Expressions of Grief

Throughout two years of going through the cancer experience, I have rarely cried. Sometimes I would tear up, and a few would roll down my cheeks; and I have definitely felt fear, grief, anger, pain, and so many other emotions that made my heart contract like it wanted to crawl away and hide. Only once did I break down in public, and that was triggered by grief over the death of a friend’s brother, whose death reminded me of the death of one of my best friends.

Books have made me cry. Movies have made me cry. The loss of people and pets has made me cry. But I can’t seem to cry for myself.

My family has always been tight with sharing their emotions – when my mom died, dad patted my back awkwardly and told me not to cry. It wasn’t until Brian flew down to be with me (and until I’d had several beers) that I was able to let the tears flow. Since then, I’ve been able to share more, although it is only easier with Brian and one or two others.

Since Monday, however, I have cried each day, to the point that I have had to close my office door to be private. But it isn’t my own grief that is bringing on the tears – again, it is grief for someone else, whom I have never met, and likely never will.

I’ve come across some blogs that I read regularly because they’re interesting, touching, intelligent, well-written, or downright hilarious. One of the ones I follow is Wil Wheaton. He’s a geek, and proud of it; and he’s an entertaining geek, and a heart-warming geek, and a silly geek. So I usually cruise on by there at lunch, along with roflrazzi, lolcats, loldogs, and NotAlwaysRight (The Bloggess does *not* get visited on the work computer, at lunch or any other time – she falls in the downright hilarious category, but is definitely NSFW).

On Monday, Wil posted about the death of his dog Ferris. Having read his book, Just a Geek, I knew that Ferris was a rescue dog, and there had been plenty of posts on his blog that were about her, or even just mentioned her. I started crying as I read the post – partly because I have come to feel that I knew this dog, but mostly because of the raw grief that Wil expressed so well. It brought back to me the way I felt when Hagen had a stroke and could no longer stand or even struggle up from her side. It made me feel the pain I felt when Thanatos was too sick to cry in the car on the way to the vet. It struck my heart the way mom’s choice to give up on living struck my heart, damn her.

Yesterday, and again today, Wil wrote another heart-wrenching post; and yesterday, and again today, I found myself crying – for the people and pets I have lost, for the losses of people and pets that I know are coming someday, for the friend whose grandmother just passed away, and for the friend who is currently going through her own experience with breast cancer.

And tonight, as I write this, I am crying as I think about Wil’s loss; and I finally realize now that I am crying for myself, too. I’m crying for the pain and the fear and the anger and the grief; and I’m crying because I will never be the “just me” person I was before cancer; and I’m crying because sometimes I can start to understand how mom could give up on living.

And I also realize that I’m crying because crying means I don’t *have* to give up on living, because even with all the pain and fear and anger and grief, this is part of what makes cancer worth surviving; and that whatever “just me” person I am now is the one that is strong, and compassionate, and loved, and happy.

Thanks, Wil.

2 Responses to “Expressions of Grief”

  1. 1 David S.
    August 27, 2009 at 6:59 am

    Damn, that was beautiful.

    When I was younger, I thought grief was something to be feared, or avoided as much as possible. I seem to become more familiar with it each year however (some big losses in our neighborhood in the past months especially), and find that when experiencing or sharing grief I feel not only compassion for the one experiencing loss, but also a sense of connectedness that can’t be found any other way.

    Crying is a good thing. And so is laughing, which I find often follows not long after. All part of the remembering of a former reality.

    Now I should quote Edie Brickell: “Throw me in the shallow water, before I get too deep.”

  2. August 27, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    Julie, this is really beautiful. I’d imagine you probably need to grieve over the loss of the old you and the loss of life you knew before cancer, a simpler, more naive life. How could you not? I too, cry daily over a blog of a woman I do not know. I guess that’s one cool thing about the blogging world, you can really become attached to the stories of others and their journeys. You can relate, you’d never want to relate, and you genuinely FEEL for them. It opens up a whole world of stories where there is no end and it isn’t make believe, you get to see how things really work out for them. Feel their raw emotions and see that things don’t end tied in a bow. There is a sort of brave honesty that comes with writing a journal for others to read about your innermost thoughts.

    You are incredible. I hope you do know how loved you are and I’m glad that you make the choice every single day that life is always worth it, hard as it is. 🙂 So glad to know you, my friend.

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