Saturday, August 13, 2011


Today is a day for melodrama, and I am not even going to apologize for it. One year ago today, I stepped off a hospital elevator expecting to face yet another solvable emergency in my mom's long, hard fight with cancer. Instead, I heard two simple words -- she's gone-- and those two simple words changed so much.

Too many of us have experienced this-- losing someone we loved to cancer. I lost my mother before my thirtieth birthday. I lost my mother unfairly. She was too young, too good, and fought too hard to just be gone. While navigating this astounding void left by her death, I've learned way more about grief than I ever cared to.

I've learned that grief is not something you cope with, it's something you learn to hide.  My niece was born this year, my book published, my birthday celebrated. All of these amazing things have brought joy into my life, and every ounce of joy brings a bit of sadness. Every one of these happenings should not have happened without being about to share it with my mom. This is what life is after loss- always a tinge of bittersweet. And it doesn't fade. You just learn to ignore it or to hide it more often and more thoroughly as the days pass.

I've learned that grief is not something you can plan around, which is really tough for a planner like me. The most unexpected moments, the oddest memories, can pull me back from feeling stronger, more confident, more OK to that very moment when I heard those words and felt as though the world was caving in on me.

I've learned that grief is best cut with anger. I know there are seven stages of grief, but for once in my life, I am not working very hard to move qiuckly. I've been on anger for more than eleven months, and I don't plan to leave any time soon.

Because I should be angry, right? My mom made our family a family. She was the voice that reassured me on bad days and now those days seem just a little worse. Hers was the smile that made accomplishments seem valuable and now those same accomplishments seem just a little empty.

My mother was a woman that made baby blankets for people she never met because she believed all children should have something home made. She was a woman who cooked for anyone sick. She embellished every store to emphasize the good in all of its players. She couldn't dance but refused to admit it and did it joyfully despite. She was my closest friend, made closer by a shared fight against a capricious disease. She fought with strength, resolve, faith, and hope in abundance, and deserved to see that count for more than it did. She found the delight in every small thing in life and her absense leaves everything feeling a bit dull. She died when she was too young, and she suffered too much.

I don't want reassurance today. I don't want to hear about time healing this. I am angry--we all should be.

Cancer is unbiased and cruel. As a sufferer, survivor, care giver, loved one, or casual friend, we have all felt the impacts of this disease. We all get angry over many things-- politics, work, traffic-- and work to move past it. But we should not move past this-- we need to stay angry over the presence of such a feckless killer. Because, in our anger, we can move against it.

Today, I am making a donation in my mother's honor to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. Perhaps writing a check doesn't seem like much of a movement, but it is. The money we raise becomes research, new treatments, and lives saved. I can only hope my anger will somehow help others to never have to feel it.

If like me, you've felt this anger, I encourage you to give if you can. My mom's page is here if you would like to donate in her name. Or, give in the name of someone you've lost or seen fight. And if you can't give, participate in the fundraisers, write a letter to a cancer patient, share this blog, etc.

Let's all stay angry until we've restored the dignity, independance, and life to the sufferers of this disease.

I miss my mom today, like every day. Today I just allow myself to admit just how much.


  1. Shauna--no one could have described grief as well as you just did. Your words sting my heart because I know all too well what you're feeling; losing your champion in this world, your best friend, and your number one fan sucks no matter how that loss comes.

    Thank you for opening your heart to me (and everyone) in this blog, and letting me (us) share your pain, even just a little because you're right, the world should be sad and angry. Your mother was an absolute inspiration to everyone who was blessed to know her and the world certainly lost a hero a year ago.

    I love you...

  2. I'm so sorry you have to go through this. I'll be thinking of you and your mother today. xoxo

  3. I know how angry you are, Shauna. And I feel it. I'm so angry, but I'm angry at death. I know it probably sounds immature, but I'm so damn mad that it pops out of nowhere. In the past two years I've lost my grandfather, who was my best friend, the boy I loved and one of my closest friends. The last two were 19 and 21 and I cannot for the life of me imagine why they had to go. Why now.
    I don't think I'll ever know. I don't know about time healing. Because with time, I only miss them more and sometimes the anger and sadness is so overwhelming I feel like I'm drowning.

    I can understand what it's like for you, although I cannot imagine being without my mother. Your mother sounds wonderful and you make her come alive through this post.

    It might come across as horrible but grief can often be very inspiring. Channel it in your writing, your book.

    I'm thinking of you.

  4. I know this is an older post, so you probably have (on some level) moved on a tiny bit. However I just wanted to say that I lost my father to multiple myeloma on my twentieth birthday. I hear you about anger. I watched my grandfather, one of those epic, wonderful larger than life people, slip into dementia and die. My first born daughter was diagnosed with a rare, life threatening illness... I work with people who have had their lives ruined by random, stupid, acts of fate. I FEEL YOU ON THE ANGER!
    And I found it refreshing to hear you say that it doesn't fade. It doesn't go away. We just learn to hide it. That time heals all wounds thing is bull. Total and utter bull that was thought up by someone who hasn't been there. It doesn't heal wounds. It gives you a tiny bit of distance from them. Other things work their way in and you are able to focus on those things instead. But the anger and the grief will always be there. (At least in my experience). And you know what? I think we have every right to BE angry. I hate it when someone is grieving and people act like its something bad. Grieve. Do it whenever you need to. Those raging bouts of anger and frustration with the world are cathartic.
    And know you aren't alone.
    Best wishes!