“Laugh, and the world laughs with you; grieve, and you grieve alone.” Adapted from Ella Wheeler Wilcox
When I Lost my Mother to Cancer
Unprepared for the harsh realities of grief at the tender age of 22, I sunk into a profound depression after my mother died of lung cancer. My mother, an incredibly gifted writer, died at the untimely age of 56 years old. Soon after, the aching lump in my throat and throbbing wound in my heart deepened as my mother’s family and closest friends walked out of my life. Then most of my friends, who had little experience with mourning, abandoned me because “I was no fun anymore.” Truly inconsolable, my father retreated into a bottle of bourbon on Friday and Saturday nights. For years, he and I shared lonely holidays with only the ghosts of Christmas past. So, I adopted a kitten who became my companion in my grief. With the support of my pet and my psychotherapist, I slowly scratched and clawed my way out of despair to start a new life.
When I Lost Hope of Children to Infertility
After years of failed infertility treatment, I lost the hope of ever having biological children or grandchildren due to my husband’s infertility. Upon the final failed round of in-vitro fertilization, my husband left me for a younger, thinner chicky because I was a pessimist. Shortly afterward, I learned that he had been having an extramarital affair with this woman for the entire time I endured difficult medical procedures to have his child. My entire in-law family abandoned me to embrace this adulterous woman, whom my husband married less than a year after our divorce. Since I was no longer married or financially stable, I lost the hope of adopting children.
My father, who had remarried, could not offer emotional support because he served as his second wife’s primary caregiver as she battled cancer. When she died, her family abandoned him within two months. Again, my father and I shared our holidays with even more ghosts of Christmas past.
Even the kitten who had stood by me during my grief over my mother was no longer with me. Shortly before my wedding, I offered him to a loving family because my husband claimed to be allergic to cats.
No words can describe the empty holes in my heart every time I see a cooing baby at the grocery store or hear the happy sounds of children playing in the park. As time marches on, these holes loom even larger as many of my peers become grandparents. As an only child abandoned by relatives, in-laws and stepfamily, I have no family ties to children.
After years of psychotherapy and a healing trip to Sedona, I adopted my beloved cat, Patience.
When I Lost my Father to Old Age
At the ripe age of 88, my father passed away. His beloved cat, Penelope, to whom a tribute will be made in an upcoming blog post, stood faithfully by his side during his last days. Although I celebrated most holidays alone with one more ghost of Christmas Past, my cat, Patience and my Dad’s cat, Penelope stood faithfully by my side along with a few friends.
Two years after my father died, I met my soulmate, a profoundly gifted writer like my mother. Over the course of five years, we suffered many losses (including my Dad’s cat, Penelope) before we finally could afford to get married.
When I Lost my Husband to Grief
Weeks before our scheduled wedding, my husband’s father died after a long battle with cancer. Grief-stricken, my husband lapsed into a moderate depression. After being prescribed a common antidepressant by a psychiatrist, he became psychotic. Days after starting a mild anti-psychotic medication, he suffered a stroke.
While he struggled with medication-induced psychosis and stroke-related dementia, he lost his job, his ability to write, his standing in the community, his retirement savings, his access to healthcare, his financial stability, his hopes of retirement and his identity. Consequently, people he had known for years suddenly avoided him, ignored him, shunned him, limited necessary contact with him, offered last-minute party invitations in hopes he wouldn’t attend, whispered about him behind his back or chastised him to “Get over it!” He was even abandoned by a therapist and psychiatrist shortly after he lost his job (and perceived ability to pay for services).
With the help of many competent professionals (neurologist, neuropsychologist and life coach), he recovered almost fully from his stroke. A brilliant psychiatrist and faith-based psychotherapist nurtured him out of psychosis. However, the profound losses he suffered from social abandonment were too much. He has yet to recover from his grief.
Every day I pray to God for guidance and support. I hope that my mother, my father my stepmother and my passed kitties will continue to watch over me as I struggle through this grief. I am eternally grateful to my beloved cat, Patience, who comforts me day after day. Never once has she offered me platitudes, reminded me that others have problems, regaled me with her problems, pointedly ignored me, avoided me or abandoned me. Patience stands with me alone.
Photo under license from Shutterstock.com