go scoop her up and probably cry into her fuzzy head, soaking it with my tears, but in an instant she will push up off my chest, scrunch up her cute nose and make me laugh. And then we will go about our day…whatever it may bring.

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  • rkbb79
    November 5, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    I totally understand the grief. I, too, have the same thoughts reading through the stories of little cancer warriors. My daughter survived. She’s a success story. And nearly 7 years post remission, I still feel the terror and sadness when I read these stories. All I can say is maybe go talk to someone. Nearly 20% of parents of children with chronic illnesses (cancer included) have some degree of PTSD (me included), and almost all of us have to fight depression at some point in the process. <3 keep your chin up.

    • McCall Dempsey
      November 5, 2015 at 12:48 pm

      Prayers to you. Thanks for this sweet message. And don’t worry. I have my therapist in speed dial 😉

  • Belinda Q Tew
    November 5, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    You’re truly an inspiration to others. Thanks for sharing. Praying for you and your family.

  • Colleen Carroll
    November 5, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    I read your post, your written words are a perfect way to help me speak to others about being a mother to a child with cancer. We have been in remission 21 months, as of his scans last week. I have never been stronger, more grateful and happy in my life….. But somehow the sadness gets to me everyday. Pediatric cancer is not what I asked for or planned for, but the people I have met along the way have changed my life forever. I know I am not where I need to be, but I thank God everyday I am not where I use to be.

  • LB Baxter
    November 6, 2015 at 12:14 am

    I have cancer and I’m a Mom to three young children. Even though our roles are reversed I feel many of the same emotions you have expressed. The worry and fear can be paralyzingly at times. Thank you for this post, it really touched me.

  • Britt Melton
    November 6, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Your way with words is a gift to us all. As always, thank you for sharing your stories…they are words that the world needs to hear.