An acquaintance of mine, but a dear friend to some of my dear friends, lost her 19 y.o. son this morning. He was spring breaking in FL and had a diving accident. I can’t imagine. We worked together years ago at a pediatric oncology hospital. Grief and loss was sort of our specialty and now she is feeling the most unimaginable pain. I can’t bear it for her. I can’t bear it for any parent. I have done the vast majority of my clinical work in that setting, 14 years of my clinical work to be exact. I provided emotional support and grief counseling to parents who were navigating the world of chronic or terminal illness with a child. I have written articles and book chapters about it. I was really good at it until I started having children of my own. Ironically when I was not a parent but working away everyday in that stress, seeing people at their very best or very worst, I was able to offer comfort and support. I was able to help them make sense of what was happening and come through their journey relatively intact. I should say here that ‘relatively intact’ means that they (most of them anyway) came though able to function and go on with their lives. Forever changed but functional.
I thought that I was able to understand how much they loved their child
and what they were feeling.
What a big giant stupid head I was.
For as soon as I had my own child the full impact of what those parents had lost and were losing came crashing on my head. I remember vividly sitting and rocking my 3 week- old son during my maternity leave, having had this realization of how much a parent loves their child, and I sobbed for every child that had died at the hospital, for every mother and father and grandmother and grandfather and sibling and aunt and uncle and godparent and good friend.
I had friends and family members tell me it was the baby blues.
Oh no. I knew exactly what I was crying about.
I went back to work when my son was 4 months old. It killed me to leave him but I had loved my job and it was also good to get back and see my co-workers and how all the little people were doing. When meeting the first new patient they assigned to me, I remember walking to the closed conference room door where the family was about to get some really devastating news (that I had already been warned about) and I stood outside with my hand poised to knock and I stopped. I had to MAKE myself knock on that door.
I would have rather set my own hair on fire and put it
out with a tack hammer than knock on that door.
Because now I knew how much that mother and father loved that child. Now I knew how deep their fear was that they would lose him.
I did go in of course. And the little boy had a really, really bad brain tumor that, as predicted, did not respond to treatment. After a few months he did die. I was in the room at the time of death. And his parents grieved and suffered and felt like they wanted to be dead too. And I cried and cried.
It got to the point that even my kid’s pediatrician recommended I find another job. On an almost daily basis I was POSITIVE that my baby was dying of cancer. My finest moment was when Jumping Bean was about 3 months old, while I was changing her diaper I felt ‘a mass’ near her rectum.
I called the Ped’s office and told the nurse,
“I WILL NOT BE TRIAGED!”
|(diaper bag brick)|
They shrank in fear and let me come right in. The kind female pediatrician, also a mom and near my age, patted my hand and told me it was her sphincter muscle.
I went part-time.
Sure in the belief that if I was only immersed in that part-time that I would only be insane part-time.
The oncologists at the hospital tell parents over and over how rare childhood cancer is and how most children survive to adulthood. I cognitively know that. However, it is hard to believe when you know so many that don’t. [I was told by a very wonderful oncologist that most pediatricians see one case in their career and it is so very rare and don’t worry so much, enjoy your children].
I live in constant fear that something will happen to one of my children. I am neurotic about it. I am jealous of people that are unaware of that side of life. I am jealous of naivety. I had a dream last night that Jumping Bean was clinging to the wing of a plane high in the air and I was screaming at her to hold on but no sound was coming out. I went and got in bed with her when it woke me up.
My children possibly think I am insane.
And now there is another family in shock and pain. My thoughts and prayers go out to them and all of the others sitting in a hospital today.