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Grief is a sneaky bugger

April 27, 2018

Grief is a sneaky bugger. Though I have grieved a number of things in the last decade, I have a lot to learn in understanding and dealing with grief. I’ve actually had this article open on all my devices for about a month now: Stages of Grief After Losing A Breast. It’s not so much for guidance as to remind me that this is a process that I know very little about. Some of the info in that article has been helpful, but I need to revisit it and other grief resources as my feelings change.

After the initial pre-surgery sadness of losing my breast, I feel like I’ve been doing alright emotionally. I figured it was good once I stopped being freaked out by seeing my scar. That it meant I was getting better and moving forward. But the last couple days have been an emotional shock. Grief creeps up on you. The night before last I found myself crying for my lost breast and it has continued off and on since then. It really caught me off guard.

Thankfully, when I had my first miscarriage, a wise person told me to just feel however I feel. (I’m sure she said it better, but that’s the gist of it.) That grief doesn’t follow a set of rules. Some days you may feel nothing, and other days you may be overcome by feelings. This was helpful for me, particularly in the beginning when I felt nothing. Was I bad because I wasn’t more sad over my miscarriage? No, this is how I feel, and that’s okay. Then a couple weeks later, I was hit unexpectedly by sadness at our family Christmas party of all places. It makes no sense, but trying to make it fit into a certain pattern is going to make it even more frustrating.

So this week, as the rest of my body heals and gets closer to normal, the realization that my breast is gone for good has hit me really hard. The loss doesn’t make sense. It’s terrible. I miss my breast. It was been part of me for a long time. It bore the scar of my first lumpectomy. It fed my three girls for years. It made up half of my cleavage, which I happened to like a lot. Did you know that when you lose a breast you also lose your cleavage?

I wonder if having the bra with padding has had anything to do with this sudden grief. It makes it easy to forget most of the day that my breast is gone. So when I take it off at night, the scar, the blank space on my chest, is once again shocking and ugly. I’m not going to stop wearing the bra, though, so maybe it’s irrelevant whether it’s contributing to grief or not. I suspect I’d feel like this regardless.

I know I said shocking and ugly. I don’t think my body is ugly now and I don’t feel ugly, but there’s no way you can’t say a mastectomy scar isn’t ugly. At least at first. Especially when you consider what it’s replacing. And when you factor in that it represents cancer – it’s ugly. The first time Elin saw my scar, she put her hands on her mouth and said her throat was coming up. It makes me laugh because it’s such a funny way of describing her physical response, but it doesn’t surprise me.

So here we are, 3 weeks post-mastectomy. I’m getting antsy to figure out and start the next phases of treatment. I want to completely get rid of this cancer and be able to put this behind me.  I think I’m doing well considering the circumstances. I’m thankful not to have any complications or infections. I have a very clean scar that is healing nicely. I have great range of motion in my arm. I am surrounded by people who support my grief, who encourage me to cry if I need to. And for these things, I am thankful.

PS. During this first week of Style School, we’ve been given a song to watch the music video for before we get dressed. Yesterday’s was “Brave” by Sara Bareilles. I think I’ve heard this song before, but watching the video made me so happy (and made the song make much more sense.) It’s so fun and made me brave enough to wear the giant earrings I bought for NYE in Vietnam 7 years ago, but always felt were “too much” to wear again.

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