Trying not to lose myself in sadness

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This topic contains 6 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Susannah 1 year, 1 month ago.

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    Dear Tiny Buddha group,

    I came upon this community be sheer accident and I am so grateful for it. Your stories and experiences have really touched me as have the kindness and generousity shown in your responses.

    I come to you in what feels like sheer agony at times. My sister and best friend is facing a grim forecast of cancer. A team of doctors is working very hard to prepare contingency plans for worst-case scenarios, which is so frightening for my sister and for all of us who love her so.

    My sister is 14 months older than me and has always been a protector in ways. We grew up with some sibling rivalry as we were both athletic and so close in age, but even so, we were always there for each other, rooting each other on, supporting each other in good times and bad. For as long as I can remember, every memory that I pull up, my sister is right there. Whether with me or in the background. She was just always there. We had children around the same time and she has been such a light of reassurance and acceptance to all my motherhood doubts. I think I have provided her with the same comfort as motherhood can be a difficult thing to navigate emotionally. Our own mother, although meant well, was often quite shaming of us and emotionally absent. We often leaned on each other as well as my other two sisters, in many ways we have been mothers to one another, in the absence of our own mother's lack of comfort and emotional support.

    While the forecast looks scary, I am doing my best to be there for her emotionally. To hold her. To be with her. To let her know she is not alone and we are in this together. Helping her out as best as I can with her two young kids.

    My question is, how do I go through this journey without falling apart? I feel like I could break into a million little pieces and never come back again to who I was. I find it so difficult to be present with my own young children as I am so preoccupied with these feelings of deep sadness and fear. I am so terrified of losing this person that is so heavily apart of my life. We speak everyday on my way to work and everyday on the way back from work.  We are the type that can talk for hours on end. We laugh so hard we cry sometimes, she has the most wonderful cackle. We are also just a support system for one another. I cannot imagine what life would be like without her. Most of all, I worry about her and her children. I am so worried about how she is feeling, I am afraid she will also break into a million little pieces with fear. And for her children, I am terrified of them not having their mother whom they are so very attached to. I worry about their beautiful hearts being broken.

    I keep thinking about things with a line, as in… this is how I was before we got this terrible news, and this is how we are now. Nothing feels normal anymore. I feel as if I am in a strange, scary land and I feel alone.

    Thank you so very much for listening to me.




    Dear Sasha,


    sorry to hear about the devastating news about your sister. You have been very fortunate to have such a loving connection all your life. In a way the special bond between you makes this even more difficult.


    It is a blessing for both of you that you can talk about everything during this time as well. As weird as it sounds, this time can in a way be very special. You do not want to miss a single moment and every moment is incredibly valuable. It is a fortune that there are no unresolved issues between you two – you can cherish every moment together.


    I really don”t know which scenario is more difficult to handle: a close person dies suddenly (maybe in an accident) or because of cancer or some other serious illness. The latter gives the opportunity to prepare even though you cannot fully prepare anyway. There will be two different times almost like different lives: the one with her and the other without her.


    The doctors are doing everything in their power and there is still hope! I do not know the details about your sister”s case, but these days it may be possible to use many kind of treatments and either heal completely or have several fairly good years ahead.


    One thing is for sure: you will never be the same again. No matter what the outcome will be, you will cherish life more than ever. Every moment with your loved ones will have more meaning than ever before. We can only wish that you and your sister will have many, many happy years together.




    • This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by  Susannah.


    Dear Shasha:

    I feel sad, very sad reading your story, your real life experience.

    You wrote: “I feel like I could break into a million little pieces and never come back again to who I was”- pain feels like that, like it will break us. It is surprising, how much pain people do endure and do not permanently fall apart. It is amazing how resilient people are.

    Not only people, but living things, from plants to animals, surviving the most difficult circumstances, most unaccommodating situations, survive and thrive.

