“When my son’s father got diagnosed at the age of 36 with stage 4 colon cancer, we had been together for 10 years and our son was just 3-years-old. Nothing was normal about that day, nothing could prepare our family for the 5 years that would follow. The endless rounds of chemotherapy, the constant doctor visits, the countless hospital stays, all the surgeries he went through, the horrible scars on his body. Nothing can prepare you for the moment you hear that word.
However, he was so STRONG. We had the most amazing family, friends, teachers and coworkers that supported us in ways I can never express. I believed he would fight the battle and win, simply, because he was a fighter and had an amazing surgeon along with great doctors and nurses. Mostly, because I believed. I believed the love and prayers from everyone would get us through it. I felt in my heart just the strength of our family alone would get us through.
Sadly, he lost his battle with cancer in 2017 and I will never forget the day I lost my best friend, the day my son lost his father and best friend, at the age of 8. For 5 years his body was put to the test. For 5 years he fought like a warrior. For 5 years he never once gave up! He was a fighter!
What followed in the year since has been nothing short of a roller coaster, a ride that never seemed to stop. My son and I came home every day to an empty driveway, a house in total darkness, no TV on, nobody waiting for us. That fall and winter were the darkest ever. It felt lonely being home, the house felt empty, too quiet and not like a home. Even though friends and family were a phone call away I will never forget that feeling.
We would drown out the silence by putting the TV and radio on at the same time; anything to get rid of the silence. At night, my son wanted to keep the television on in the living room as he went to bed, because his dad always had the TV on in the living room at night. This was the only way my son could fall asleep. 14 months later, the TV is still on every night in the living room as he falls asleep.
Everyone grieves in a different way and not everyone understands that. Every single person in the same family can grieve differently; yet everyone is feeling the loss, the sadness along with the emptiness. Each and every person expresses it or shows it in a different way. For so long, while he was sick…my ONLY choice was one foot in front of the other. Just get through the day; 24 hour chunks of time. Otherwise, the worries of the future would consume me. Besides, I had to BELIEVE!
After he passed, I needed to be strong for my son, what other choice did I have? But how could I be strong for him while I was dying slowly inside? I wondered how I could afford to buy groceries and pay the mortgage on one income. I kept my own grief bottled up inside. Months and months later it just comes crashing back like a wave in the ocean and you can’t catch your breath. I should’ve known better and dealt with it differently for both my son and I. I dealt with my own father’s death the very same way, bottling it all up. It will never go away for me. It will always will be there, like an ocean wave ready to sweep you in when you least expect it.
While riding that roller coaster this year I also came to the realization that the people you think will always be by your side in times like that are not always the ones holding your hand. Sometimes those friendships/relationships and even families can’t stand the stress of it all. Perhaps they didn’t understand the way I grieved. Perhaps I did not grieve in the proper way, perhaps my Facebook posts were not sad enough. Maybe I shouldn’t have posted about going to a concert with friends, or to that hockey game months later with that old friend? I guess they don’t bottle that up.
Sometimes we all judge just a little too much. We can’t physically put ourselves into another person’s situation so we judge. I may have made some mistakes trying to find my new way. However, I am coming off this roller coaster a bit harder, and a crap ton stronger than I was.
Eventually, we found happiness in little things like a small smile here and there, maybe the dog did something funny or perhaps a commercial on TV was funny and little by little we started to find our way back to what is now our new normal. We could never have done it without our family, our unexpected friends and our new friends.”