What is grief?
Grief is the process of learning a new way to love after loss.
Cancer may lead to the loss of a breast, or two, your hair, physical energy, emotional strength, faith, plans for the future, relationships, and more. A typical response to loss is “Why me?” And, the process of finding an acceptable answer takes time. Grief is the interaction between your thoughts, behaviors and feelings as you ask and seek answers to big questions. Grief is a complicated process.
The grieving process begins after loss.
You may think you have found an answer, but with the passing of time you may find yourself back in the grieving process, needing a different answer. Looking at your mastectomy scars initially after surgery may result in feeling sad and thoughts of illness. But, months after mastectomy, looking at your scars may result in feeling strong and thoughts of improved health. Grief can be compared to ocean waves. At times, the waves are small enough to handle, but then there are times when a wave of grief hits you out of nowhere and you feel like you are drowning.
Grief is an on-going process that reemerges as you continue to live life after loss.
How can I love my body after it has been diagnosed with cancer? How do I love myself after my body has betrayed me? How do I love this unfair world? These are big questions with complex answers. Cancer leads you to ask many questions most people haven’t considered. Grief is hard work and can leave you feeling drained of energy. It is important to talk to a trusted friend, or professional, about your experiences of loss. Finding a safe space to discern answers to your questions can help you feel grounded at a time when waves of grief seem to repeatedly knock you off your feet. Pretending your life is the same after loss typically results in feelings of isolation and despair.
Grief invites you to learn a new way to love and understand the world.
You may personally know the experience of being diagnosed with cancer, or you may be the loved one of an individual finding their way through a cancer diagnosis, either way the journey of grief is one we will all travel at some point in life. Reaching out and asking for company as you travel the journey takes courage. The Breast Cancer Resource Center is an excellent place to find trusted individuals to help you through the grieving process. The BCRC can connect you with one-on-one support and/or support circles. As you travel this journey, be kind to yourself, give yourself time, and find someone you trust who can hold space for you to learn a new way to love your body, your life, and the world.
Sandra Bravo is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Austin, Texas. Through her private practice, Bravo Counseling Center, PLLC, she works with individuals, and their loved ones, as they journey through cancer-related issues. You can contact and learn more about Sandra through her website: sandrabravo.org