At our Loss Foundation bereavement support events we often find ourselves talking about what it is like adapting to a life without our loved ones; the emotions it evokes, the smallest of reminders that take us by surprise, the unpredictable nature of grief, and how we find ourselves oscillating between coping and not coping. For many they also think about what life was like when our loved ones had cancer, potentially being flooded by particular reminders.
For some people, the experience of a loved one having cancer was short-lived, for others it was a journey that took place over several years. Bereavement is such a personal thing and something that some like to talk about and others not. This can also be the case in families when someone has cancer – some people talk about it and may even help plan for life after they are gone, whereas others may wish not to speak about life when they will not be around – it is understandably such a difficult thing to comprehend and do.
We know you have heard this before, but it really deserves repeating – there is no right or wrong way of dealing with bereavement, and that extends to dealing with a terminal illness – there is no right or wrong way to respond, talk about it or plan around it. How that happens comes down to peoples’ different natures and choices and the information they are given at certain points in time.
When a loved one has a terminal illness we can find ourselves going into action mode – doing whatever we need to do to make them better, make them comfortable, getting to appointments, remembering medicines, etc. We do not often have time to process what is happening because we are in survival mode. If a loved one then passes away, we may find that we are not only processing that loss, but also processing all that we did not have time to process before they passed away; the illness and the deterioration. It is a lot to think about! So please be kind to yourselves; it is ok to be emotional.
Death and cancer has become a bit of a taboo in our society – there are not many places that invite it being discussed. And often when our friends and family around us are wishing us well and wanting us to be happy, they may stop asking about the person we have lost, whereas we may feel we are not finished talking about it just yet. We feel privileged that people are able to talk about it with us in our grief support events. We know it can be hard to talk about loss and emotions – but we also know that bottling it up and not having a space to talk about it can be detrimental to our health.
So please continue to use our support as you need it. You are welcome to share your thoughts, feelings, memories and tears with us. Do not be hard on yourself for being emotional – you are going through the hardest experience of your life, and I am sure that the person you cry over is worth every tear.