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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Lessons of Life Through Loss

My Aunt was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer a little over ago. Fast forward to a year later, she had a joyful, fun-filled year. In October, she saw the doctor again (her health was starting to go downhill) and was told that the cancer had spread to other places. Now the end is near. We are all hoping she makes it through Christmas (a family favorite), but it’s so close that we just don’t know. Through this process, I am learning many things from her, from the process and about myself. I hope this helps anyone else going through this too.

What this is teaching me…. 

1) That it’s okay to be happy and sad in this time of loss/grief. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been going back and forth from feeling happy and joyful about the new direction my life is taking, then feeling the grief of going through the process of my aunt dying. Each time, I feel some sort of guilt for feeling both ways. Sounds weird, I know, but let me explain. When I’m happy and joyful, I have guilt due to this belief that I shouldn’t feel this way now (I should be sad!). Then when I feel sadness and grief, I have guilt due to my new belief of knowing that no one truly goes away. Their spirit lives on in all of us. This morning after crying big sad tears, I had this realization… Stop feeling guilty!!! It’s okay to feel both emotions. This is a time of expansion and growth that should be celebrated, make me feel happy and joyful. On the flip side, it’s also a time of great loss that should be grieved. Even though, I know that she will be with us in spirit always, her physical presence will be missing and that can be painful and take time to get used to. Through this difficult time, I will feel the emotions as they come and continue to learn and grow from all of it.

2) Give yourself the time to slow down and rest.  My aunt is an incredibly giving, compassionate person. Throughout her illness over the past year, she never stopped giving. She continued to sing in church (one of her passions), give her time to those in need, care for her children and grandchildren, and always making sure that everyone was okay and taken care of. It was only until recently, when her body just can’t handle it all anymore that she stopped doing some of those things. Even now, she continues to be the caring person she is. For example, I just spoke to her on the phone this morning asking if she was up for a visit today. Unfortunately, she was feeling very sick and said these words to me “I know this would mean a lot to you and I’m sorry, but I need to go back to bed and rest.” That simple sentence meant the world to me and showed me that a person can be caring of others, but also take time for themselves too. It truly is a balance and you can have both.

3) You affect and touch others’ lives always without even knowing that you are doing it. This past weekend her family celebrated their Christmas early while she was still alert and could enjoy her children and grandchildren. On this day, her church choir (that she was very much involved with) surprised them all by showing up outside their house singing Christmas carols. A moment that they all will never forget. A few days later, she mentioned that she never realized until recently how many lives she touched. It reminds me to focus on being my loving self, give when I can, slow down and talk to others about their life, and most importantly be kind no matter what another person has done. You never know when that kind word or conversation could make that person’s day, year, or life.

4) Allow yourself to receive the love too. I don’t think up until recently she realized how much she was loved and cherished by her family, friends, and community. She has always been the giver… giving her love, time, compassion, and support. She often didn’t allow or believe herself worthy enough of getting all that back from others. It took her body giving up to allow herself to receive all the help and love that people have been trying to give to her for years. It reminds me to allow myself to receive it now while I can truly enjoy and savor the feeling of giving and receiving at the same time.

5) Don’t forget to share with those you love how much you love them. This has been my greatest lesson. I was always a very loving child… the one who had to hug and tell everyone I love them before leaving any family gathering (and I have a large family!!). Somewhere along the road of life, I lost some of that. While I was still loved, and cared for others, I haven’t always been the greatest at showing it or making the time to be with them. This experience has opened me up to realizing that even if you think you have lots of time left to spend with them, you never really know. I’ve opened myself up to creating those moments with others where we have the opportunity to connect. I can tell in just a short amount of time that my relationships are improving and flourishing. So, make sure you set aside time for those you love amidst your busy life.

Sending all my love,

Val