The loneliness is thick. It wraps around you and somehow holds you still. The silence is heavy. People don’t know what to say or what to do. They can’t imagine being in your situation, so they go quiet.
Your situation…the sucker punch to the gut. Out of nowhere. One day everything was moving at the normal, hectic pace and the next thing you know, you hear words that change everything.
A diagnosis. A life-altering event. News about a loved one that truly takes your breath away — in a bad way. A sucker punch to the gut.
What do you do? Fall head first into the rabbit hole of fears and anxiety? Get to your knees and pray? Come out swinging, filled with rage? All three?
Part of me turned off in the beginning. The feelings part…and my brain went into overdrive. Learn everything. Read everything. Question everything. But don’t feel. If I start to feel, I will head into that rabbit hole and I can’t let him see. Be strong for him. Learn with him. Be there for him.
I didn’t do the rage thing. Just not in me.
But I did drop to my knees and prayed for help, continually asking for strength and clarity. I remember attending Mass one Sunday when I was feeling so overwhelmed it was hard to breathe. I cannot tell you a single word that was spoken, a single hymn that was sung. I went through the motions but for the entire service, I said, “Help me," over and over again in my head.
Our life has changed.
Recently, a dear friend said to me, “I feel like the hammer could drop at any minute…because we haven’t gone through a really hard time in our life yet.”
Now that we are quickly approaching our fifties, this struck me as an odd thing to say. I’ve known him for well over 20 years and I can tell you, he and his family have had their fair share of challenges.
But he has forgotten. His lens is so focused on my family’s experience, that he has forgotten that he’s made it through his own hard times. He is looking at his life at this moment in time, and comparing it to mine, thinking “my life hasn’t had a challenge like theirs”. But it is not true.
All of us have trials in our life; a sucker punch moment, or two… or three. Some of us feel like the sucker punches come on a weekly basis. Yet many people look at my family situation and put a heavier weight on what we are going through, than the challenges they are facing or have faced in the past. They feel like they can’t relate to us. They think we are so much stronger, or more resilient than they are. They are wrong.
Just sitting here thinking about my family and friends, I can list some of their challenges:
A child with cancer…A sibling with cancer…A parent with cancer…Dementia…Autism
Depression…Alcoholism…Anxiety…Life altering food allergies…Stroke…Heart disease…Loss of a parent…Caring for parents who are physically or mentally declining…
This is life. Real life. There are challenges with any one of these diagnoses and the individuals facing these hardships show strength and resiliency every day. Each and every day.