Cancer, Grief, and Words
I have been thinking a lot about cancer these days. Almost half my caseload has cancer or I see children who have lost a parent to cancer or spouses with a partner with cancer. It seems like cancer is everywhere. Cancer does affect everyone.
Grief is an intimate process of a uniquely individual design initiated for the purpose of transitioning loss.Loss is everywhere. Just like cancer.
When I work with cancer and those who bravely traverse the terrain of what this means to them I am in wonder of the courage it takes to make this emotional journey. Words help the process, yet words are difficult for people even though this is our main platform of communication. I hear people stumble with words, hold words back, bite their tongues, and express fear of saying too much or too little. I have some suggestions.
Words help us bridge to another. We want honest words well-honed to identify the emotion that is uppermost in our heart. So for the child with a dying father or the wife with a dying husband it is important to say things and to work on any unresolved piece that may exist. It is not that the world will fall apart if one doesn’t step up with truth, but the survivors of a death have years ahead to mull over what was and wasn’t said.
Children need help from the healthy parent (the one who does not have cancer) and the healthy parent needs help from friends, siblings, and other family members. Help that comes in the form of encouragement to go to the truth is important.
I work with so many people who are left with unfinished business following a death. It is as though the cancer that took mother carries on into her children or spouse. It is not cancer, but an emotional cancer.
Cancer that is not treatable or one that is aggressive and terminal produces a state of helplessness. Helplessness is an alarming state for mind, body, and spirit. Studies show a connection between depression and cancer, between stressors and cancer, and between sustained powerlessness and disease or illness.
Words of love, words of connection, words of gratitude and words that evoke hope are all good. Everyone leaves a legacy and even death is filled with a gift. People leave their spirit, their contributions, their love, their strength, their bonds, and hundreds of things behind for the use of others with their passing. These things that are left often come in the form of words. We are all pebbles thrown into a large or small pond with ripples that extend endlessly.
There is power in words. Words have the ability to soothe and mend or to wound and destroy.
Take each word and mold it to fit your most compassionate truth. Find the word that rolls easily from your heart before it is projected outward. Practice how gently you can convey even the most difficult feelings. Words are our creation. Words help us grieve. Words are an intimate part of the grief process.
Take Care and Be Well
Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD
Burton Mongelluzzo, N. (2013). Cancer, Grief, and Words. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 21, 2017, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/angst-anxiety/2013/05/cancer-grief-and-words/