Is it wrong to be sad on Christmas? (Mourning the life I thought I’d have)

December 24th, 2010 § 4 comments

Originally written December 25, 2008

(three weeks after my salpingo-oophorectomy and two years after my diagnosis of breast cancer. This was actually the first blogpost I ever wrote.)

I’ve only cried once today. That’s not too bad. But the day is not yet done. Today, again, I’m thinking of the things that cancer has taken from me. First, let me say that I am well aware of the blessings I have. I remember them each and every minute of every day. They are what keeps me going, keeps me fighting. But today, again, I’m pulled into what’s gone, what’s irretrievable, what’s changed.

The body parts are gone, of course. My feeling of immortality. Of safety, of security. I’m vulnerable now. And I feel it. Part of me wants to blaze down I-95 at 100 miles an hour because I’ve stared down cancer, so what can touch me now? Taking risks is a popular grief reaction. On the other hand, a part of me wants to curl up in bed and not come out.

Today, on Christmas, when the childlike wonder is all around, I feel like I am watching it from high above me, as it happens TO ME, around me. I smile, I do what I am supposed to do, I play the “Santa game” with my children. I eat delicious food. I gather up the gift wrap strewn about the living room. I pile the presents in the kids’ rooms. I pack their suitcases for their 3:30 a.m. wakeup for their winter vacation. Half my family is leaving me tomorrow. They’ll be back, of course, but they are leaving. And while they are gone I will ponder the sadness that has settled like a cloud since my latest surgery almost a month ago.

I know I’ll be fine… everyone tells me so, as if to will it to be that way. Even in my darkest moments I know it is only temporary. But I am angry at cancer. Angry at the bad twist of fate that makes me unable to travel this year, unable to be myself, unable to shake this feeling that the dark cloud just seems to keep following me, like those creepy paintings in the museum whose eyes seem to follow your every move.

And knowing the other people who are similarly sad today, those who are remembering loved ones lost, and those who are suffering in pain, and those who will head in for more chemo and surgery and therapies before the year is out are also forever changed by the great equalizer of cancer.

To anyone who reads this and thinks it sounds so odd, so foreign– something that happens to “someone else”… I am so happy for you. I am jealous of you. I remember that feeling, but I am almost getting to the point where I am unable to remember it. I never thought it would be me thinking this way, feeling this way. But it is me. And it’s taking a long time to grieve for that life I thought I would have.

Maybe that’s what it is.

I’m in mourning.

I’m mourning the life I thought I would have.

And only time can help that.1

  1. I should say that the surgical menopause had a terrible biochemical effect on me. I went into a deep depression for a few months while my body adjusted to the lack of hormones. I had no idea that would happen; no one had warned me. That surprise, combined with a longer physical recovery than I’d been led to believe I would have, put me in a pretty dark place. []

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§ 4 Responses to Is it wrong to be sad on Christmas? (Mourning the life I thought I’d have)"

  • Nita says:

    Well said. Mourning the life we thought we had, the life we were one our way to having. That’s what we’re doing when the tears threaten, and sometimes win. Thanks for making me feel better about feeling sad.:) ~Nita

  • COLMORIAIN says:

    Beautifully written heartfelt blog but I feel that all sudden illness challenge our preconceptions of an imagined life potential suddenly seeming out of reach. In truth though we all live in the present while often becoming hidebound by an imagined lost reality of either past or future. I feel that your frustration and anger at this sudden harsh cancer is totally understandable but I also feel that you have so much potential still to realise a wonderfully fulfilled life. Cherish the moment with your family and friends and thanks for sharing your personal thoughts in such a profound way. Happy Christmas to you and heres wishing you a healthy and joyous new year.

  • Becky says:

    Beautiful. Can I say I love you again in a comment? People may start to question.
    I love that you’re here.
    I don’t know what else to say and since I’m crying for the second time this morning… I’ll say I love you.

  • I am once again so grateful and humbled by your honesty. I see nothing but truth and a perfectly reasonable reaction to what you were and are going through.

    It is in our animal nature to get angry at and what to fight what is threatening our lives. In a way, it almost seems like it would be easier if the foe were corporeal – in an external-from-my-own-body kind of way. That would give you something to truly, physically fight. You could yell at it, beat on it, throw things at it, etc.. All natural ways to vent the “fight” portion of our flight-or-fight instincts.

    When the foe you are fighting is inside you – is literally a part of you – what can be done? The yelling, yes. But, the rest of it. What to do with the rest of the “fight” reaction?

    I am not sure that I know the answer. And, you seem to have found an outlet that works for you – acknowledging what you feel and sharing it with others in the hopes that it helps them in some way.

    Grateful and humbled.

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