    Remember that although your pain feels too intense to endure, you will endure it and survive. And although you may not go back to the way you were, you will experience pleasure again, calm and meaningful experiences.

    Same for her children. If they receive the comfort they need; if their pain is seen and listened to, they will not only survive but they will thrive as they grow.

    You asked: “how do I go through this journey without falling apart?”- rely on nature, those plants and animals surviving so much, and millions of people surviving and even thriving after immense sadness. You don't have to micro-manage this process, in nature, of which we are a part of, there is an amazing ability to survive and thrive through and following the most trying circumstances.

    I hope your sister heals and recovers. I hope that together, you, your sister and all your children unite at this time, support and comfort each other. It is possible that one or more of the children, especially hers, may want to separate herself/himself emotionally from your sister so to not hurt as much, to not care as much. Later on, that child may feel very guilty and suffer unnecessarily. Pay attention to such a possibility, and let that child know you understand how much he/she loves his mother and that it is natural to want to protect oneself and create that emotional distance. Guide that child to show his love for his mother and to believe that his feelings are okay to have.

    Please post again and take good care of yourself.




    Dear Susannah,

    I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your thoughtful, kind, wise and truly empathetic response. Your words really resonated with me and I've looked back at them many times and they have comforted me.

    You are right that this is in a way harder because of the deep bond my sister and I share. In some ways, I almost wish we were not this close, so the pain would not be this difficult to withstand. But then I think of her and I and all of our times together and I would not trade those for anything.

    I suppose this pain that I feel is an indication of the amount of love my sister and I have for one another.

    Thank you for reminding me to cherish these moments with her. Although so painful and harrowing, to be there for my sister and her children, strengthens our love even more. Solidifies our bond even further. I just wish the pain was more bearable. It is difficult to break down so often.

    She has not been given an official diagnosis yet, the doctors have just said what they suspect this to be. It is very complicated. You are right that there are many treatments and courses of action, especially these days. I am hoping and praying she recovers and that as you said we can enjoy many happy years together. I meditate on her, sending her all my love and support and in some way, I feel a change in myself at the moment, as if like an email, that message of deep love and care has been received by her. This comforts me.

    In the mean time, I am just learning to be with these difficult feelings and not try to escape them or control them, but to just let them be.

    I am so grateful for your response Susannah. I send all my good wishes to you and I thank you so much again.





    Dear Anita,

    My goodness, I could not hold back my tears when I read your response. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your beautiful response. I really felt that you understood my feelings so well. I thank you for showing such empathy to a perfect stranger.

    I love that you told me to look at plants and animals to see their resilience, of course this is so true. And I have seen many instances of this, your response reminded me to really ponder them.

    I desperately needed to hear that her kids would be ok no matter what. As you said, so long as their pain is seen and listened to. I just loved that. Your response came right while I was looking after them while my sister and her husband were at an appointment. I made sure to remind my nieces how much I adore them and when one of them was crying over a matter with the other and we talked about it, I thanked them for expressing their feelings and let the know how important their feelings were to me.

    It is so true that kids, even adults, can pull away from a person in a situation like this, trying to create that emotional distance to protect themselves.  I am grateful that you brought this to light and I will most certainly look out for it with my nieces.

    Anita, I can't tell you how grateful I am for your thoughtful and kind response. Your words gave me strength. I am deeply inspired and thankful to you. I send all my good wishes to you.





    Dear Sasha:

    You are very welcome. Your appreciation, grace, clear thinking and sensibility; what you said to your nieces, and so on, all indicate to me that your sister and nieces are indeed fortunate to have you in their lives. It must feel good to know that you are a blessing in the lives of the people you love.

    I wish you and your family well, and please do post anytime.




    Dear Sasha,


    thank you for your kind words. The pain (and the breakdowns) that you are experiencing may feel very heavy and painful in the heart. In reality it makes the heart open even more and express your essence, which is love and only love. All the tears that you share make your hearts more pure and light. You both fly with the wings of love! 🙂


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