I follow a writer who recently lost her husband after a vicious but tragically short fight with cancer. I will not share her name or all of the details of her story as it isn’t my story to tell but if you follow amazing writers and bloggers she may be on your list and you may know this story. He was in his forties. They have young kids. A new life is beginning for her as his has ended. He was diagnosed this summer and I read her first posts about his cancer as my father was struggling with his first round of chemo. As I watched my father become terribly ill and weak I read her posts of a similar fight—only her husband was so young and she could be me.
Let me be clear, I do not know this woman, or her husband, or her beautiful children. But I am devastated by her loss. My heart is aching and I’ve shed real tears for her.
My husband has been plagued by stomach pains and cramps, as was her husband. He’s seen doctors and has had some scans and tests and no real answer has been offered except to change his diet as it may have something to do with his gall bladder, or maybe he’s developed a lactose allergy, or maybe he can’t manage gluten anymore, or maybe, or maybe, or maybe….
Unlike my husband, however, hers became very ill very fast and I comfort myself hoping that if my husband’s complaints were anything as serious we would know. But as the summer transitioned to fall and as her posts became less positive I couldn’t help but think about the worst case scenario. Could he be seriously ill? Could I lose him? How would I cope? Can I parent my kids alone? Can I do this life alone?
I’m sure no one believes they will lose their spouse early. In fact, I never could imagine, even a little, what that may be like. Thanks to this writer’s words, however, I now have an idea. Her words were beautiful and heart wrenching and so incredibly sad. I imagine writing about and sharing their fight and their love to her followers and readers was cathartic for her but it must have been so incredibly difficult. I’m sure no one knows how to prepare a young child for the loss of their parent. Reading her posts has shown me how I could. And again, I keep thinking. Could I parent my children totally and utterly alone?
I shared this writer’s experience with a friend and how I’ve been following her posts, aching for her, crying for her. I mentioned how worried I was about my husband’s health. I talked about my fear of losing him and of being alone with three children who still need us both. And my friend told me, not so gently, to cut it out.
Apparently, according to this trusted friend, I am not actually aching for this woman I have never met and the anxiety I’m feeling is really not about losing my husband early. Instead, rather than processing the possibility of losing my father to cancer, I have found it easier to follow this family’s fight with cancer. The grief I’m feeling for her and for her family is simply the grief I’ve been feeling for my father. And maybe I’m not really struggling with the fear of parenting alone but I’m more afraid of facing a life without my father, the man who has always been my safety net, the man who has always had my back, the man who would never let me be alone in any fight.
Classic projection. I’ve got a pretty smart friend.
My father is kicking cancer’s ass and I’m pretty confident he’s not leaving me any time soon. But…one day, he will. And I’m not sure how well I’m going to manage my life without him there to take care of me.
I’m still not ready to process all of these feelings completely so I’m going to just leave this right here. It’s enough for now.