Each year, CURE holds its annual Hope and Healing where families who have lost their child to cancer gather together to celebrate the lives of their children and attend workshops and presentations designed to assist them in their grief process. This year, Mark and Robin Myers, along with their daughter, Meredith, opened the weekend by sharing their story of loss and grief after losing Kylie. The session closed with Mark issuing special “licenses” to the 55 families in attendance.
Following rules has never been a big deal for me. I don’t gravitate toward the wrong side of the rules, I just tend to end up there somehow. This failing did not bode well for me in Mrs. Kleinstuber’s class. I remember her as a kind woman. But with her Germanic tendencies of order and structure, we butted heads at times.
Mrs. Kleinstuber didn’t give hall passes; she issued a license to visit the restroom. A big believer in semantics, she felt like a pass didn’t carry with it the weight of responsibility necessary for one to be trusted to go to the bathroom alone. But a license.
A license means you are granted permission by an authority to carry out a certain action or privilege.
We have to grant ourselves licenses at times and never as often as when we are grieving. The loss of a child is an abnormal occurrence in our western society, and grieving is made more difficult by the fact that most people will never understand that type of unnatural loss.
Winston Churchill said, “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”
There are all kinds of things I have to do to keep going in wake of Kylie’s loss. It has been almost five years now, and most of the time I feel like I’m able to keep going. But sometimes, I need a break. In those times, I have learned to grant myself many licenses. These licenses allow me to exist in a world that sometimes doesn’t understand who I am now or what I am going through.
Maybe you need one or two of them – maybe not. Some stand alone and some have a flipside that might be more relevant at times.
I’d like to issue these licenses to you – feel free to take any that will help you “keep going” in your grief.
License to grieve.
Please note that this license does not carry an expiration date.
License to sit it out.
If you feel like something will be too hard for you – be it a family event, gathering, or something else that will magnify your loss, stay home.
License to say no.
Don’t feel bad about saying no to something that will dredge up memories. Maybe next time you’ll be able to say yes… or not.
License to be angry.
Anger is a real emotion and can be productive. Don’t suppress anger, just be careful of your actions while you are angry.
License to be angry with God.
Whatever your stance on God, I believe that he is certainly big enough to carry our anger.
License to forgive.
When the time comes, forgiveness is a very healthy and healing process.
License to forgive yourself.
You did the best you could with the information you had at the time. This is not your fault!
License to abandon a grocery cart because your child’s favorite cereal is buy-one-get-one-free.
License to distance yourself from anyone for any reason.
If someone isn’t helping you heal or they are too needy, move away.
License to stay in your jammies.
Also, a license to congratulate yourself for getting dressed.
License to take a day off.
(Tell your boss I said it was okay!)
License to own the crazy.
When another of my daughters had unexplained bone pain (which was how Kylie’s cancer started), we took her straight to the ER. Crazy? Probably. But it put our minds at ease. Own the crazy if you need to.
License to go to war against cancer.
Also, a license to sit it out without guilt.
Also, a license to reengage whenever you’re ready… or never.
License to close your mouth and smile when someone says something really stupid.
Also, a license to speak up when you need to (using discretion – which can be difficult.)
A license to look at someone like they have three heads if they use either the word tragic or devastating regarding a sporting event.
A license to look at someone like they have three heads if they compare your loss to the loss of their grandfather, great uncle, or dog.
License to respond to texts.
Also, a license to not answer a single text for any reason whatsoever with no explanation.
License to listen to all the songs that well-meaning people send you.
Also, a license to block the well-meaning person who keeps sending you songs.
License to cry.
Also, a license to not cry and not feel guilty (it will happen someday, and you might feel like you should have cried if you still cared about your child.)
License to turn off Social Media.
Especially at times like graduations and events that friends are sharing and you will never experience with your child.
License to smile.
That day will come and you should feel no guilt – your child would want you to smile and be as happy as possible.
License to take it easy on yourself.
You’re not doing this grief thing wrong because there is no wrong way to grieve. It’s your way, your time, whatever is best for you and keeps you moving forward.
Mark Myers is the Director of Communications for CURE Childhood Cancer. He lost his 12-year-old daughter, Kylie, to Ewing sarcoma on 2/13/15.