Each day I look at the one-word prompts from WordPress, and every day this week I thought about a post on that one word. Every word this week fit with the theme of my blog. Words swirled in my mind, posts started to form, but I didn’t find the time to write. Yesterday I thought about writing a post using a combination of the one-word daily prompts: Monday – rebuild, Tuesday – struggle, Wednesday – natural, and Thursday – open. But my busy day slipped by quickly and last night, as I was lying in bed, I hoped today’s word would also easily fit into the theme of my blog. City – a challenge, but a word I can work with.
Moving Forward from Cancer and Loss
My mom grew up in Philadelphia, and it was a city we visited on a regular basis for family fun days. The Philadelphia Zoo, Franklin Institute, and Please Touch Museum were places we visited often. On Saturday, December 1, 2007, we all went into the city to see the beautiful Christmas displays. It was our last family outing before the words pancreatic cancer invaded our lives. After that each and every day was a struggle. My mom fought against her disease, and if hope were a cure, she would still be with us today. Sadly, pancreatic cancer took my mom from her family on November 16, 2008.
My world fell apart after my mom died. I was bombarded with so many different feelings and emotions. Grief. Guilt. Anger. Sadness. Emptiness. I had never felt so lost and the pain of my mom’s battle with pancreatic cancer and then her death echoed within the complete emptiness that seemed to fill every inch of me. Months passed by and I continued to struggle with this barrage of emotions. I went about my every day routine of work and taking care of my kids, but on the inside I was a complete mess.
I started writing to try to make sense of all that I was feeling. Words laced with pain and tears poured out of me into a blog my husband had started for me on his server. In May 2009, I moved my blog to WordPress to connect with more people. It was then I began to realize that all that I had been feeling was natural. I wasn’t a freak. There were other people who had experienced the jumble of emotions I felt as I tried to move forward from my mom’s death. About 3 months after my mom died, a friend asked me why I hadn’t gotten over my mom’s death yet. I was shocked. I had been riding a rollercoaster of emotions hoping for it to stop, or at least slow down so I could catch my breath. But the rollercoaster continued and I realized that those who hadn’t lost a parent couldn’t understand what I was feeling, especially if they didn’t want to even try. I simply told her that I missed my mom. I missed my mom then, and I still miss her today – 7 years, 7 months, and 1 day after her death.
Through my writing and talking with friends who actually understood what I was feeling, I began to heal. Slowly, I started to rebuild my life. A life without my mom. My new normal. I didn’t like life without my mom, as she added so much to it, and this was something I didn’t realize until after my mom had died. I never knew how entwined my mom was within my adult life until she was gone. Her death left an emptiness that cannot be filled by anyone or anything. So I did the only thing I could do and worked to rebuild my life without my mom’s physical presence. Minute by minute, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, I struggled to put the pieces of my life back together. Now, I can think of my mom with happiness and love, instead of heartache and tears. Now, I can remember the good times we spent together, instead of just the last days of my mom’s life. I can remember my mom without pancreatic cancer.
I will never get over losing my mom. I will always love her and miss her. I will always wish that the words pancreatic cancer hadn’t become normal in our lives. I will never get over how this disease slowly stole my mom from me and from her family. But I have healed, and one the steps to healing was to be open to life without my mom – my new normal. A lot has changed since my mom died, and my heart and mind fought against these changes. It took some time, but I learned that the only way to peace and true healing was to be open to change, especially the changes I had no control over. Pushing back against these changes, even if it was only an internal struggle, left me feeling angry and sad. By finally allowing myself to be open to all that had changed since my died, I was able to find inner peace and with that true healing.
I love you, Mom. I know that it is natural for me to miss you, even now. I wish we could make new memories together, but I hope you know that the memories of the times we spent together in the city of Philadelphia always bring me happiness. I hoped and prayed that you would beat pancreatic cancer. We fought against your disease together and gave each other strength through that unimaginable struggle. I know you are with me in spirit and were there helping me to rebuild my life and become open to all that has changed since I lost you.
“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die” – Thomas Campbell