How do bereavement and losses affect you?

Recently someone I went to school with died of another cancer, I have lost touch with someone with blood cancer and someone I was not close to died.
I am very aware of my differing feelings.
When someone I went to school with me died of a different cancer there was naturally feelings of bereavement and loss of a friend of 50 yrs, which brought back my memories of good times that would be no more and overwhelming sadness.
I really realised that the word cancer immediately triggers something in me, it does not have to be blood cancer. It brings feelings of ‘survivors guilt’ that I am still here and my younger friend is not, my mortality, the other people I have lost during my life, especially people with blood cancer. A really reflective time and I cannot comprehend that I will not see her again.
I have lost contact with someone with blood cancer, I have never actually met her, I have no other way of contacting her, but I think we had got close. There is nothing I can do so I have to live with the not knowing and there is great sadness and fearing the worst around that.
Someone I was not close to died, a friends mother. It has brought back feelings of my mother dying in 1986. I wonder if I ever really dealt with that loss, I did not know how to and I now think I blocked those feelings and never asked for help…
My mother died instantaneously at 68 yrs as did my previous female relatives in my family. I remember being anxious when I reached that age and then I got feelings of ‘survivor guilt’.
Since my diagnosis I am far more emotional. I also realise how important medically for me it is not to stuff down my emotions.
I would be interested in others experiences?

6 Likes

Hello @Erica. Thank you so much for introducing this topic and for your openness and honesty which will help others, I am sure. My diagnosis was almost thirty years ago - it will be the anniversary in November this year. I come from a family where we don’t show our feelings. As a child I was told off for crying and taught to be self-sufficient despite growing up with a physical disability. Therefore asking for help was seen as weakness. For many years I dealt with my diagnosis by hiding behind the mandatory smile and it is only in recent years that it has dawned on me that asking for help shows courage and it is okay to cry. I am really benefitting from regular Therapy sessions and I wish I had been brave enough to do this much sooner. Since undertaking Talking Therapy my emotions are closer to the surface and I am able to express them in a safe and supportive environment. I have noticed, maybe like you, that losses and bereavements hit me much harder, especially if they involve people with cancer. There seems to be a special connection. Also, I have ‘lost’ a lot of key medical people recently such as my GP and Practice Nurse who retired, a haematology nurse and haematologist who changed jobs and most recently an amazing young Carer who got me through Lockdown and with whom I have connected in a special way. Each loss seems to affect me more than the previous ones. It is hard but I am learning to allow myself to feel the sadness and grief and not pretend it doesn’t matter, when it does! Hope this makes sense and is helpful. I am so sorry for your losses @Erica. I am ‘with’ you and am sending warm wishes. We are survivors! Willow X

4 Likes

Another poem …

SURVIVAL
Fighting for survival
Since the day I was born,
The battle commenced
In the delivery room.

Compared to my sister
I was considered fortunate,
My disability
Often overlooked.

Told off for crying,
I learnt to survive
By hiding behind
A mandatory smile.

Taught self-sufficiency,
Scared to ask for help,
Growing up believing
I had to fend for myself.

Many years later
My life was torn apart,
A shocking diagnosis
Bringing fear to my heart.

Bewildered, traumatised
Anxious and confused,
Struggling to cope
With the devastating news.

Suffering silently
For far too long,
Putting pressure on myself
To always stay strong.

Then it dawned on me
I had a choice,
To stay as I was
Or bravely find my voice.

Starting to question
What I had been taught
Deciding to break free
And take a different route.

Letting others help me,
Confronting my fears,
Learning to be vulnerable,
Unafraid of tears.

Beginning to process
The events of my life,
Slowly recognising
How I have survived.

Willow X

8 Likes

Oh @Willow I am feeling really emotional here having read your post and moving poem.
I was also brought up that you did not show any type of emotion, it was a sign of weakness and good little girls were seen and not heard. I was the good girl that did not cry when our cat died, my sister and mother did.
Also taught never to cry and I was always so quick to put on the smiley mask.
Yes, the anniversary of my diagnosis is in December and I now spend a reflective, introverted day replaying the day, looking down on scene, the shock and the immediate losses I foresaw like seeing my son get married and have children, the course I was doing would never be finished etc. etc. 18 yrs later and I am still here, I passed my course and my son is 48yrs and still not got married or had children. I also get my ‘survivors guilt’ back.
As for showing my feelings I think this forum has helped me do that, yes, that safe supportive place.
Guess what I married a man that cannot do and cannot take feelings, head immediately goes in the sand.
I have also ‘lost’ a lot of key medical people over the years, I have also ‘lost’ a lot of friends along the way.
Some bereavements really hit me more than others and it is sometimes not a person I was particularly close to, it could even be a pop star, something just ‘hits a chord’ somewhere.
I now have friends that I can be emotionally vulnerable with, although they often try to fix me !!!
I am definitely ‘work in progress’.
Thank you again, you have helped me so much xxxxx

