your story

Throughout my mom’s illness and during the aftermath, a number of people stopped short with me.  They sucked in their breath when starting to complain about a problem they had, or minimized their pain regarding a certain issue. “You know, this is nothing compared to what you are going through” or “I shouldn’t even be telling you this.”  If I were more of an orator and less of a writer, maybe I would have told them this:




Buddha had it right. We are human so we suffer. We suffer and we suffer and we suffer. Your pain is real, as though it was wound up in the helix of your DNA.  Maybe you still have a healthy mother.  But you have walked through other challenges that I have not experienced. My pain doesn’t separate us, in fact it brings us closer.  We are united in the experience of loss. 

To say that all human suffering is equal is both true and not true.  There are tragedies which chill us to the core, which break a human being, which cause entire communities to light candles and whisper and shed tears.  War crimes. Torture. Abuse. I’m not speaking of these horrors, which seem so senseless and wrong but do teach us that there is no limit to human suffering.  I am speaking of more of our everyday tragedies.  Illness, heartbreak, disappointment, death.  Even the wealthiest and the most blessed walk beside us with these.

Suffering is something that cannot be escaped, so don’t deny your feelings.  They are real, they make you human. At the same time, listen to others.  I take care of cancer patients, but I have never had cancer.  I hear their stories 5 days a week, and while I have never had a somber doctor stand over me and tell me its growing, its spreading, I need chemo or surgery or radiation, tell me I may lose my hair, my fertility, my limb, or my life, I understand a little bit (not entirely, but a little bit) of what they go through.  Their stories help me find gratitude, help me appreciate the transient gift of health.  Maybe my story helps you find gratitude for the mother that you have, whether she is your best friend or someone you barely know.

In losing what we love the most, we are shown the one thing we can hang on to: a spirit which is beautiful and buoyant and resilient, more than we ever imagined it to be.  In our pain and suffering, we can become teachers, we can inspire.  Our tears, our long nights on hard floors, our deep hunger has brought us to where we are today.  The darkness has taught us to appreciate the light.

See, your story is important– as important as you are.  I want to hear it from your lips, your pen or your flying fingers.


18 thoughts on “your story

  1. Lisa O'Brien

    Loved this post, completely. The beauty and spirit within you flows in your writing, and I can only imagine how many you’ve helped — with your professional self and just as many with writings like this.

    Thank you, thank you.

  2. infertilityawakening

    Beautifully written. Pain is often the treacher of our soul–the lessons of which are made for an audience bigger than our two ears, two hands, two feets, and solitary heart. Thank you for sharing yours so through you we can each grow.

  3. Kathy

    You wrote “We are united in the experience of loss” and there isn’t a truer statement. Throughout my mom’s illness and my journey of healing, I have found that the people who understand the most are those who have lost a loved one, lost a parent. A friend recently told me that over the past few years she has pulled away from me because she couldn’t understand my loss. She said I was a downer – I don’t agree to that but respected what she said to me. When I told her that I had accepted my mom’s death, she challenged me because of what she has read on Facebook. I explained to her that my blog was connected to my Facebook and that was what she was seeing. My blog is very special to me and I don’t plan to stop writing, even if I have accepted my mom’s death. Her loss from my life is still real to me. This is something my friend cannot understand and doesn’t want to deal with. So I decided to disconnect my blog from Facebook. The people who understand me most, understand that even after 3 and a half years the loss of someone important to me doesn’t just disappear, are those who’ve lost loved ones too. It’s a sad but true observation. Thanks for the post.

    1. bornbyariver Post author

      Yes– even though many can connect through a general experience of loss, I also find a special understanding from those that have also lost a mother. Sorry your friend wasn’t who you needed her to be. May you keep finding new avenues for support abs friendship. Losses do have a way of cleaning out our closets, so to speak… You find out what you really need, who is true… and the rest sometimes ends up in a yard sale 🙂

  4. Tia

    All I have to say after reading that is it almost felt personal, thank you, finally someone is listening to me. To find yourself in the middle of this trauma and feel as though no one has any time for you no time to listen to how you feel is isolating, frustrating, if it weren’t for my blog and my blog “friends” I shall refer to them as I would be lost completely. It seems to be my only means of contact to others regarding my feelings and what is going on. So thank you.

  5. Chatter Master

    This is very beautiful. I am often finding myself stating my gratitudes because of the lessons I learn by watching others in their grace, their suffering, their living. Thank you.

  6. Heart To Harp

    Your words carry the truths that my heart learned through loss, and they speak more eloquently than I have ever been able to. The losses that rip from the core of our beings, from the center of our hearts, teach us who we really are and what we are capable of enduring, teach us the miracle off the phoenix as we are reborn from the ashes of what once was our life. Thank you for a beautiful post.

    1. bornbyariver Post author

      I always prefer big changes to occur without being spurred by tragedy, but in any case, it is one of the benefits of surviving a loss. 🙂 thank you

  7. Stephanie

    I often think about how my husband’s diagnosis and death changed all of us–me, our children, or friends and larger families, his colleagues. For the most part, it has made us more like him: witnessing his grace, seeing he could face his illness and death and still never consider himself less than a lucky man, showed us all (especially me, a glass-less-than-half-full sort of person by nature) how to try to continue to live. At the same time, I confess I did resent it when people would complain to me about seemingly petty things (childrens’ age-appropriate misbehavior, allergies, hot flashes, whatever) while my husband was physically suffering. Yet my husband would have been the last person to want other people to censor themselves for his sake.

    On another note, my husband and I frequently talked about the oncology nurses. As probably most patients do, we wondered how they do it? How do they handle so much hopelessness? We had the wonderful Heather, who was seven months’ pregnant when we met her in our little pod. It occurred to me recently that the most compassionate care came at the bookends of this illness, when my husband was treated not just as a patient or as a body but as a person with a family who loves him: in oncology the nurse was attentive to all of us, even as my husband slept for hours. After he died and donated his body to his own medical school, I got a chance to speak to the medical students who worked with my husband’s body, and was touched beyond measure that they noticed right away that he had a depression on his ring finger where his wedding band had been–they knew he was a loved man and not just a “cadaver.” I wasn’t even sure I should write about that, but it was therapeutic for me (and evidently at least some readers) when I did.


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