We have talked about losing your child, we have discussed the loss of friendships, now lets talk about a different type of loss…your innocence. I know this might sound odd at first. But I find myself grieving my loss of innocence and now I’m intimately surrounded with Cancer, and hospitals and everything that goes with it. I didn’t go into a medical field on purpose. I don’t want to see the ugly realities of cancer and sick babies. I hate that Cancer has FORCED me to be an expert in the field of Momcology. I don’t like that I can change a feed tube, de-access a port, or give a shot in the leg like a pro. I want to be a Mum. I want to raise my child without the constant worry of illness. I feel that I can’t let him go like I should. I’m a hovering helicopter Mum, making sure he doesn’t hurt himself, or hang out with the kid with the runny nose or lick the swing. Yes, Griffin is Cancer free now, but I don’t feel like I’M cancer free. I wonder if I ever will be? I’ve seen the dark side of life. I’ve danced with the idea of losing my child. I’ve seen how fragile life can be, can I ever go back to the carefree days? I don’t think so. Once you have opened that door, the fear and anxiety creep in. I’ve watched as they radiated my son while I hid behind lead, I know what its like to watch your child get sick in your arms and to be helpless to help them. I’ve watched other Mums grieve their babies while I hug mine tight. Its a reality that haunts me to this day. Am I crippled by it? No, but some days it still hurts. A lot. Its not something that I think about everyday or anything, but every now and then it keeps me up at night. I hate that my head is no longer mine…
When it comes to Cancer Kids, we must talk about the loss we all feel when we lose one. It hurts the whole community. I can only talk from an outsider’s point of view. Our son Griffin is still with us, but we have gone to a lot of funerals of his Cancer Buddies over the years. Yes, they are not my children, but it still hurts, almost like they ARE my kids. And I have a loss of innocence. I have survivors guilt. Why did my child live and theirs did not??? So I share with you my thoughts on child death:
Words of Advice From a Cancer Mama
When speaking to a recently grieved parent, please do not say things like, “It was his time”. We are talking about a child here. This was not his time. No parent should have to bury a child. A child that dies? Its not his time. Cancer stole his time…
Other things to avoid? Talk like, “God has a plan” or “God only gives you as much as you can handle”. When a parent loses a child, its a very trying time for them and they could be questioning their faith. Phrases like these do not help. I would HATE any God that did that too me, no matter the religion.
I know you are trying to relate, but please refrain from comparing a parent’s loss of a child to a dog or a Grandma. They are not the same. And it can hurt, a lot if you think that they are. This loss is a hole, their child has been ripped from them after a long hard journey. Be their safe place to fall, be a shoulder to cry on, be the supportive hand to hold. Do not be the jerk who thought that Fluffy’s passing was the same as a child. It can be insulting and hurtful.
Please DO ask if the parent would like to hear a story about your favourite moment with their child. (Some parents will not want to hear anything, others will love it, so its always best to ask) Tell a funny or touching story, how you will be remembering their child. Or tell them a story about what reminds you of their kid. Maybe every time you see a penny on the ground, or a cloud shaped like a dog, the colour lime green or whatever. It lets that parent know that you a are thinking of their child all the time and that they are still alive in your heart.
Do dedicate something for the family. A bench or tree in your favourite park, a song on the radio, anything to touch their hearts. I love to see people walking/raising money in honour of these little ones we have lost. The more money we can raise, the closer we will get to a cure. Let the family know what you are doing to honour their family.
Do listen to the parents. See what wording they are comfortable using when they are talking about their child. Some people do not like the word “loss”. To quote a Cancer Mama, “I did not ‘lose’ my child, I know exactly where he is! Right were cancer left him!” Some don’t like to refer to them as angels or their fight as a battle and they “lost” the fight. They tried their very hardest, saying they lost their fight makes them sound like losers! Some families refer to them in the present tense, others start talking in the past tense right away. So I would recommend listening closely to how the family is referring to the child and follow their lead. Every family is different, it can be very tricky but its worth it!
Sometimes there are no words…
Let that sink in for a minute. No words. You being there, present, is words enough. Sometimes silence is worth a thousand meaningless conversations.
Don’t be afraid to smile and even laugh. Yes, this is a horrid time. But its like a roller coaster, their world is crashing in around them, and then someone reminds you of a hilarious story about your cancer kid, you can’t help but to laugh right along.
Please don’t be silent, be vacant or disappear. They are still your friend or family. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Please call, take them for a walk, dip your feet in the sand together, connect, please cook food, please hold a hand or give a hug. Everyone needs a hug sometimes…
Please hug your babies tight tonight, even if they are just in your hearts.
Many thanks to the Cancer Mamas that helped me out on this one. I talked to some of you directly, and then some were just experience. But thank you for sharing your baby with me, even for just a little while. They will live forever in my heart…
A very special RIP to Kerry’s child (name withheld), Rowan, Austin, Matteo, Alivia and Kelsey.