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These Things of the Heart

Do you remember your very first loss? I don’t mean when you lost or misplaced something you cared about, I mean the first time you lost someone or something you truly loved.

The first loss I recall is when our much loved black and brown dachshund named Penny died when I was ten years old. It was a cold January night and she died while resting quietly by the heat register in the bathroom after laboring for hours to just keep breathing.

I can still picture that scene complete with every detail.

Losing a pet is often our first experience with loss and grief.

Since that time there have been many losses, more significant ones than the loss of a family pet, and of course more losses are yet to come.

Times of loss usually represent times of great significance in our lives, and yet we often avoid talking about such times and such losses.

This is something that’s always baffled me, this tendency many of us have to avoid talking about death, grief and loss.

Why do we avoid these topics so much?

Is it because it means we must then think about our own mortality?

Do we fear what others might think of us?

Do we think no one will care or understand?

Do we worry about bringing up a topic some might consider too depressing?

Do we think we don’t know how to talk about them or that it’s just too hard?

I have no answers.

When I started this blog among other things, I wanted to write about breast cancer and loss. For me the two are intertwined, inseparable since as most of you know, my mother died from metastatic breast cancer. My cancer experience began with her cancer experience. I write about other stuff as well, but these two topics will continue to be my primary focus until, if and when, I decide to change course.

Sometimes it’s hard to know how much to divulge about your breast cancer experience. Sometimes it’s even harder to know how much to divulge about your experience with loss.

When in doubt, I remember what friend and fellow blogger Jackie, author of From Zero to Mastectomy, said to me quite some time ago, “Never be afraid to write what’s in your heart, Nancy.”

Thanks for the great advice, Jackie.

One of my goals this year is to keep doing just that, even when it’s hard, maybe especially then.

Breast cancer is personal, but it’s also a topic many others relate to. Sharing about it hopefully helps others heal and feel less alone.

Loss is personal too, but it’s a universal experience almost everyone relates to or will at some point. Sharing about loss hopefully helps others heal and feel less alone as well.

Sharing matters.

And so, dear readers, this is why I choose to write about these things, these things of the heart.

Do you remember your very first significant loss?

Why do think people often avoid this topic despite the fact it’s a universal experience?

Do you have a loss you’d like to share about?

 

These things of the heart

These things of the heart

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Lindsay

Friday 22nd of February 2013

Yes, he writes about grief quite often and how it is so different for everyone.

Nancy

Friday 22nd of February 2013

Lindsay, Yes, a couple of his recent posts were exceptional I thought.

Lindsay

Friday 22nd of February 2013

My first loss was my grandpa when I was in fourth grade. I didn't know the proper way to respond to that, but I guess we never really know how to react to grief, our own or others.

I took some advice awhile back from a trained hospice volunteer. That advice was: If someone is grieving, just listen. Don't try to fix it or even help the person "through it." Just listen and say something like "I'm sorry. I wish I could help." Mostly, just listen.

Nancy

Friday 22nd of February 2013

Lindsay, I just read a couple of great posts by Jon Katz on death and grief. Have you seen them? He mentioned we talk a lot about death, but not about dying, so when we are forced to deal with losing a loved one, we have no idea how to go about it. Check them out if you get a chance. Thanks for sharing about grandpa. I'm glad you were able to get to know him and can still remember...

Beth L. Gainer

Tuesday 19th of February 2013

My first significant loss was my pet cat Charley. I loved her so much and grieved for a long time. I was lucky that my three grandparents lived to a ripe old age. Unfortunately, there's been a major loss to my family: the fourth grandparent, my dad's father was killed by the Nazis and my dad's sister died of starvation when the family was fleeing the Nazis.

I've never publicly said this before.

My grandfather and a whole line of family on my dad's side died senselessly. To this day, there's a gap, a missing link, wishing I could meet the people who died way before their time. It would've been nice to have another grandpa and another aunt.

Nancy

Wednesday 20th of February 2013

Beth, Oh my, I don't have words to adequately respond to your comment, Beth. All I can say is I'm so sorry you lost your grandfather due to a series of such horrific and senseless events. And your aunt, that's so sad and so horrible. Yes, so many lives lost and other lives affected as well. I'm sorry. Thank you for sharing about this here. I'm glad you felt comfortable enough to do so. Hugs.

Kathi

Monday 18th of February 2013

Yes, amazingly enough, Susie and I still keep intouch, even if it's only a card here and there. We went through 12 years of school together. She's always been like a sister. xo

Nancy

Monday 18th of February 2013

Kathi, It's lovely you've stayed in touch. Those ties to the past are strong ones, probably even more so considering all you went through together. I'm not surprised though. You're a great friend and I haven't even met you. xoxo

Kathi

Monday 18th of February 2013

The first funeral I ever attended was for the mother of my best friend, Susie. We were ten years old at the time. Her mom, Ruth, was only 40. She died of liver cirrhosis from alcohol. It was shattering. It changed her life, her dad's life, and the lives of many of our families forever. A lot of the grownups joined AA. A few of us kids attended Alateen. It initiated some very harsh life lessons that stay with me to this day.

Nancy

Monday 18th of February 2013

Kathi, That must have such a difficult time for you as a friend. And yes, talk about harsh life lessons learned there. So sad. Have you kept in touch with Susie through the years? Thank you for sharing, Kathi.

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