When the wounds come from the unknown, when there’s no one to blame for the stabs to the heart, it can get muddy when navigating those difficult waters. This month we hear from a wounded dove who recently walked a dark journey of a loved one and cancer.
Christa and I have become online blogging friends sharing some of the same passions, like photography and writing. Even both of our roots come from Southern California. I love Christa’s honest and vulnerable words, and I know you will too.
My phone chimed and the message read, Could you call me, please?
I immediately called my Mom. Something felt off.
Is everything okay Mom?
No, but it will be.
In that moment my world changed forever. My mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
I would like to say I bravely spoke words encouraging and wise. Words of hope and comfort. Instead, my body shook with silent sobs as the tears rolled down my cheeks.
As I tried to express my heart and share the news with friends, a few comments stood out. They quickly comprised the list of Things Never To Say To Someone Whose Loved One Has Cancer.
- Well, there are no guarantees you know. People could die anytime
- Well, it’s not about you, it is about your mom
- Well, how old is she anyway? My _______ was _____ when they died. Your mom is young.
Most words were caring and full of compassion. Those were the cradle that gathered me in when these comments stabbed through the cracks. The other comments? Not so comforting.
I wanted to scream. And scream.
Why would ME having feelings render me incapable to express them, without sounding like a jerk? Like they meant I don’t put my mom’s well-being first?
Empathy overtook me. It’s crushing during these trials. For all of the people I love and for how this would impact them. Wishing, desperately wishing, I could shield them somehow.
Yet, I am the one huddled alone on the closet floor; feeling guilty for daring to express my heart need of wanting to go home. To my mother. To do something practical to help and keep my sanity.
I am from her body. I am her daughter. We are forever connected in a way possible only by that bond.
It is unique. And it matters. It is not either/or. My needs vs. someone else’s. This or that.
There should be no tsk, tsk for a grieving daughter. For if her mother wasn’t her primary concern, there would be no tears at all.
No fear of what her mother would soon endure.
No sorrow for what she, as a woman, will lose.
Every mile feels like broken glass. Impossible to navigate safely, but necessary to come out alive. Surviving the crash of cancer.
Just hug me and let me express. Don’t offer words that are meant to encourage but fall flat or make me feel like a selfish jerk.
I am a 44 year old woman. Who leads and manages a life; reduced to a whimpering terrified little girl who doesn’t want to lose her mommy.
My husband incapable of offering me what I need; I see it in his discomfort. My kids unsure of how to approach me, when their strong mother suddenly has tears streaming down her face during a family game— that was full of laughter but a few minutes prior.
My necessity to be broken, conflicts with my natural role as protector.
Agreeing with the internal conflict that has always been there, of feeling like my mom’s protector.
She does not want this from me, never asks, but it is there nonetheless.
I feel furious that I am not free to shout, I AM SCARED.
I LOVE MY MOTHER. I NEED TO EXPRESS THIS. I AM NOT THINKING OF MYSELF OVER ANYONE ELSE.
But of course, in the dark moments, I am.
Thinking of her soothing arms around me, whispering “sweetie pie”. And worrying I will never feel hat comfort again. The comfort of my mother.
No one tells you how to cope with your mom having cancer.
When she has two sisters. One lived. One died. Both had breast cancer.
I called her a week later. Two sentences in, she stopped me, Christa, you aren’t ok!
The dam burst and I became a daughter. Free to cry to her mother every fear and frustration and hurt feelings of being misunderstood.
And her words felt to me reminiscent of my childhood. Remembering being sick and her hand rubbing the hair off my forehead, smoothing.
Her voice smoothing. Soothing.
And it felt better.
Like we could be in this together.
I am a terrible liar. My emotions are raw and visible on my face for the world to see. Pain and joy share space and it are impossible to hide, or fake my way through life.
And that is ok, you know?
Life has pain. We need to allow ourselves, and people in our world, space to feel it. Knowing that after every storm comes the promise of a new morning.
I am smiling today. Soon, I’ll go home to help care for my mother during her recovery. It will be hard and surely the tears will come in the darkness when I know she suffers.
But the sun will rise and we will too. Fighters rising from the ashes of heartache; our tears having washed clean the smudges of yesterday.
She is my mother and I am her child. Age and time and distance never alter that. So I will go, and this time? When my mom feels sick, perhaps I will gently smooth her hair back.
Reminding her she is stronger than she knows. And God will remind me, as He always does, that I too am stronger than I know.
Because He is the giver of morning mercies and the life preserver that brings us through the storm.
… … …
Christa Sterken has a passion to encourage others to live with intentionality and gratitude.Noted for being a gentle truth teller, she is honored to be motivator, challenger, and co-traveler with readers. Created to learn lessons as an active participant, she shares the journey transparently with others. Christa is wrapping up her last years of homeschooling, and excited to see where God leads her next steps. She blogs at www.christasterken.com and loves to hear from readers at email@example.com
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