We found out on a Thursday night at 10:30pm. I couldn’t breathe for a second, my body wouldn’t function because my mind was stunned. This can’t be real. We had just spoken to our dear friend, whose partner had been told she had incurable stage four cancer. She is 27 years old and six months away from becoming a doctor.
Up until this point, I had known sadness and grief. I had experienced wonderful and kind grandmothers pass from this world to whatever comes next, had seen the devastation on the faces of their children, felt the heartbreak of knowing I would never speak to them again. The pain I felt then was real, and sometimes still is if I think about the conversations we’ll never be able to have, the moments they can’t be a part of.
But this pain is so much worse, because it is coupled with anger and outrage at the injustice of a young and vibrant soul whose wings are being clipped. How can something like this happen to someone like Krista? She is an old soul, someone who values nature and books and music and laughter. She smiles at strangers, and radiates warmth and optimism and sunshine. She deserves to spend a whole lifetime surrounded by love.
We have all experienced some form of emotional pain, and most of us have dealt with grief. Grief is the kind of pain that sits in the pit of your stomach, crawls through your lungs, making each breathe more laboured. Grief can rock your whole body, crashing in waves, but it can also sit quietly in the back of your mind like the darkest shadow, reminding you now and then that sadness is never far away.
I say grief, because we are grieving the life she could have had if cancer had stayed away. The plans she was making with the man who loves her unconditionally, with fellow medical students all dedicated to making others feel better, with friends that would cross oceans to spend a few nights making her dinner and watching movies together. We are trying not to imagine a world without her, but in the darkest of moments, when grief surrounds us, it is hard not to.
But thankfully these moments are not constant. The darkness retreats when sunshine comes through, right? Our sunshine is our friends and family, generous and thoughtful, people you can ring and cry your heart out to, who will drop you a little message now and then to remind you that darkness doesn’t have to be a constant. We are still finding moments to laugh and celebrate, because these are the most important moments to hold on to when you are making your way through days marred by grief.
If you are struggling to cope with your own grief, it is important to know that you are not alone and that there is no right way to cope. The only ‘wrong’ way I can think of is shutting out those closest to you. Some of us have never asked for help, never leaned on anyone else for support, perhaps never had to. Grief will strip back everything you thought you knew about what you need in life. You may come to realise that those closest to you can’t provide the support you need - this doesn’t mean they are bad people. It means you’ll need to look further afield, in places you’d never thought to look before. Support groups, helplines - there is so much out there that might help you find a little sunshine on the darkest of days.
Some links you might find useful
More on grief from mental health charity Mind
(If you live in the UK) find bereavement services in your area
Scroll to the bottom of this page to find support helplines