Two weeks went by and I began to settle into my new home a little each day, now with my children at my side. I chose to spend the weekend connecting the stereo so we could enjoy music and unpacking the children’s toys. They were much happier once they could see their toys and things in their new space, appeared more relaxed and secure. I caught up with one of my sister’s and heard some unsettling news. Something I knew in my heart but had been keeping tucked away as I managed through the move and new job. Mom’s doctor had shared with my sister that mom’s cancer was fast growing and there was nothing any of us can do, except love her and spend time with her. Appreciate all that has been. Wow. The reality of an ending shaping up without knowing how or when. It was special to be able to talk openly with my sister and I was grateful for the candor. While not what I wanted to hear, something I knew I needed to face.
A few more weeks of unpacking and settling into our new lives went by and I had cleared out a few more boxes. As I made my way through another box, I came across an article that stopped me in my tracks. A well of grief formed in my throat and heart as I started to read. It was an article on grief, given to me in Boulder. And all of a sudden it hit me hard, the reality that my mom was dying. I reached out to my sister for support. We both cried as we discussed the change and loss that was about to come. Something I had been able to detach from for the past several months. Crying and talking with her helped me realize that I had sunk into somewhat what of a depressed state as I had put these feelings on hold for months. Now that I was in my new space, the physical transition complete, I was able to be still, and let the sadness flow. Allow my feelings and fear of the unknown to have a voice. And I felt in my heart then that I probably needed to reach out for help, and start to learn how to cope.
I went to the computer and started researching about cancer support and ways I could get support locally. From the research, I discovered a local resource and ventured into an unknown space for me, a cancer support group. Growing up in a family with five children, most of life happened in groups of some form or fashion. It was the reality of numbers and my sisters and I outnumbered our mom and dad. So off I went to a group that I thought would help me, a great resource called Gilda’s Club. As I started to introduce myself, I barely got five words out and the tears started flowing. Just introducing myself. The good news was I was not alone, not the only person feeling sadness and pain. I listened to the other five people in the group share their story of how cancer had impacted their lives, where they were in the journey. Then it was my turn. I spoke of the reality that my mom was dying yet no one was able to tell me when it would happen. I reflected on the past six months and shared how special it was for me to be at her side when she learned the cancer was back. To be able to share the special memories with mom of each experience from month to month, since that moment of truth. How it touched my heart to be able to be present and love her with my heart wide open. As I shared these stories with the group, the heaviness in my gut, fear of the unknown, started to slowly dissolve.
My learning to cope had begun. I had reached outside of my inner circle of family and friends for help. As I drove home from the cancer support group that night, I felt a warm feeling of gratitude in my heart. I realized that I was appreciating mom for who she was, in the moment, fully present. I was honoring her journey and accepting her path. I decided I wanted to ask her more, hear more about what life was like for her each day. Then I thought about the support group experience. I was relieved for the ability to sit with people like me, to learn that I was not alone. Many people were also facing tough situations and trying to cope. But did I really feel comfortable in a group setting, I asked myself. Not really. I realized I was sharing details about my situation with them, but not talking about my feelings of sadness and impending loss. The greatest loss one can experience, a deep loss of the heart. In the group setting, it felt complicated to describe my story of cancer and how it was impacting my life. All I wanted was to fall apart and have someone dear hold me. Not to have someone fix me or make it go away. Or to have to listen to someone else. For now, I learned that I needed my support to be all about me. I went to sleep thinking about my experience and decided I would start looking for a grief counselor to support me through this journey. I awoke from a dream in the early hours of the morning. I sat straight up in bed. In my dream, I saw mom die in her sleep, sometime before dawn, so very peacefully. It gave me comfort to know something about the how. Just still no answers to when.