Life handed me loss again this week. One of my dance students passed away on Tuesday after a 7-month fight with brain cancer. She was just 11 years old and so full of life. She was one of the sweetest, kindest, funniest girls to dance through my doors, and now she’s gone.
I got the call Tuesday morning, and even though I knew that the day was coming, I still wasn’t prepared. Oh, I thought I was. I had lived through the loss of my husband from brain cancer 6 years before, and in the years since, have loved and lost more than I wish to count – I should be able to do this, right? Hailey’s parents had kept me up to date pretty regularly since her diagnosis so I knew what was happening. Then things got quiet and I knew what that meant.
Truth is, I wasn’t prepared 6 years ago, just like I wasn’t prepared 6 days ago. No one is ever prepared for the end. As long as our loved one is still with us, there is hope – even until the very last second. It’s the second after the very last second when hope is gone, that you realize that life will never be the same.
My world this week has been spinning around me and I just want it to stop. My heart hurts. I’m really not in the mood to return work calls or hear someone complain because it took me a day or two to get back to them, I don’t want to smile at the cashier at the grocery store, I don’t want to say that my day has been great when it hasn’t. I don’t want to do ANYTHING! I want to sit still and be sad. I want people to understand this without me having to say a word. I just want it all to stop.
But the world doesn’t work that way. The world doesn’t have time for loss. The world is impatient, unforgiving and anxious to keep spinning around. It’s not the world’s fault. The mother on the other end of the line who is telling me that she is disappointed I didn’t call her back sooner doesn’t know. Neither does the cashier, nor the aggravated man waiting for me to pull out of my parking spot because I just needed a minute to compose myself.
We hear the saying time and time again, “Be kind. Everyone is facing a battle you know nothing about” and it’s so true. Our battles are often fought quietly from within, and quite honestly, who knows? The impatient man waiting for me to “compose myself” might be facing one of his own.
All that I do know is that when we go through battles and come out on the other side, we have an opportunity to help others by making our struggles and battles known. And when we do, we give those who are struggling hope, help, support, and love from someone who knows what it’s like. All things I wish I had when I was going through my own battle with my husband’s brain cancer.
I was surrounded by people, but so incredibly alone. I remember spending countless hours in bookstores and online looking for ways to manage life when you have a spouse with a terminal illness. But all I ever found were books about the end of life for the elderly. There was nothing out there for young couples facing this diagnosis. I didn’t know anyone who had been through what I was experiencing, or anything even somewhat close to it. I felt completely paralyzed in a world that kept sprinting forward. I longed for someone, anyone out there who could help me at least to get off the starting block.
If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I’ve been sharing my story for years now in an effort to help others – mostly from a distance. Things got personal though, 7 months ago when I learned that Hailey was diagnosed with brain cancer – stage 4 glioblastoma.
I struggled with sharing my story with her parents because, 1) my husband died from the disease, and 2) I didn’t want them to not have hope. He died a few years before Hailey started coming to the studio so I could have easily not said a word and let things be, but my heart kept telling me otherwise. I just kept thinking that I owed it to them to at least let them know that I am there for support, advice, and help. Although every struggle is different, as is every loss, we shared a common thread – something I searched and searched for years ago.
Opening yourself up, sharing your stories and your pain isn’t easy. Often times, it opens you up to more pain and sadness, but I have found that amid the pain and sadness, the bonds and friendships that are formed are absolutely priceless. Knowing that there are others out there who know what it’s like to feel life racing around while you can’t move is comforting. And knowing there are others out there who know what it’s like to take those first strides after loss is encouraging.
Yes, my heart is broken and I have had a really hard time this week, but I truly believe that had I not shared my story, my broken heart would have also been filled with regret.
Life handed me loss this week, but also handed me new love, friendship and support – I will cherish that forever.