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I'm here for many reasons 
Started by melissaarden
28 Oct 2016, 8:45 PM

Hello to all.

I'm here for many reasons and I don't know where to begin. Whether to introduce myself professionally or as a person who really needs this platform for support. Well, let me begin by telling you all that I am an anthropologist in my Master's degree at a Canadian university. My topic of study, is palliative care and community support. In this light it may seem like I am here for solely academic purposes but I can't tell you enough how much reading through some of your comments have helped me grow as a person. You see, the reason why I chose this topic is because my whole life I have lived in a state of grief without knowing how to hande it, and feeling completely alone in how I felt.

I was born around death. My mom lost her father at the age of 15 to a heart attack, her mother at the age of 18 to a brain aneurism, and her brother at the age of 20 to suicide. I was born into a world of grief and it was an awfully helpless experience as a 4 year old when I came to understand what grief looked like. As a young child still, my grandfather on my dad's side died of hereditary illnesses when I was 7 years old. Of course this was hard to process being young and experiencing death first hand, but not even a few months later, my friend and classmate who was also 7 died in a tragic truck accident burned alive. I spent years in a state of psychological trauma, unable to sleep properly, unable to attend school, and unwilling to seek professional help. Following this, when I was 8 my father had a heart attack and was simultaneously diagnosed with diabetes. Thankfully with surgeries and medications he is still alive today, but I have always (and I mean even as often as every single living day of my life as recenty as today and yesterday and the day before that) lived with anticipatory grief. I can't remember the last Christmas that I didn't spend crying because I was worried it was going to be the last one. My problem I think is that I can't stop dwelling on the fact that we will die. I cannot accept it and I just don't know how. This was probably exacerbated by the fact that I had two aunts diagnosed with cancer when I was 12, one of whom died not long after, and a total of 8 friends throughout  my highschool career from ages 16-18 who commited suicide as a result of my community's poor access to psychological support services.

I never planned to study what I am now because I wanted to avoid the topic altogether and stop "dwelling" on it. That is, until this summer when a member of my best friend group was suddenly diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma at the young ripe age of 24. To watch him go downhill after the removal of his first tumour, watching more tumours pop up and swell making him look 9 months pregnant was devastating. Watching him go through chemo only to be told that it didn't rid him of his tumours. Watching his extremely religious family refuse to follow the medication regimen because they believed that Jesus healed him, left him in extreme suffering pain that angered me to no end. Watching him shrink to nothing but skin and bones unable to complete a sentence because he was so weak. There was nothing I could do to help. His partner, also a best friend of mine since the age of 3, is a palliative care nurse herself and she is devastated and wants to run away and I have no idea how to handle (seemingly selfish to say) my own grief with all of my own problems and to be there for her to. I really can't do it without feeling like I might break down completely. 

I chose the topic of palliative care and support services as my focus in school because it feels hopeful. It feels like through this topic, I might finally be able to shake this lifetime worth of grief that I carry everyday and to help me cope for what is to come in the future with my own aging parents whose health is only getting worse. Because as it is right now I know that I will not be able to handle myself if something were to happen. I honestly don't know what I would do. And I don't want to be so afraid of myself, for myself. I want to be able to care for my friends and family when they need me without being a complete disfucntional wreck.

I suppose what I am here for is to ask you brave people how you are doing what you are doing and if you can help me to overcome some of my biggest concerns about how not to keep dwelling on the inevitable. How can you possibly cope given the circumstances that you're in. I admire you all so much and like I said YOU are all the reason I feel a sense of hope in what is to come. I am blessed to have stumbled across this site even if not because I will receive some life altering response to my post, because what I have read from the participants of this site have shown me that I'm not alone.

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Reply by Carlyn
29 Oct 2016, 12:47 AM

Dear Mel,

Welcome, i'm sorry for all you've been through. Your field of study is so interesting and I'm grateful to you that you've joined us here. I'm not a professional. I appreciate that you're delving into this from both sides here, both professional and personal. 

Well, I had a long reply but my internet dropped and it's been lost. After reading your post several times, something occurred to me. Instead of feeling you have to be the handler for everyone and everything when the time comes or even now with your friend, would you be comfortable putting yourself on equal footing and showing your grief, sharing it with your loved ones?

I ask this because we're all different, you've got a wealth of experiences and you said you're worried about falling apart. I think it's ok to fall apart actually. Not everyone does. But some do and that's ok. The first time was the worst for me but after that first time, it got easier. I've had several significant deaths and losses and have survived them all, though it wasn't fun. Still as your interest is community support, you're ahead of the curve it seems - that is the key. Community support. Even just one good person to support you if that's all you have, that's good.

I hope this helps as a jumping off point. Everyone else here has such varied and deep experiences, i'm really looking forward to a discussion on this. You've been through a lot and I know many here have a lot to offer in support. Your post resonates with my own life on several levels but the main point is easing your concerns here so I've started here. 

It's good you found us. Your fear is understandable I think. I hope we can ease that for you some at least.

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Reply by melissaarden
07 Nov 2016, 12:38 AM

Hi Carlyn, 

Thanks for your reply!! I appreciate your reflection on what I have shared. I have to admit it's made me feel pretty vulnerable over the last week or so, and I contemplated taking the post down but again that would just be evasion of facing the grief. When I have tried to bring up this grief with loved ones it never goes well because I tell them how I feel and then they internzlize those feelings to conceive of themselves as burdens on me!! That is not true!!! I don't want anyone to feel like they are a burden on me simply for being mortal!! In turn they worry about how I will get on afterwards (after their death) if this is how I feel already (my mom and dad especially). Maybe I need to find a better way to communicate these feelings with loved ones. I am just not sure how because I also don't want to make someone reflect on something they aren't ready to.

I am glad you reiterated the key role that community support plays, because I already feel like what I can gain here is a lot more practical and experiental knowledge that i can put towards coping with grief and anticipatory grief. I think I feel intimidated by authority, especially that or medical professionals who always have an answer and seem to always "know" whats best for you... I don't trust it and I would much rather listen to a community of people talking than a authoritative figure telling me how to cope. Here I can listen to a plethora of voices and choose to draw inspiration from whichever ones speak to me. 

I hope that you are able to relate with that in some way Carlyn. Otherwise I am sure you wouldn't be here if you didn't find the community a welcoming, shared, and helpful space. 

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