[cancer] Talking more about what we think and feel

Saturday morning I made a post asking people about how they read my cancer blogging. [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ] The response in comments was surprising to me, in a very good way. As I said yesterday, I have felt both humbled and uplifted. There’s a lot of thought-provoking stuff in there, at least to me.

One of my commentors said something that really struck me.

My uncle tells me he’s still reeling from the loss of his mother who died several months previous, and I say “that sucks” and I feel like the lamest person in the world that I don’t have better words than that. I care, and I hurt for him, but words fail. From what you have shared, I now think that no one grieves well and no one has magical comforting words. I feel like you have given me tools to approach my own grief and the grief of others honestly and without fear

That strikes me as a very important point. It’s a lesson I learned mostly from my friend [info]mikigarrison, with input along the way from [info]alumiere, my Aunt M. and a few other folks. Not to be tendentious, it’s a lesson about self-judgment and forgiveness and love.

At least here in mainstream American culture (the part I participate most directly in), we expect to be able to help our friends and loved ones, to make things better, when misfortune presents itself. At the same time, we flinch away from the unresolvable. In adverse circumstances, we can set up a tension within ourselves which doesn’t have a worthwhile outcome. There are situations where no words will heal, no deeds will help. Cancer is one of those. Perhaps the most emblematic in a symbolic sense, but there are many other life events which can invoke the same conflicted responses.

Accepting that sometimes are there no better words is part of life. A strange, difficult part to be sure. To my way of thinking, the helplessness of the observer really can match the helplessness of the sufferer. We are all each other, after all. And I say this with the full cultural authority of someone who has made the rather odd choice to do his suffering very much in public.

All we can do is go on. Sometimes, all we can say is “that sucks”.

Another comment which moved me was this:

The reminder that when he was my age, my dad was going through these things, and I don’t feel like I did enough to support him and my mom and my brothers.

To which I responded:

I fear for my daughter in this. As you were young, so is she. Her need to grow and live doesn’t give her the focus on me that my parents and siblings and age-mate friends have. I desperately want her not to have to forgive herself later for what she feels she might not have done for me now.

I don’t have much to add there, but it seems terribly significant.

Maybe the message is to understand the incomprehensible, and forgive the unforgivable.

Except I never have been very good at forgiveness.

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