These things of the heart

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 vividly 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


21 thoughts to “These Things of the Heart”

  1. The first losses I recall were also pets. Growing up on a farm, we always had new litters of kittens. I would pick a favorite from each litter. After several kittens met an unfortunate demise, I gave up on cats. It hurt too much. I believe that is why so many people avoid discussing the grief process…it hurts. But that is exactly where the healing comes in…moving through the pain.

    1. Lisa, Yes, growing up on a farm undoubtedly taught you many things. I’m sorry you gave up on cats, but it’s certainly understandable. Do you have any pets now? Lots of things are difficult to talk about, but I find this very fact makes it even more imperative that we do, or at least try to. As you said, this where healing comes in. Thanks so much for sharing, Lisa.

  2. Many people are good with others’ loss if they experienced the same type of loss. If it’s not within their experience, there’s often a fear or feeling of ineptitude in knowing what is appropriate to say. Re sharing your heart: it’s often hard to bare your heart online, but that’s usually the stuff that makes the biggest difference. There is a vulnerability, though, because there it is — plastered on the net for anyone to see. Yikes!

    1. Eileen, Thanks for making such excellent points. I completely agree with them. There is some risk in showing one’s vulnerability, especially online, but at the same time, showing your vulnerability often generates dialogue and opens hearts – many times others may be feeling the exact same feelings you are and connecting with others experiencing similar emotions can be so healing and helpful. Sharing is risky, but the benefits outweigh the risks IMO. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  3. Nancy this speaks to me at such a deep level. I seem to have written such a lot about loss on my own blog since I started it – even more so since losing my mother and suffering several miscarriages over the past couple of years. I have learned that grief doesn’t stick to a set timetable – it is a process that takes time, but society often pushes us to be over the grief by some imposed time frame. We aren’t always allowed the time we need to fully grieve. Being able to take that time through blogging has been immensely healing for me – knowing that others understand this process is also part of the healing.

    1. Marie, Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this one, Marie. I know you’ve experienced some tough losses over the past few years. There certainly is no time table for grief is there? I know you “get it.” Thanks for saying this post speaks to you at a deep level. That means a lot to me. Hugs.

  4. I was an adult before I had my first significant loss. My uncle died from cancer when I was in my 20’s.

    But my first brush with death was when I was helping my dad, a pastor, set up for a funeral. I was putting hymnals on chairs at a funeral home, and the open casket was at the front. My dad talked to me about the body and about death in a very open and practical way. I think that experience helped me talk about death with my daughters when they lost both of their grandmothers in the same year.

    1. Ginny, I think the way your father chose to talk to you about death in such an open manner is wonderful. You had a unique experience growing up with a father who was a pastor. Children are so often completely left out when it comes to talking about death. And many times they aren’t “allowed” to attend funerals. We try to protect them, but sometimes I wonder if we do more harm than good when trying to do that. Thanks for sharing some memories.

  5. My first loss was a grandparent when I was young. On my 17th birthday my first love killed himself. That was really hard for me to deal with. When it comes to breast cancer, and cancer itself I have blogged about how I lost my my dad with pancreatic, then my brother with esophageal, and then my best friend from MBC. There are so many aspects to how affected we are by them as well as having friends that are dealing with Stage IV especially a very close friend. As you so beautifully wrote to me, we have to just keep on keeping on. I think Marie made a great point about blogging and I know how many of us understand and relate as a result. Thanks Nancy for this thought provoking post.

    1. Susan, Oh my gosh, Susan, that’s so incredibly sad about your first love. That surely had to be a life-changing experience. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry for all the losses you’ve had. Thank you for sharing about some of them here.

  6. 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.

    1. 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.

  7. 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

    1. 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

  8. 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.

    1. 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.

  9. 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.

    1. 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…

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