Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Friday, January 23, 2004


It suddenly occurred to me that if I take all of my government mandated twelve weeks of Family/Medical Leave to care for Mom, I won’t have any leave time for maternity leave. That’s bad, especially considering that I want to get pregnant as soon as possible so that Mom at least knows that I’m pregnant when she dies. I don’t have great expectations that she will ever meet my child.

And that makes me so sad. That’s one of the few things that can knock down any chirpy pleasantness at a moment’s notice. Another is the thought of the wake.

The wake means a swarm of family and friends before, after, and in between the funeral events. Will I be entitled to make rules about who stays in the house? Will I have the energy to enforce them? Will I finally brawl with my domineering cousin, or will I cow to her and be frustrated and angry and annoyed? Will I even be able to function?

When my aunt—mother of the domineering cousin—died, I wasn’t functional. She had been diagnosed with lung cancer in late January, having presented with severe back pain and numbness in her legs; she had been considerably limited in mobility since Christmas. Those spinal problems were the result of her lung cancer metastasizing to her bones.

In April, less than three months later, my mother called me to tell me she had breast cancer. I quit my job. My best friend for the prior thirteen years moved to Bolivia in May. In July, my aunt died. I fell apart. The insurance company proved to be useless at outlining the necessary steps for getting a covered therapist. The one I finally saw suppressed any emotional wellness I still had in me, and I was suicidal. I managed to eke out decent grades in two classes that summer, but to this day, I don’t remember a thing about either. Brooke lived with me then, and getting along with others wasn’t my strong suit. She stuck around, but no one knows why.

By the following spring, I had recovered enough to get a job in my field, and I stuck with it after graduation. That’s one year to return to functional, and it wasn’t my mother who died. So, no. I probably won’t be able to care for myself, work at my job, and maintain reasonable social contacts. Her death will be too much, and her wake will be nothing in comparison. Can I do that to a child, either a fetus or a baby? Should I?

Well, I want to. And if given the chance, I will. I’m selfish. I’m pissed off that this has to be an issue, so I’ll turn back to denial and pretend I’m moving on with my life.


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