Friday, 4 December 2015

The Dreaded "What If?" of Feelings and Grief

It has been a challenging few months in our home, while we embark on new challenges and adventures. Thankfully still NED, but as my scans are now every year or so, I won't have my next one until some time in February. In the meantime I've had two bronchitis in quick succession since October, so my immune system has taken a beating. All in all though, we are adjusting to changes and to living in hope instead of fear.

That said, it hasn't been easy.  Much of my focus this fall has been on helping my son; back in the public school system  he has had to deal with a series of stressors and anxieties that spiked lately.  There are so many things that I won't go into here because I promised to keep his life as private as I could when I made this blog; however, with his blessing I can talk about a bit what he is going through in regards to this whole Odyssey.

People expect that we should move on. I suppose we did too, once. That we deal with cancer and then is on to the rest of our life. The reality, however, is more complicated.  Cancer changes who you are, permanently. It also changes your family and loved ones, because you are not the only one affected. Their entire lives changed too, and it takes time to process that.

We had been working with our son as we knew he was still repressing a lot of his emotions. More and more he has started to allow them out, hating that he can't control them.  I am reminded of my childhood days when I longed to be Spock, simply so I didn't have to feel everything so keenly.

Last night I went to say good night to him - only for him to start weeping openly, heartbroken and terrified at the thought of losing me. I told him I wasn't going anywhere - I was here, and even if I wasn't he had his dad and our wonderful family who would always be there for him.  I didn't want to give him platitudes, because I hate when people do that. Everything does NOT happen for a reason. Sometime horrible things happen, and the best you can do is endure them and survive.

All that time, we were surviving. We were putting one foot in front of the other and finding a way to move forward, to hold everything together. We became an inseparable trio, a team that can tackle everything together.  And we made it. It may only have been three years NED and life has no guarantees, but we have made it this far together.

I am both relieved and heartbroken that he can finally express that pain, that anguish and that fear that he bottled up for so long. I know that the two years homeschooling were incredibly healing for all of us, and I think they helped him get to this point. We are working with a wonderful psychologist for now, and trying to find our way.

At school our son expressed some of his anxieties, to be told it was the 'October Meltdown' that sixth graders experience.  What a way to downplay his experiences, and the depth of his pain. We talked about coping strategies, where I tried to explain that really, he has coped brilliantly with much more than many there can comprehend... unless you have walked in similar shoes.

He is finally grieving, I think, for what he lost. Certainty, safety, a bubble of reassurance.  We were discussing his acting lately, when someone mentioned that he just doesn't 'read' young enough ( even though he just turned eleven). He comes across as too mature, although a certain playful innocence was gone. Of course he does. That was ripped from him at age seven, when he had to contemplate a life without his mother.

Last night was very hard on all of us, because it showed us how raw those wounds still are. How much pain and fear we still carry, how tentatively we are finding our own roads. We are a work in progress, after all.