5 Likes

Hello @Erica and @Willow, thank you both for being open about this very important subject. Your words are so important and I do hope that others can also relay their feelings if they feel able. This is a safe, confidential space and always the Support Services Team are here for you if you ever need to talk through any issues: How to contact Blood Cancer UK | Blood Cancer UK. Take care Gemma

4 Likes

Thank you @Erica and @GemmaBloodCancerUK for your kind words. Yes, Erica, I too have experienced a lot of people trying to ‘fix’ me and also making assumptions without really listening. I know people want to help but sometimes it makes it worse. I hope my experiences will result in me being a better listener and not making the same mistakes. Warm wishes. Willow X

5 Likes

Hi everybody. A topic that I think everybody can relate to and a really honest and open post from both of you @Erica and @Willow.
@Erica, it must have been really difficult loosing your friend of so many years and I can feel your sadness. Sending you the biggest of hugs.
I agree that anybody dying of cancer triggers me. I feel really vulnerable and fear sets in. I hadn’t spoken to my dad for a number of years when he passed a few years ago. My brother was still in touch and my husband would take the girls to see him. He died of a blood cancer - Acute Myeloid Leukaemia. This bought with it a a range of emotions and was a tough one to deal with. On the other end of the spectrum was Deborah James - Bowel Babe. I’ve listened to every one of her podcasts and was so so so sad when I heard she was receiving palliative care and I don’t even know her!
I’m very good at staying strong when it comes my own illness but when it comes to others I’m never shy of showing emotion. Both sides of my family were open in that way.
The way we are raised has such an impact on us doesn’t it. You are so open and honest on here @Erica and @Willow and im so glad you have this space so that you can show that vulnerability and be honest. @Willow, a beautiful poem :heart:
You are both very special ladies X

4 Likes

I think when the first member of my immediate family died, it was a big shock to me and took me some time to work my way through. You never entirely fill the gap in your life. I was still relatively young and naiive and went off the rails a bit. When the first member of my immediate family got cancer and died of it within a few weeks that was an even bigger shock, especially as I had been involved in the end of life care and living the intense family situation that came with it. After it was over I spent the next few months travelling to as many places as possible. It was my way of escaping to a make believe world. My original plan for the year had been to climb Kilimanjaro but because I changed my plans and went travelling, I didn’t do enough training and when I was dumped on the mountain in the middle of Africa, I was totally out of my depth and failed miserably. If you don’t make it, they make you go into the park keeper’s office and sign a book of shame to explain why you failed to heap humiliation upon your misery. The staff at the hotel when you slump back with your tail between your legs automatically say “congratulations” to anyone who has returned, rubbing salt into the wounds and then you have to find the enthusiasm to be happy for the other people in your party who got to the top, when they return. After that year, it almost felt like I was an expert at dealing with family crises so when 3 more of us got cancer, I just took it more or less in my stride and buried any feelings I had and when my mom died during my chemo period, i wasn’t able to grieve in quite the same way as I did for the other deaths. Not because I felt less, but possibly because I was getting used to extreme family events. That’s been a continuous 5 year process now and as we on here know, will never entirely come to an end.

6 Likes

Oh @Nichola75 thanks so, so much, do you know I never even thought about it but I had been estranged from my father for about 10 yrs too when he died in 1982, he was a great one for saying that ‘blood is no thicker than water’ (this saying has no connection to blood cancer !!!) and he would have never have stepped down from his stance. He did not want me to get engaged. He said if I wanted to get engaged I should leave the family home that night. Me ‘the good little girl’ who never said boo to a goose left. The annoying thing was he was right, but I stayed in that marriage for 10yrs trying to prove him wrong !!
My mother and sister got in contact with me after 4 yrs.
I did not feel anything when he died and it was only me, my mother and sister at his funeral, I was only given the morning off work as leave.
He was a complete atheist and the Vicar who took the ceremony called him by a name we had never called him, it was surreal. His ashes are in SW London and my mothers in Cornwall. My mother and sister never spoke of him again, very weird.
In recent years I have got my sister to open up about the family more.
@Franko thank you for your very honest post and I felt really moved by it.
Oh, the Kilimanjaro walk of shame, sounds horrendous on top of everything else you had gone through.

