Earlier this week, Elephants Voice interviewed grieving daughter Lauren Cheshire who lost her mother to bowel cancer earlier this year. As this grief was still intensely raw it felt appropriate to also share how grief begins to cope with time.
Grief may stand still but life keeps going and it felt important to share how to start moving forward once again.
To read part one of the blogs feature ‘The kids behind the cancer‘, before delving into the second half of this two parter, click here.
Lauren Entwistle lost her father just under three years ago and has had to learn how to carry on life – without her dad. Micheal died aged 47 leaving behind two children -though his age is shocking it’s not unusual when you look at the statistics.
Mortality due to age rises sharply from 50+ with those struggling against bowel cancer. Sadly the mortality rates for males is much higher than that of females.
Lauren is still learning how to deal with the loss of her father every single day.
Each time she receives news, good or bad, she has to accept that there’s one person she can’t share that news with.
She has to cope with her boy problems without a fathers ear to whisper in, telling her that boys grow out of it.
She has to accept that one day she won’t be walked down the aisle by the most important man in her life.
Lauren has to get through fathers day, birthdays and Christmas day. And, one day her wedding day, without her daddy.
But what about the nothing days? The lazy days and take outs. When you miss someome that bad you miss the arguments. Lauren’s lost not just Michael as a father figure but also Michael the friend who shared music over Facebook and watched the same TV series as her.
“I lost my Dad nearly three years ago due to bowel cancer.”
“He had it for four years prior to his death. I was thirteen when he was first diagnosed – he had collapsed and been rushed to the hospital.
“The years that followed were just long bouts of operation after operation, chemotherapy treatments after emergency blood-transfusions and more.”
Lauren and her dad were extremely close – though this relationship was tried and tested in his later years of life when he remarried and created another family with a woman who didn’t get along with Lauren.
“She made it particularly difficult for me to spend time with him and express my feelings to him about everything. It was upsetting and difficult, but the moments we did get together are what I cling to – especially memories of him and myself when I was little.”
Though the cancer found a way to not only worm into her father’s healthy body but also into her mind – poisoning her happy memories.
“Initially the grief was such a sharp stabbing pain. It makes you feel empty and it hurts and it is just awful. But as time passes, you wake up and find that it has lessened to a dull ache that occasionally flares. It is bittersweet.”
“I remember finding it particularly tough to digest the news that it was cancer because your brain just jumps to it being a ‘death sentence’ to someone that you love.
“The one that really dug in was a few years later when he told me it was terminal.”
“I cried, he cried – but then we never really spoke about it and what it meant after that. That year was incredibly difficult. No matter how much you think you’ve got it down and are prepared for their death, the way you’ve played it out in your head is never how it actually turns out to be.”
Even years after initially suffering the loss Lauren is plighted with regrets – a curse always suffered by those lefts behind after a loved ones life is cut short.
“I was told to get everything out that you need to, and to tell the dying person what you feel or you’ll regret not doing so. Again, easier said than done – because it is such a delicate situation.”
“I did feel isolated. All my friends could not understand the prolonged pain and ruptured life behind closed doors, and when they tried to relate – it just felt a bit false. Those who did support me were brilliant, but some I later discovered were just doing ‘pity work’. A few weeks after Dad’s death – they were nowhere to be seen.”
Many grieving people often share that they feel that a hole is left in their heart – an empty space that they often feel. Think of how active most parents are within their children’s life – that’s a fucking big hole. One that Lauren often feels…
“I feel the gap left by a lost parent quite often. Whenever I see mannerisms in myself that remind me of Dad, or if I have a question that needs answering that he would be perfect to answer – so much.”
“I recently turned 20 and had a little cry because I wanted him to see who I have grown into.”
“On big dates, like birthdays and notable occasions it really stings. I suspect it really will when I graduate, get married or if I have children. Because there’s a person that really should be there to see all that.”
To cope with the enormity of emotions that Lauren was having to deal with she, like many others, turned to the internet. A faceless stranger is often easier to talk to than an emotional family member…
“At the time I was vlogging and beginning to write online, and made a Youtube post on living with a parent with a terminal illness. I ended up getting a lot of support from people who really understood and struck up a friendship with a girl who’s Mum had breast cancer. Both of our parents sadly passed, but we are still incredibly close friends (I’ve actually just come back from visiting her) and can easily talk about that sort of thing, including the aftermath.”
Sometimes re-listening to voicemails and going back through seemingly unimportant text messages from your lost loved one isn’t enough anymore, and it shouldn’t be. Those grieving deserve support – even if it’s just someone to get the tissues you cry into.
Cancers poison not only stings those that it infects – those around are also hugely affected. Lauren’s advice to others comes after nearly three years of grieving her father’s death:
“Try to talk to those who have gone through similar things, and make sure you take the time to grieve. This is not an easy thing to go through – and you are not obligated to be brave.”
Cancer will continue to be the word we all dread, with 1 in 2 of us expected to be diagnosed at some point in our lives. However, humanity will continue to be stronger.