Thursday, June 11, 2015

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe. Three -

I spend some time giving grief counseling. I share with my clients how trauma knows no boundaries - no time frame, and that they'll never know when they may be hit by realities and memories of moments of loss. The loss never leaves, but our ability to handle that loss does increase - as time goes on. One moment we're deep in tears, the next we're laughing. One moment we're having a wonderful time living in the moment, and the next we're aching and feeling guilty for the pleasure we were receiving. I "know" this. I teach this. In fact, I've practiced this in various situations - death, separation, divorce, and of course, cancer. 

I remember waking up one day having just moved out of my Springville home. In the early dawn I made a list in my head of "issues" that needed to be resolved. But as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes I realized there were no issues - reality, loss, grief, and happiness, and then guilt for this happiness were all emotions that quickly ran through me. 

I separated from a dear friend, and there were days when I wondered if the grief and loss would ever lessen. I walked under this cloud of loss and lost for days and days and days. And then one day I was working on a project that required concentration, and I was happy and creating, and it was like "oops, I forgot to think about you," and wow, what a relief that was. And the hours turned into days, weeks, and I'm not into months, 12 years later (anniversary of this encounter is June 13), but I can go without thinking, remembering, or feeling this loss. 

It's the same way with divorce. Although I quickly remarried after my divorce, I was still in a place of turmoil, not knowing how to move forward while still sorting out the past. And then one day I didn't think about the past, only the present, and there was relief, and I knew life would move on, and I could heal. 

I've mentioned before about telling two friends how I wanted to live my cancer journey to the fullest, so I wouldn't have to ever go through this again. And one friend said, "You will always be learning from your experience. It's the journey." 

The past 3 years have been beyond hard. The only thing I've experienced that made me ache like my cancer journey has was the two year separation from my son, Tyler, while he was serving his LDS mission in Hawaii. And while the days got better as I counted down to the day he came home, I missed him dearly. Life was never the same when he came home - he had plans, we had changed, he was a fish out of water trying to figure out where he fit, we were trying to find a place for this new Tyler, one who had been changed, had changed, and didn't even know what to do with himself. Nor us him. And I grieved the Tyler of two years prior and what I had missed out on. And he grieved that life had gone on around him, and he was the one who had to figure out where he fit.

So here's my conundrum - I counted the days until my cancer treatments were finished, marked the final dates on my calendar, and counted down. But I can't count down my grieving, my loss, and my separation and sorrow. My anger some days is beyond anything I've ever felt, the anxiety about moving forward can be paralyzing.

A friend shared this with me a couple of weeks ago:

Anyway she said the worst adjustment a Breast Cancer survivor has to make is not during surgery or treatment ... but rather the years following treatment. During treatment the woman is learning how to survive, she is fighting for her life. The year following treatment she is learning how to "live". You have probably heard this before. I just wanted you to know I am thinking of you and support you on this life journey. Live girl live. 

Those folks I counsel? I tell them - the first year is filled with grief as we look back - anniversaries, missed birthdays, an empty chair. The second year we begin to feel guilty that we missed an anniversary, didn't acknowledge a memory. 

But I'm here to tell you - and I will share this as I move forward - the third year is a bitch. 

What does "move forward" look like? I'm healed, I'm strong, now what? The third year is when learning how to live comes into full effect, and there is no handbook, no support group, no methodology for someone who has lost a part of themselves (limb or loved one) that explains the third year. "Move on," they say. "Get a life," I've heard. "It was just cancer," "But you look so healthy," "You don't even look like anything happened to you," are just some of the statements that go around for those who are grieving and don't even know it. 

These reminders are constant - and just when I am not thinking about breast cancer or a f*'d up career, or a loss of a dream, someone says, "Wow, you look so good for what you've been through." And I want to beat them, because as kind as they are attempting to be, this reminder is always there - if not in myself, then in the eyes and words of some kind soul just sharing. 

And the world moved on without me, and I have to try and figure out where this new Ronda fits, and I'm still grieving the loss of the old Ronda. 

So that third year - what does it look like? Hell if I know. I'll tell you in 11 months! 

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