3 Likes

I have been very moved by these posts here. I don’t ever recall being told not to cry as a child but we were never ones to hug or kiss. Indeed I think the first time I remember hugging my Mum was when my Dad died. However I didn’t hug her after that and she lived for another 16 years.

Recently I feel a bit surrounded by death. My next door neighbour’s husband died and I am very close to her. Then my best friend died whilst on a cruise. Although she had cancer, not blood cancer, I had seen her on line the week before for a chat and she looked so well and was looking forward to the holiday that started the following day. Then two other close friend’s husbands died. Although I did not know them well I felt for my friends.

The strange thing is that I did not cry until I went to the funeral and the memorial service of the first two deaths. Indeed I find myself seldom crying when something like this happens yet I can weep at movies like Lassie Come Home. I do wonder if because health wise I have gone through a lot I have ‘learned’ to be strong even if inside I am crying.

Sorry for a ramble.

Joan

6 Likes

I agree. I’ve definitely learned to be strong with regards to blood cancer X

4 Likes

Oh Joan, you really have had a lot of bereavements recently, really look after yourself.
I really related to you saying that you have gone through a lot that you have ‘learned’ to be strong even if inside you are crying.
Thank you, I learn so much about myself on this site and it is so comforting knowing that I am not the only one.

4 Likes

Thank you @Franko for bravely sharing your story. I hope in some small way that it has helped you to share and I am so sorry you have suffered so much loss. What a humiliating way to treat people who don’t quite make it to the summit. I think that is awful. Surely some recognition should be given for the effort involved? Thinking of you. Willow X

5 Likes

Hello @Joan. Thank you so much for bravely sharing your story. I hope that it has helped you to share it with us and in no way was it a ramble. Even if it was, there would be no need to apologise as this is a place where we can say how things really are. I am so sorry for your numerous losses. It is so hard. I am thinking of you and sending warm wishes. Willow X

5 Likes

Hi Erica, I can identify with much you say. I wonder if it’s a fear of our own mortality, when I was first diagnosed with Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), my first question was ‘am I going to die’. My father died suddenly from a heart attack when he was 71, he was my best friend and I still miss him dreadfully. My mother lived only another 3 years before dying suddenly, again from a heart attack, she was 68. My only brother suffered terribly with a rare form of lung cancer and passed away when he was 65. I was fearful when approaching each of the ages, whether that was a guilt factor, I’m not sure but I was incredibly grateful to pass them. I hope that I’m tempting providence, I am 70 in a few weeks so hopefully I shall pass dad’s 71. I try to stay positive.

Look after yourself
Alice x

4 Likes

Hi @Kitchengardener2 your parents died at the same ages as mine and again suddenly.
Thank you so much for your post I have again learnt so much about my self from it.
My 70th birthday was my best birthday ever and I have now passed the age my father died, I think it is the luck of the draw.
I find it so difficult to unpick my feelings and thoughts, we are such complex beings.
Have an absolutely brilliant 70th birthday and arrange it how you want it to be !!!
Look after yourself.

4 Likes

I come from a different place here but having thought about it I now understand why.
My initial teaching post was with children with physical disabilities and several died whilst I was teaching them. Muscular dystrophy, Friedreich’s Ataxia, Spina Bifida, Heart Failure were all disabilities that decided these beautiful children’s fates. To support their friends and classmates we looked to see a life lived well. The particular skills and gifts that the children had and how caring and being kind were majestic skills we could all learn. I have such happy memories of them and their families and I know that, mostly, the families did too. The open conversations about death were part and parcel of working with the children and they were so articulate and emotionally mature in this aspect.
We taught the children in one class from 8-12 years and so by the time four years were up we were really important to each other.
My parents died in the last two decades and I felt blessed that their deaths were not painful or drawn out but I did not regret their deaths just felt glad for what we had meant to each other. I realise that my life experiences have given me a different approach and it is not to say that there is no sadness that they are no longer here.
I think the shock of an unexpected death of a sibling or partner must be excruciating and I am blessed that this has not hurt me. I firmly believe that talking does help and time and that seeking support us the way to go.

5 Likes

Wow, thank you so much @GrandmaJo for your moving post, you worked with some very special children.
Yes I feel blessed too that both my parents died without loss of faculties or suffering.
Thank you

4 Likes