Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Helpless

Back lit field of fire weed and tow-headed babies (also known as mouse on a stick.)

I have never lost anyone close to me. At my age, i think that's unusual. I am lucky. I wonder how i'll feel about it when i do.

Or maybe i'm not lucky, because i have lost two grandmothers, two grandfathers, two-step grandmothers, a step-grandfather, a father-in-law and an Uncle.

And i wasn't close to any of them. It's not that i didn't like most of them, the ones i knew, but i never felt any personal sense of loss when they died, just a vague "Oh, that's sad." Maybe i have a deficit of feelings.

One of the members of my quilting group had colon cancer last year. She is a really nice woman, the kind who never swears or has a bad thing to say about anyone, and i like her anyway. She went through treatment and slowly recovered. Last week she went back for some tests and learned she has liver cancer. That terrifies me, for her, for her family.

I have feelings about this, about her, but i don't know what to do with those feelings, the helplessness. Of course, this is not about my feelings, it's about her, supporting her in any way i can.

I just don't know what those ways are.

28 comments:

flutter said...

it's about you, too. You are allowed to feel.

Cook for them, offer to clean, just be there.

then, be there for you.

I am so sorry for your loss.

Mrs4444 said...

I had the same experience (exactly) until I was 40 and my FIL passed away unexpectedly; it was a real kick in the gut, I tell you.

The helplessness in this situation sucks. I'd say first, make her laugh if you have that kind of relationship; treat her like you always have. Be honest. Cook for her family so that she can have something in the freezer for times she's not up to cooking. Wait a minute...can you cook? Maybe that's not such a good idea...? Massage Gift Certificate?

egan said...

I think by sharing your feelings about this person you know and their unfortunate circumstances, you're making a difference. Dialogue has been created and you've got me thinking about how this would impact my life if I were in your shoes. Sounds like she's pretty lucky to be surrounded by such great people.

dianei said...

What really helped a few of my friends was a food delivery system. Friends would sign up to drop off food each night for dinner. Of course, I'm not much for cooking so on my night I sent take-out.

de said...

During Teri's illness, I got ahold of a book called "Cancer Etiquette," that I found helpful. There are a few books of that type out there. However, reading it didn't actually prevent me from having that totally tearful, selfish last phone call that I will regret for the rest of my life.

(And I know exactly what you mean in the first two paragraphs. Whenever someone talks about the death of their wonderful grandparents, I feel either "huh?" or "my life is bereft of meaning!" depending on the time of the month.)

nick said...

I guess all you can do is talk to her about it, see how she's taking it, and see if there's anything she seems to need from you, be it sympathy, practical help, cooking, sorting out the medical options or whatever.

Magpie said...

Mouse on a stick, huh?

Just be there. Make some cookies and hang out with her. Clean up the kitchen or vacuum the living room - don't ask, just do.

Clowncar said...

You are lucky.

I had a pretty devastating loss a few years back, so devastating that nobody knew what to say. So, my advice would be...say something. It doesn't matter what. Doesn't matter if it's awkward, or comes out all wrong. The effort you make to connect is all that counts.

Mouse on a stick is pretty funny.

thailandchani said...

I know exactly what you mean. The first time we lose a friend is when we really find out about feeling personal loss.

I like Flutter's advice. Cook for them, be there, offer to do practical stuff.



~*

meno said...

flutter, some of us are thinking that we might do mal delivery when she has surgery. So that's a good idea.

mrs 4444, make her laugh? I can do that! And yes, i can cook reasonably well.

egan, she is lucky in that she has great resources and a great set of friends and family.

dianei, i heard from someone who had a loss once that everyone sends lasagna. So i will have to come up with something else.

de, i think that phone call was okay. Like someone here said, you have feelings too.

nick, yes, that is all i can do. Keep her laughing at quilting and let her know i care.

magpie, those flowers are so soft, it's hard to resist touching them. I can make cookies too! Then i'll get double benefit, as i will get to eat some too.

clowncar, yeah, i would totally lose it if something happened to one of my brothers. Thanks for your perspective, that helps.

chani, it just goes to show that family are not always as close to my heart as friends.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

My husband has Alzheimer's and I often liken it to cancer because most of our friends and relatives have drifted away. I used to wonder if they thought it was contagious, but I think it's that like cancer, they don't know what to say and are afraid of saying the wrong thing.

So, while cooking and cleaning are nice, I think spending time with her over tea, whatever she is up to, and just being there for her might be more helpful. Mostly, I would just listen because there may be things she can't express to her family that she needs to tell someone.

When my favorite cousin was dying of cancer, she told me "I need you to believe I will get better," to which I replied, "Of course you will!" I never cried in her presence.

During too much of my life I shut off my feelings because they hurt too much. Perhaps we all do that to some degree, but losing someone we care for awakens us to our own humanity and aliveness. I like to think that our loved ones do this for us by jump starting our feelings and forcing us to fully inhabit them.

Whatever you do will be right, Meno, because you are a kind and caring person.

Mrs. Chili said...

Oh, Honey; it is TOO about your feelings. TRUST me on this one; I've been getting an up-close and personal lesson in loss for the last quarter of a year, and it's not over yet.

Let yourself feel, even if those feelings are contrary to what you think you SHOULD be feeling (I'm at the stage where I wish my mother would finally die, for example). Feelings aren't right or wrong; they just are.

