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Grief, Loss and ‘Haven’t Yets’


I’m working through one of the toughest times of my life. Perserverance is one of the many things that cancer has taught me.

I feel my patience wearing thin.

I know it’s coming from the grief within.

My thoughts are dark. I’ve lost my spark.

It’s hard to move on, As my motivation is gone.

Now I’m left here, With you nowhere near.

The emptiness and pain, They never seem to wane.

Do all the things.
We never know what our tomorrow brings.

Our last regrets Are the “haven’t yets.”

It’s been three months since my sister died. Three months of me trying to find my way out of this messy fog called grief. Three months since our final FaceTime conversation the day before she died.

Taken out of context in my sister’s last text message to me were these two simple words: “Haven’t yet.” Sometime later that night or early that next morning she would go on to take her own life. In my mind, those two words imply she wasn’t ready to go. She still had things to do. She just hadn’t done them yet. Maybe I’m trying to read too much into it as I seek out answers and try to make sense of what happened.

No one was prepared for this tragedy, even those closest to her. She was beautiful. She was vibrant. She was in clinical remission from her cancer. She was very much alive. She had two daughters and a husband. From the outside looking in everything appeared normal, whatever “normal” is. She masked her struggles well.

As someone living with incurable cancer, I’m often told how good I look or how I don’t look sick. Though kind and well-meaning, these comments just bring home the point that no one knows what’s truly going on inside another person. Outward appearances don’t always tell the full story. How we are perceived by others is often very different from how we perceive ourselves and our inner turmoil is not always evident by our actions.

I will never understand the thought process behind what she did. People have said to me when someone dies by suicide they were not in their right mind, or they didn’t know how to stop thepain and death was their only way out.

I am having the hardest time accepting her death. I’m not there yet. The tears just keep coming. She was my sister, my friend, my cheerleader. Three months without talking to her and all I want to do is call her.

As I suddenly found myself co-authoring my sister’s obituary – one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write – I realized how difficult it is for another person to accurately describe someone else’s life in 400 words. No one knew what my sister’s final wishes were. With the knowledge that my own life will be cut short by metastatic breast cancer, I was inspired to write my own obituary to ease that burden on my family and for my peace of mind, knowing I’ve clearly stated my own wishes.

While everyone around me seems to have moved on and moved past her death, I’m stuck at the anger and acceptance phases of grief. This is still so raw and unreal to me. There are days I feel like I never really knew her. I look back at pictures and videos of her and see the person I thought I knew. I wish I could go back in time and fix whatever was going wrong, be more present or offer more support.

This quote by Robert Frost sums it up for me: “The best way out is always through.” I’m working my way through this dark time in my life. And as much of a struggle as my life has been, it’s my one and only life. I’m going to continue to live it. Perseverance is one of the greatest lessons cancer has taught me. Even when my world seems small and is spiraling out of my control, I have learned to keep on keeping on.

Life is short. I don’t want those “haven’t yets” to pass me by. I’m trying to remind myself to reach out to someone who might look okay on the outside but is hurting inside, to buy myself something special or splurge on extra dessert or to pour a touch more champagne when toasting to life or celebrating good scans. I’m working on doing all the things, as we never know what our tomorrow brings and our last regrets are always the “haven’t yets.”

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