By Carla Schick
Every one of us experiences loss, whether it’s intangible like the loss of peace or dreams, or something more palpable, like the loss of mobility, health or even life.
Now and again, loss enters our lives subtly, but more often than not, it arrives like a smack in the face, and it can be a challenge to cope.
A couple of months ago, I had the misfortune of experiencing my own form of loss. For some reason, I had the urge to look up my best friend from childhood. We hadn’t seen each other since our sophomore year in high school, and I was curious to see how she was doing. After a few attempts, I finally found her smiling face. When I saw her photo, the first thing I thought was, there’s my Katie. I clicked on her picture and noticed that it took me to a page called “Katie’s Wish.” And, that’s when my heart sank.
In my privileged position of working for the IG community, I’ve gained enough experience to know that when a website is called, “Grant Their Wish” or “Help with Their Cause,” I’m about to read a heart-wrenching story about a patient’s fight to survive. And that’s exactly what I found.
I have to say that with every line I read of Katie’s story, I hoped and prayed that, at the end, it would turn out to be a miraculous story of survival. But this time, it didn’t work out that way. At the age of 26, my childhood friend had been diagnosed with melanoma. Initially, the doctors were able to stop the cancer in its tracks wherever it developed, but when it spread to her lungs, brain and liver, there wasn’t much they could do. Katie died on Sunday, March 24, 2013, at the all-too-young age of 27. Talk about a smack in the face.
Writing generally becomes my coping mechanism when I’m going through a tough time. But when I tried to write this blog right after I learned of her passing, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. There was something very final about putting her death down in writing, because if I wrote about it, then it meant it really happened. I’d lost Katie. And it was horrible.
It’s always hard to come to grips with loss. And, when it happens, in whatever variety it decides to manifest itself, loss is definitely not something we can accept overnight. On occasion, it’s not even something we can accept ever. But we try our best to come to terms with our loss because that’s all we can do. Katie’s husband is doing his best to cope with the loss of his young wife. He set up a fundraiser in her name to find a cure for melanoma. Katie’s final wish was to raise awareness and encourage everyone to get checked for skin cancer. www.grantkateswish.org
When I think of Katie’s death, it makes me sad - but then I think to myself, Katie wouldn’t want me to be sad. Every second that I had the privilege of knowing her, Katie exuded happiness, optimism, kindness and love. I wouldn’t be doing her memory justice if I dwelled on her passing. So, instead, I’m coping with her loss by writing about it, trying not to take myself too seriously, and being more engaged in my own life.
Many of you who are reading this blog have likely dealt with loss in one form or another. How have you coped with loss?