Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Reisterstown, Maryland
Tuesday, August 31, 2010 10:46 AM, CDT
Happy final day of August.
I'm starting to exhale a little as I have come to dread this month for many reasons: unbearable heat, kids returning to school, memories that cause heartache. It's just a month on a calendar...a way to keep track of time, yet it's difficult for me.
I've been trying to do a bit of writing lately. Book writing. It's been hard. Memories seem so fresh and painful, yet at the same time, somewhat far removed from our current lives. The past couple of weeks have found me doing a lot of reminiscing, mostly due to those inevitable dates on the calendar. August 21st was the five month mark of Sicily's passing and the following day, August 22nd...a day that truly is burned like a tattoo in my mind and in my heart, marked the two year anniversary of her cancer diagnosis. On the 25th, I found myself struggling to manage my day through the flood waters that developed as all I could do that day was cry. Two years ago, Patrick, Sicily and I had our first pediatric oncology doctors appointment in Oklahoma City. I remember the whirlwind of emotions and questions that consumed us as the reality of the situation was beginning to sink in. Our daughter had cancer. What do we do? What do we not do? Where do we go? Who do we see? Who do we trust? What our her chances? When I think of those never ending and often unanswered questions today, I am left shaking my head. It at times still seems so unreal. Did this all really happen?
Last year on August 25th, Sicily was dressed and smiling, her one inch growth of hair was gelled and slicked back, she had her pink leopard print backpack slung over one shoulder and her lunch bag containing Spaghetti O's grasped in one hand as she was anxiously excited about her very first “real” day of school. I shed tears of joy that day. This year the tears fell on the opposite end of the spectrum. I am glad that I am still crying, as funny as that may sound. I just want to get it all out of the way so that maybe next year during the week on the calendar that dons the dates that trigger such emotions, I will find comfort in remembering our life with this little girl, and I won't be attaching memories of such sadness in an overwhelming way.
I had a doctor's appointment for a well woman check-up scheduled last Wednesday, the twenty-fifth, and I felt sorry for my doctor . I have only seen her a couple of times since we've lived here as I have been fortunate enough to have stayed somewhat healthy the past two years. When her nurse sat with me in the exam room and preceded to update my information into the computer, I knew I would not be able to hold it together for very long. The tears began to form in my eyes just in anticipation of having to talk about Sicily. I haven't been there very long or enough times for them to know our circumstances. When the nurse casually asked if I still had four children at home, all I could do was shake my head “no” as the tears barreled down my face. She sweetly asked if this was a recent occurrence and I nodded my head, “yes.” I could see in her eyes that she did not want to cause me anymore pain, but she had to ask for a few more specifics and details. In between sniffles and moments of not being able to speak, I simply explained that our four year old daughter had died from pediatric cancer this past March. She proceeded to ask a few questions about what kind of cancer and how long she had battled. She was very sympathetic. After she left the exam room, I sat for awhile and sobbed. I knew it wasn't over as I would need to tell my doctor a little more about it. She came in with, “So, I hear you lost your youngest daughter?” I was able to share with her more details. In what I'm sure came out to be a very unconvincing attempt, I tried to assure her that I really am doing okay. I am letting myself grieve. I truly have more good days than bad, but the bad days do pop in unannounced quite often. I continue to open the door and let them in instead of trying to ignore their presence and need for my time. Soon, their visits should dwindle, but I will never “not” expect them to appear. It's best to just deal with them and acknowledge that they will happen!
I think she believed my honest confessions that I am really doing okay...that I am grieving in a healthy way, if there is such a thing. She left it up to me if I ever decided that it was too much and I needed other help. I should just let her know. I take pride in handling this my way...which really is God's way. I, by no means, think having the need for help in any way is weak. I just feel very fortunate to have the support system I do and being able just to write about how I am doing is more helpful to me than a pill I could swallow. But, again, I “never say never” as I don't know how my grief will all play out! I am just thankful there are options!
One of the thoughts that has been triggered during these most recent times of reminiscing has been over the changes our experience with Sicily and her cancer have created in me. These have been profound changes in my own personal life and ones I want to keep and hold onto. But I have a fear that when time passes and our lives proceed further and further away from the reason why these changes came about, will they, like the raw edges of the grief that evoked them, begin to soften and fade and not be as important or profound to me as they are currently? Will my way of thinking and my perceptions in life regress and return to the way they used to be? I guess the answer lies in how much these changes really mean to me, and if they are of that much importance, will I be willing to work and continue to practice them so as to keep them this strong? Change is hard. It is often times met with disagreement, contempt and unwillingness to accept. But when something good is derived from something that is considered, shall we say, “not good,” then those changes really need to be kept. It will take some work to maintain them, which often times requires painful reminders as to what evoked the changes, but if that's what it takes, I am willing to go there!
I am learning that grief is really a necessary process, and at the same time, a necessary hurdle to overcome. Every day is different from the day before, and will most likely be different from what tomorrow brings. Some people welcome it with open arms, embrace it and push it out the door in a timely manner, while others struggle with the fluctuating pendulum of change that grief seems to control and can't get past it. I like to think I am more of the former, but to say I am doing it in a timely manner would be up for personal interpretation. What I think may be happening fast or even on pace may come across as going slow to someone else. I think the most important lesson to understand about grief, no matter what the situation is concerning the grief, is that it is as individual and unique as the person is that is enduring it! Those around us may share common thoughts, ideas and even emotions, but when faced with grief, no two people experience it the same. I have learned to let go of the guilt I feel at times when I cry. I feel guilty thinking that I am making others around me feel uncomfortable. I am starting to let that go. Honestly, I wish I were done crying, but like I said before, I am glad I'm still able to do it. Maybe when I stop, or the episodes begin to have more time between them, then I will considering my journey or quest for healing to be fulfilled. Maybe that never happens, I don't know. I've never lost a child before so I don't have any idea how my emotions will be in five, ten, or twenty years down the road. I can only hope that with each mile stone that comes along that Sicily should have reached or achieved I will be strong enough to focus on the wonderful memories we did get to have with her instead of the regrets of not being able to have her here to share them with. As it goes...time will only tell!