We all grieve differently.
We all respond to loss as uniquely as our thumbprints.
There is no right way to grieve.
And there’s definitely no wrong way to grieve.
It makes me sad and angry that I’ve had to learn this truth firsthand. I wish the loss of a child to cancer was something that I could feel empathy toward and not learn firsthand.
But, it is part of my life story – losing my only daughter, way too early, to cancer. Living through a tumultuous 14 months of her aggressive illness where I barely had time to think and sleep. I was immediately thrown into a raging ocean when I didn’t even know how to steer the boat. Needing to learn to steer while in a storm is hard, hard work. The physical and emotional muscles aren’t fully prepared for the challenge. Adding to my personal limitations – trying to comfort my child who was petrified of the storm and sea sick at the same time takes incredible fortitude and supernatural grace. Only God got me through it.
The hard reality is that there are many parents taking care of and loving children with cancer. Most people have no idea the extent that this disease, and others similar to cancer, have on families and children. Families are hurting, lonely, confused and exhausted as they navigate serious childhood illness. Our culture doesn’t openly talk about this topic. I don’t believe people avoid childhood tragic illnesses because people don’t care, but because people are in shock and fear that a health tragedy could happen to them or someone in their inner circles.
This perspective about avoidance is mine. I am by no means an expert. I am exposed through social media and other channels to the world of childhood cancer. I see hundreds of beautiful faces of children hurt by this disease. And I read themes that come up in hundreds of comments. For example, my heart breaks for families where friends and family in their inner circles cannot even say their children’s names.
As I personally learn to cope with my losses and seek a new full-time role, I took the StrengthFinders assessment. My top signature themes come up as strategic, activator, futuristic, learner and belief. When I read all the descriptions, it’s so helpful to put words to things that I know about myself. Patterns of behavior may actually be strengths. If you haven’t done an assessment like this one, I encourage you to. It sheds an interesting light on daily life.
This assessment helps me understand the reason that I can’t go through Leah’s death and stand still. I have to move and act.
One of my motivations in acting is that I don’t want other families to live through the cancer nightmare alone. Did you know that only 4% of all cancer research is invested in childhood cancer? That’s just not acceptable. Not at all. Our children are our future. They cannot speak for themselves so we need to speak up for them. Growing awareness is one way to speak up for them. Did you know that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month?
I never want to cover up the pain of losing Leah with activity, but I want to have God use the pain to help other people who are hurting. Today, I am speaking up for families and children by advocating for Make-A-Wish. I am volunteering on the Make-A-Wish Women’s Network in Leah’s memory to honor her precious life. This foundation grants wishes to children who are seriously ill by bringing them joy and hope through memorable experiences. The foundation blessed our family with a life-long memory in Paris with Leah. And they gave us the trip as a gift with NO strings attached.
In honor of Leah, many of us are giving and walking this upcoming Sunday in hopes of sending another child to Paris in Leah’s memory. I thank each of you who are participating on Team Leah’s Wish.
As I think of the future, I want to continue to speak up for children with cancer. Our generation has the resources and compassion to make strides in ending all cancer. We need to do our best to proactively find a cure.
My hope and prayer for all of us is that we use our God-given gifts to speak up for children who can’t stand up for themselves. That we become the voices of the hurting and oppressed. That we offer compassion and strength to the young people who are not strong enough to stand on their own.
We each have pain and loss; my prayer is that we can take the pain and not let it overwhelm us or capsize us – but that we can eventually find the strength to use our gifts in honor of our parents, friends and children who we have loved and temporarily lost.
Leah, I look forward to seeing you again in heaven. In the meantime, I pray that God gives me the endurance to advocate on your behalf for God’s precious children.