When Your Friends Are Hurting: On Losing Your Mom To Cancer

What I’ve learned is that I have no self control when it comes to holding onto people’s stories and waiting to share them with you. It’s like the minute these things hit my inbox I want them published right that second for you to read. They’re just so good. So, here’s part three of the When Your Friends Are Hurting series. If you missed any of the others, you can check them out here and here. I’m excited for you to hear from my friend Katie today. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

I’m Katie. I’m married to Blake. We live in Texas with our one-year-old daughter, Mackenzie, our second baby set to join us in November who has yet to be named and our dog, Kevin. We are big fans of eating really good food, watching HGTV, and cheering on our favorite Dallas sports teams. We’re most of all huge fans of following Jesus and trying to love like He does.

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Our Story

In July 2008, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and after a three year journey that included numerous chemo and radiation treatments and two major surgeries, she joined Jesus on September 25, 2011.

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Because of the up and down nature of my mom’s cancer, I grieved the whole time she was sick. We were warned by doctors when she only had a few months left. God and I were having a lot of conversations at this point. I was begging Him to heal her; to show His power and might in a way that would bring Him glory. I remember praying one day and saying over and over again that I believed that He was powerful enough to take the cancer away completely. And I very clearly heard Him reply that day with, “I’m also powerful enough to take care of you if I don’t.” Realizing that God is sovereign in the very depths of my grief- talk about a faith game-changer.

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The day my mom died, my mind was silent. For three years, I had been in constant conversation with God and after she was gone, I had nothing left to say. I wasn’t angry or bitter but when the thing you’ve prayed for doesn’t happen, what are you supposed to say then? I felt a peace in that silence and I am convinced to this day that I was literally feeling all the prayers being lifted up on my behalf. When I had nothing left to say, others stepped in and the Lord was faithful in answering people’s pleas. Prayers are powerful, y’all.

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What To Do

When people die, other living people get awkward and uncomfortable. Grief is a weird and personal experience that everyone feels they have a right to experience in with you. This is awesome in a lot of ways but also uncomfortable in a lot of ways. I love that Courtney had the wisdom to have those of us who have experienced these things share our stories and what has helped us navigate through our grief. Here’s what helped us:

Go To The Funeral

Before my mom died, I didn’t think going to funerals was that important. That changed the moment I stepped up onto the stage to speak at my mom’s memorial service. I looked around into all the faces of the people who were sitting in those chairs and I felt extremely comforted just in the presence of people who were there to love on us by helping us remember and celebrate my mom’s life.

We had a unique situation in that we had the funeral service in my hometown, but we buried my mom three hours down the road. Only a handful of people attended both the funeral and the graveside service, which means we had a whole new wave of friends show up at the burial. It was humbling and tear-inducing and touched me in ways that the most well-written letter or most eloquent, comforting words couldn’t have. Your physical presence is important, even if you don’t have the right words. Just be there.

Take Care of the Physical Things

I never even considered that people who are grieving might need their basic needs taken care of. I just thought people dealing with grief needed kind words, space, and prayers. Those are great, but a hot meal when you don’t feel like cooking because you’ve been crying and in a daze all day is even better.

Our friends were seriously awesome when my mom died. My teacher friends took over my crazy classes and lesson plans. Some other friends watched our dog while we were gone and delivered him back to us freshly bathed. We also had fresh food in our fridge and pantry and a stack of gift cards to our favorite restaurants waiting for us when we got home. Some friends even mowed our lawn since we were gone for a whole week. Someone else brought us a couple meals that we could easily freeze or eat that week.

Taking care of those physical, tangible things meant so much, because I could take my time easing back into routine after a week away and we didn’t have to worry about anything back at home while we were away. And seriously, never underestimate the power of a hot meal delivered to someone’s doorstep. It should be a love language all on it’s own.

Just Do Something
I’m going to go ahead and clear something up. There is no “right” thing to say to people grieving. Nothing that people said made me feel better. But that doesn’t mean that you stand back and say nothing. The fact that people were there, saying things or taking time out of their day to send me a card or even a text; That meant something. If you feel like you don’t have anything to say, that’s ok! Hug them and let them know you’re praying for them (and then actually pray for them). Send them flowers. Send them a card and just sign your name and let Hallmark do the talking. Sit and cry and dwell in the “suckiness” of death with them. Just do something.

Keep the Encouragement Coming
Grief is not just a week long process. It doesn’t end when the funeral dismisses. Some of the things that have meant the most to me are the texts or Facebook messages or cards that I’ve received on Mother’s Day two and three years later. Or the people that boldly ask how I’m doing raising a daughter without my mom to call. The people that remember that this may still be hard; they’re my favorites.

Grieving With Grace
Lastly, to the people grieving: I encourage you to be quick to give grace to those who are trying to comfort you. It’s easy to get offended or hurt by those who have the best intentions but maybe not the best follow through or the most appropriate words. There have been insensitive things said and done to my family and I throughout our journey with grief, but I highly doubt anyone’s intentions have been to upset us further. Grief and death are awkward and honestly they suck, but your journey with it will be a lot easier if you don’t allow yourself to dwell on all the wrong things that people are saying or doing. Focus instead on being a grace-giver.

So What Now?
Losing my mom was definitely not a part of my long-term plan. This journey through grief has been one that has brought me to my knees, humbled me, and revealed my need for Jesus in a powerful and real way. I’ve found joy in grief. Especially in knowing that while it stinks right now, one day, away from this earth, it won’t. I have no doubts that my mom is hanging out with Jesus and whenever I picture her with Him, healed and whole again, I can’t help but smile and rejoice that we serve a loving and redeeming God who is powerful and sovereign in all steps of this life.

If you’re struggling with grief, need prayers, or want a little bit more info on what to say or do, please do not hesitate to shoot me an email.(katiembrowder@gmail.com)

If you’re a girl who has lost your mom, I would love to encourage you and pray for you. It is not a fun sisterhood to share in, but it does help knowing that others are walking (and sometimes trudging) down the same path.

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