The Problem with Unprocessed Grief

“That was the last thing I said to him.”


Psychiatrist: “What traumas have you had to deal with?”

Me: (Listing off a couple that come to mind quickly) “I guess it was kind of traumatic when my dad got sick with cancer and died.”

Psychiatrist: “How did that unfold?”

Me: “Well, I turned 13, and two days later I found out that my dad had cancer. Two days after that, I watched the two towers crumble on live TV.”

Psychiatrist: “So, you became a teenager, found out your dad was really sick, and then 9/11 unfolded, all in one week?”

Me: “Um, yeah. I guess all of that did happen all at once.”

I remember eating lunch at my granny’s house, like we did every Sunday after church, and seeing my dad start coughing as if he was choking and needing to vomit at the same time. He ran outside because he couldn’t get his food dislodged. The bolus of food was too large to pass through his esophagus into his stomach.

A few weeks later, sitting at the same table for lunch, with his lip quivering, my dad told me he had esophageal cancer.

I wasn’t expecting it at all, but my natural instinct was to hug and pray for my dad. What else do you do? He wasn’t dead yet, so there was a chance to fight.

At the time, I didn’t know that there was only an 18% 5 year survival rate for patients with esophageal cancer.

I was in 8th grade, and honestly it was one of the best years I had in school. I had great friends who prayed everyday for my dad. I was able to comfort a friend who found out that her mom had breast cancer as she cried from time to time.

My dad began treatment, aggressive chemo and radiation. After New Years, he had a surgery at Duke where they removed the diseased esophagus as well as a a biopsy from his liver.

For a couple of months, he seemed to get better. His little head started to become fuzzy like a peach.

BUT BOOM (insert dramatic rising action)

I came home from my stupid 8th grade trip only to find out that the cancer had become much worse and was spreading everywhere.

My mom and I took him to a doctors appointment where the doctor gave him a prognosis of 6 months. My mom and I both called B.S. He had little tumors all over his body. You could feel them in his back, and you could see them on his head.

He stopped eating. He spiraled down quickly.

He didn’t get out of bed, and was mostly unconscious on Friday. A week before, he had apologized for not being the best daddy. I didn’t know how to respond at the time. So on that sleepy Friday, while he was in and out of consciousness, i whispered in his ear that I thought he was the best daddy in the whole world.

That was the last thing that I said to him.

I just now remembered that. I haven’t thought about that in almost 15 years.

15 years.

This is only part one in my talk about the problem with unprocessed grief because I have to stop. The tears are streaming too quickly, and I need to sit in that moment for a little while.

Until tomorrow, friends.



4 thoughts on “The Problem with Unprocessed Grief”

  1. I’m so sorry you had to go through such horribly sad and scary things so young. I’m glad you have a therapist to talk to about them.

    My mother died unexpectedly of cancer when I was 34. She was only known to be seriously ill seven days before she died. It was soon after 9/11 too. My husband, nephew and I had even stood atop the towers only 1.5 months prior to the attack. It was also so terrible that my bipolar disorder went berserk. It takes a lot of time to recover and properly grieve, but with time things do get easier. I hope you can look back at the good times with your dad. That’s what he’d surely want.


    1. That is definitely a difficult thing to live through. I’m so sorry that it was so quick with your mom. Grief is definitely a tricky thing to navigate. I hope that you are doing well on your journey! Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

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