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Piecing Together the 'Puzzle' of Grief After Losing My Son to Ewing Sarcoma

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I am changed – good and bad, darkness and light. Grief has ripped away the layers and defenses to expose the very core of me. Watching my teenage son die from Ewing sarcoma and seeing in his eyes a knowingness of his fate on this path of grief is a sorrow that will never fade in my heart. This is what it is like to know I will always have to settle for one less – a life where my son will never have the opportunity to grow up.

Although I would never wish this path on anyone, we received a bittersweet gift that many who lose their loved ones do not – knowledge and some time. The understanding that this dearest child of ours could be ripped away at any moment was torture; the fear was palpable, but the hope and love tempered it. I know without a doubt my son knew how much we loved him, and in return I know he loved us – with all his heart.

This is our reality. There is of course so much that will never be understood. Grief is difficult and so very personal. The process is unique to each person; it reflects the unique relationship that each of us shared with our loved one. These relationships are all deeply personal; they are painful, joyful, regretful, grateful and infinitely more than can ever be conveyed by mere words.

Son, daughter, mother, father, brother, sister, relatives, friend, neighbor – these roles are all so different and special. There may be many layers and years of experiences we have shared together, so grief reflects this. That is not to say the amount of time spent knowing a person alone can define the intensity of one’s grief, for there are also relationships that are brief in duration but profound in experience. Depth of feeling cannot be measured in such simplistic, linear terms.

Maybe that’s why we all grieve so differently?

Our grief reflects the sacred bond we forge with each of our loved ones over time and space; a meeting of souls like no other on this earth. Infinite experiences and emotions intermingled together to form unique relationships and profound feelings.

It is often difficult to understand how someone truly feels in the depths of their soul. No matter what similarity in circumstances exists, I feel it is difficult for another person to fully comprehend the complexity of each unique relationship and subsequent grief in dealing with loss. In my experience, grief cannot easily be categorized, which is why it is so difficult to process and find a modicum of peace.

From one grieving parent to another, although we share the pain of losing a precious child, I understand your relationship with your child reflects the unique, sacred bond only you and your child can ever truly know.

But… I have discovered something that helps me on this path.

Something that some people may find shocking.

Although cancer stole my son with devastating brutality, I am still able to laugh and smile; humor has always been my savior and my son’s, too. Most days, you will find me honoring the humor and quirkiness in life. I am very good at holding it together in public; I had years of practice! My son taught me what it looks like to live with courage in the very face of fear and loss.

Humor helps me hold it all together at times when I am afraid it may all fall apart.  Because although I may look whole and healed, the process of grief has placed my soul back together, piece by jagged piece – much like a puzzle. There are gaps and sharp edges which are hidden from your view.

Please don’t try and fix my puzzle or offer advice on the way it is constructed. This is my puzzle and only I can piece it back together again. It takes a long time to place each piece of the puzzle back in place so it does not collapse.

You may be asking yourself, “Why does she expose this painful journey for all to see?” I do it to help bring the darkness into the light, for myself and others. Because I can’t help but wonder…if we share our puzzles and show them side by side without fear of judgement, will it create a more complete picture for us all?

Then maybe, just maybe, we might find some form of “peace” amongst the pieces.

Originally published: August 3, 2016
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