I've found that loss is an opportunity for us to examine our real beliefs about ourselves. Take the time, be gentle with yourself, and let go.

Dick said...

As you know I went through a major loss not too long ago but in my case we were not expecting death. I don't know if I'd rather have know or not but kind of think I'd say not. Your friend may still survive this and I think that is the way you need to look at it. I think the main thing she will need is to know that she has good friends and the support of those friends. Each case is probably a bit different but Thelp where and however you can.

Try to know her family. If she does die, they are the ones who will really need help. At first there are a lot of people around but after a week or two, you really start to feel alone. That's when it is the hardest for the survivors.

Scott from Oregon said...

In solidarity with her chemo... shave your head.

Cheesy said...

flutter... she hit it on the head. When we lost my husband the folks in my life stepped in and helped with the clan and it was the little things that I remember most. As for your friend I think the best thing one can do is just.. listen. Let her vent.. let her tell her stories - for that is what our time here on earth is all about~ sharing ourselves. Also let her listen to yours. We are a race of sharers.. just share yourself.

Cheesy said...

Oh and gift her the book "Cancer on $5 a Day" .... it is the bomb. I laughed my way through Chemo with it!

Marshamlow said...

One of the ladies I volunteer with at the ACS has terminal lung cancer. She is slowly fading away and I have no idea what to say or do. There are a ton of other people there with us who have or have had cancer and I have noticed that they all do a lot of listening. When someone is on Chemo it is sometimes a struggle just to be awake and a sentence or two may take awhile to get out. It seems like allowing yourself to be still and listen. While the world is swirling past it is sometimes nice to have someone who can slow down and just be for a moment. or that is my perception and observation. I am sorry for your friend. Sending hugs.

Dianne said...

there is a family near me dealing with a terminally ill child, then the Dad had a heart attack

first of all wow does that make me feel less inclined to bitch about things

I drop off baked ziti and meatballs a lot, the kids love my Italian food

I never know what to say so one day I told the Mom that and she laughed and loved it - it felt like a door had been opened

I feel more comfortable to ask what she needs/wants and she feels more at ease to really tell me

you have amazing instincts, you'll find your way

jaded said...

Sadly, this is one of those things you can only learn about yourself by enduring.

meno said...

hearts, you are sweet. I like your ideas. I'm sorry that your friends have drifted away. I like to think i won't do that.

mrs. chili, what you have been going through is very applicable. Thank you for sharing it.

dick, your insight is very helpful. I will remember it.

scott, if she loses her hair, i will do that.

cheesy, listen. I can do that. I will do that.

marsha, thank you for the hugs. And for your wise words.

diane, look how you opening up about your feelings opened the door to her. A great lesson.

jaded, yeah, right you are.

Maddy said...

Not really in my area of expertise but I'd hazard a guess that 'not over gushy' / 'don't treat me like a leper' / ' talk to me the way you always do' would be a good start for the people that we 'know' but do not know 'well.'

Ortizzle said...

What are her needs? Try to meet any of them that you can (you and the other members of the group.)

Years ago when I lived in Spain, one of my dearest friends died of liver cancer. She was 35, had only been married for 2 years and left behind an 11 month old infant. When she only had a few months to live, a group of us got together and paid for plane tickets for her and her husband & the baby to visit England and see her family one last time. We knew they did not have the money, and it was a delicate situation, so we cooked up a story about how a friend in a travel agency was able to get them for free. I don't know if she believed that story, but I know she had a great time with her family and I was always glad we had thought of it.

Since your friend is part of your quilting group, why not make (secretly, with the other members) a special quilt that reflects things and people in her life, something that could be left as a legacy to a child if she has children or another family member. I know it sounds awkward, and who knows how and when you would present it, but honestly, it is always surprising how most of the awkwardness in these situations is felt by the people surrounding the one who is terminally ill.

Anyway, just a thought. I know you will know how to cope. Follow your instincts. ((()))

luckyzmom said...

This hit too close to home. This is the only person I remember, ever, being able to be myself with. Continuing to be myself with her is paramount. I am terrified I won't be able to do that for her. So, I have been making excuses for avoiding contact. Thank you for bringing this up. It is a kick in the butt for me.

The Real Mother Hen said...

It's sad, really sad, to watch a friend or a family member get sick and be weaker and weaker as days go by. Most of my friends here are 65+, you know, retirees, and their sickness and death always haunt me.

Sabra Smith said...

What Clowncar said (he's always so clever). And I used to feel the same way -- worried that my feel-o-meter was messed up. But I lost a friend this week, and I've been welling up all over the place. I think somehow (terrible as it sounds) that it's just "the natural course of things" when our older relatives pass away but something else entirely (hence the provoked feelings) when it's a friend.

Vanessa said...

HUGS I'm sorry for your loss. Loss is hard when it's someone close to you. There is no right way or wrong way to deal with it, it's just dealing with it in a way that feels best to you.

sari said...

I'm sorry. I hope that your friend can overcome this.

Eve said...

While my daughter was dying, and after she died, the things that I will never forget is when my friend just came and sat with me as my daughter died. Also, how another friend folded laundry with me the day of her death.

I know your friend hasn't died yet. But just being there and not even doing anything is a gift.