Grief as a helpless bystander

Here’s where my blog becomes an outlet for my own inner demons… if it’s too heavy for you, I apologize.  But this entry is really for me.

I have a coworker who is 41 – basically my age – and fighting cancer.  She has a very rare, super fast growing type that no one even really knows the name of, which isn’t even important.  Suffice it to say, it is THE BIG C.  When I was having Baby Sister, she was having her uterus removed because it was full of a huge tumor.  That was ten months ago.  She went through chemo and radiation and the tumor was gone and we were all very positive.

But then it came back…

And she did more radiation and more chemo and stayed positive and never let anyone really know how bad it was – or at least me, anyway.  And then, out of the blue last week we got an email stating that she wasn’t coming back and that there wasn’t anything else that they could do but manage her pain for the next couple of weeks.  I know enough about that little catch phrase to know it means she is not going to win her fight against this disease.  And that just plain sucks.

I am seriously at a loss.  Me, who always knows what to say and what to do or if I don’t, doesn’t care because I just breeze through life taking what comes in stride.  Except what do you say to someone when you know that whatever you have to say is trivial?  I think the hardest part for me is that we are co-workers, not friends.  I don’t feel like I could tell her I love her and hug her and cry.  Others on the team have worked with her long enough that they are both and so they can.  I’ve never hugged her before now so I would feel like a fraud if I did it now.

Her significant other told us she was feeling up for visitors for a couple of days before they leave to head across country and spend her last days with her family.  And I couldn’t bring myself to go.  I feel like I’m some kind of emotional failure because I can’t.  I just know it would be me sitting there staring at her, crying, with nothing to say and taking time away from her and those that she would rather be spending her last days with.  But what does that say about me that I don’t want to go and “say my goodbyes”?  It isn’t like she is quitting her job and just not going to work with us anymore, she is dying. I feel just as sad as the rest that she won’t get to grow old, to see her kids get married and have children of their own and everything else a person my age has to look forward to doing in their lifetime.  But I feel like an outsider who is reading about her in the paper because we don’t have a close or deep relationship, even though I will miss her.

I feel a bit better today after talking to one of the people who did go to visit.  She told me when they were there that she was very out of it, sleeping mostly, surrounded by her family and that it was as if she had let them come for their sake instead of hers.  Imagine being in so much pain and suffering so much and still letting people come to say their goodbyes.  How emotionally draining for her when there are so many other things she is struggling with! 

I don’t have emotional ties and I won’t have regrets that I didn’t go to see her before she died so I’m going to leave it at that and try to feel okay with everything instead of beating myself up for not going.  Although part of me feels like that makes me some kind of heartless bitch who is rationalizing myself out of an awkward situation to make it easier on myself.  One thing is for sure, I don’t like being in this limbo area reserved for acquaintances – I think I’d rather be a close friend or a stranger when it comes to grief.  At least then there are clear-cut roles for you to step into based on tradition and culture.  Life is short – squeeze those you love and live every minute as if it were your last because there are no guarantees any of us will live to see old age…

About terraluft

Writer; wife, mother, survivor, and impulsive bitch rarely capable of saying no. Fueled by coffee, yoga and sarcasm. (She/Her) View all posts by terraluft

One response to “Grief as a helpless bystander

  • Callie

    This sucks. Cancer sucks. i hate what cancer does to people and their families, and your message here proves that it reaches out even farther than that. I hate the emotional rollercoaster that goes with the treatments, the remissions and the prognosis of you have only “this much” time left. I hate the powerless feeling we all feel against this terrorist, cancer.

    Thanks for writing this. Justin's Uncle is also in his last stages of this horrible disease, and I know what you mean by not being exactly sure what to do.

    At times like these, I pray. But often I wish I could do more.

    I don't really have answers for your situaion either. But again, it was good to read this.. And know that you aren't alone as you watch, helplessly, and none of us can do anything to stop this terrible, consuming monster.

    It does make us all stop, and feel and cry and be a bit more thankful for the family and health that we do have.


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