Winning from the loss. I know this sounds like the ultimate oxymoron, but I have learned that oftentimes when you learn from the loss, you win something. Not a trophy, but a sense of release and an awareness of self. The winning comes from the lesson of the loss.
I am a cancer survivor. I write about it. I talk about it. I give talks about it. I’m not ashamed of it. But from my cancer and everything that came before it and that which has followed, there has been loss and in turn, many triumphs.
I never really paid attention to the word grief until I was in college as a psychology student. My degree did me well in knowing the stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – but learning about it and actually going through it are two entirely different experiences.
Grief is hard to quantify. I mean, how do you put the loss of someone and the grief that most certainly follows, into a quantifiable equation?
It’s pretty simple. You don’t.
I often write about things I find to be funny. Grief isn’t one of them. It’s a feeling that hides behind a thick and heavy black curtain. Instead of the Wizard of Oz sitting behind the drapery, it’s where your broken heart and tears are for a period of time. And the crazy thing is that the curtain moves farther away from us as time ticks on, but the feelings we had behind it never really go away.
I lost my mom to breast cancer when I was 26 years old. She missed out on all of the amazing milestones of adulthood for me and my brother. And we missed out on her. Life is unfair and sometimes, grief never goes away. It never really becomes that dot far off into the distance that you can barely see. It is always there.
In the past few months, three incredible women I got to know passed away from breast cancer. They were 26, 40 and 54. They were beautiful people, wives, sisters, daughters, mothers, and friends. They won their battles with cancer by the way in which they lived their lives. They were each extraordinary women in their own right and were loved by so many. My heart literally broke in half for their families and for the friendships I grew to cherish. As sad as I am for their loss, I won because I had them in my life and I am better for it.
To me, that is the lesson. What is the take-away from the love and friendships we have in our lives when we are faced with the loss of someone we care about? Are they better for having known us and vice versa? I certainly hope so. I want to say that I know so.
Everyone goes through loss, sadness, and grief. And those stages of grief? Well, everyone gets through them at their own pace. I have learned to thoughtfully reflect on the lives of the people I have lost. Sometimes I cry. But most of the time I smile because I know that knowing them for the time I did were winning moments in my life.
You see, life is fragile. We don’t know what tomorrow brings. I think of grief like a crack I see in a glass. One false move and the crack leads to more cracks until it shatters. People pass in and out of our lives like pieces of glass.
It is not until we put all of those pieces together do we realize how full our lives are and how our glass is always full.