Grieving the Loss of a Childhood Friend
Our final conversation was through Facebook and it was about the Keto Diet. She had been on some variation of it for years to try to keep her thyroid cancer at bay. Thyroid cancer is supposed to be one of the most treatable types of cancer. Except she had the incredibly rare iodine resistant variety.
She fought for seven years and left behind an almost eight-year-old son, a grieving husband and extended family, and thousands of friends.
She was one of those people. If you met her once, you considered her a friend. She was outgoing, funny, and generous. She made every one of her friends feel like she was her best friend.
No goodbye to my best friend
We grew up together and for a period of years, she was truly my best friend, one of the few people in my life, to this day, to hold that title. We had lost touch until a few years ago when she moved back to the area, and then only kept in touch via social media when her husband’s job relocated them again.
She used social media as an amazing tool for sharing news, both good and bad, as well as for encouraging others. Because of this her reach was amazing.
I’m still not sure any of us comprehend how far her story traveled, and with it, her message of undying hope.
She was always real. I remember her talking about feeling guilty for getting fries and a McFlurry when she felt stressed out. Like when her husband was traveling and she had the care of her son all by herself. She knew it wasn’t healthy for her, and yet, she was like the rest of us and just doing the best she could.
It’s been nearly three months since she died, and I finally watched her last Facebook live message today. When she originally went live I watched the first minute or two and then my kids started bugging me, so I figured I’d get back to it later.
Shortly after, I got the word that she was in a medically induced coma to help her body recover from the bad reaction it was having to the full body radiation, the radiation to hopefully, finally kick the cancer for good.
She never woke up.
I knew I wanted to watch it, and yet I kept putting it off because of how much it would hurt. But today I just sat down and did it. Yes, my kids interrupted me multiple times, yet it still felt like she was talking directly to me.
For the first time I allowed myself to really, deeply miss her.
I didn’t see her very often, so the grieving process has been odd. It’s been me grieving that I reached the age where my friends are dying. This is the first time another young mom friend of mine has died and left behind a husband and child.
It’s a different kind of grief, tinged with anger over the injustice of a broken world. A world where someone so young has her life cut short by a disease she was told, in the beginning, would be curable.
One of the things she said in her final message was that we should never be afraid to share with each other what we are struggling with. She would ask people how she could pray for them and they would say
“Oh, I’m not dealing with anything compared to you, don’t even worry about it.” That made her so sad.
It’s not a competition over who has the worst problems. It’s about connection and relationship.
I did exactly that. I hardly ever told her about the tough stuff we were going through anymore and today
I immediately had the urge to message her and tell her what was going on in my life. To tell her the challenges my husband is facing at work and my fears about our financial future. To share with her the issues we are having with our children and know that she would pray for us.
But I can’t do that.
I can’t turn back the clock and be a better friend and cultivate more authenticity in my relationship with her. But I can make different choices today.
I can risk oversharing or offending when I tell the truth to a friend who honestly asks how I’m doing. I can genuinely ask the same question in return and actually listen to the answer.
Grief has taken its odd twists and turns, but today was different. It hurt but also felt good, like some kind of physical therapy for my soul. As I process what it means to lose a friend my own age, and deal with my own fear of mortality, it stretches me, and leaves my heart, bigger and more open than it was before.
Also check out: This is Why I Miss How Things Used to Be
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