According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 1.7 million people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2015, and nearly 600,000 cancer-related deaths are estimated to take place in the U.S. alone.
My brother was an early casualty of that statistic, passing away this January as a result of a 14-month battle with cancer. The cancer was first diagnosed in his esophagus, but it later spread to his liver and lungs.
The deadly disease cut his life short. He was in his late 50’s and experienced only a brief taste of his golden years before cancer kept him from ever seeing 60. Even though it became very apparent in the final months that he wasn’t going to win this fight, it didn’t make dealing with the loss of a loved one any easier.
I’ll admit looking back, however, that it was a huge blessing to have had plenty of chances to visit my brother and spend time with him before his life was over. We talked, we hugged, we joked. I’d do little tasks for him that became increasingly difficult for him to do on his own. Running to the store, going to the kitchen for food or drink, or rubbing his back when he was tense and uncomfortable were just a few ways I could show him I cared and wanted to be there for him.
I wanted him to be around as long as possible so I could continue to say I loved him in these ways; but at the same time, I didn’t want to see him go through the agony that seemed to intensify over the last couple months of his life.
Now, it’s about trying to adjust to life without him.
My family and I continue to grieve his passing. It’s hard to say how long this phase will take. People grieve in different ways. Sometimes a tragedy like this brings about weeks of daily crying and a tendency to seclude oneself from normal activities or taking part in otherwise joyful occasions.
I personally have found the healing process to be much more effective when I’m surrounded by family and friends, sharing stories and laughs, and reminiscing about all the things that made my brother special. Memorable moments he was a part of and strengths he possessed that made him unique are being shared among the family when we get together.
You see, people need each other. We need one another to help deal with the sad events of life and to remind each other of all the good moments that a lost loved one had a part in creating.
Sometimes we don’t know what to say when we see someone mourning a loss in their life. But just letting them know you’re there for them and giving them a few words of hope – verbally or in a written message – can often make a world of difference.