Friday, May 8, 2009


I seem to get a lot of the same questions from people I've seen over the past few weeks, so I figured I might as well get to share some of the answers with you.

1. How are you doing?- In general, I am ok. Certain days or moments are harder than others, but I have been able to get out bed every day. You don't "get over" something like this, you get through it. And I think once I had that realization, I've never felt very guilty about moving forward.

2. How are you really? (ie- You must be in shock)- Really, I am doing ok! No, I am not in shock. I have lots of opportunities to talk and write about things as I want to, and many different types of outlets for these conversations. I allow myself full freedom to do what I please, and don't set any rules other than getting out of bed and leaving the house.

3. Are you in therapy? Nope, but if I get to the point where I feel like I can't move past something, I would go. I do read a little bit here and there about grief, and take the tidbits that I find most useful. Today I spent several hours in the bookstore perusing the various titles on grief. I did read something that validated my view on not being completely stopped in my tracks with Dan's death. Many people who deal with a prolonged illness of someone they love exeperience what is called "anticipatory grief". In other words, you start grieving for someone way before they actually pass on. As the person with Dan every day, I knew the situation better than anyone else. My life changed completely 6 months before he died, and it continued to change. Yes, we had a "normal" life, but it was always about finding the "new normal". Although I can't pinpoint the exact moment, I did realize, even way before the wedding was called off, that Dan would spend the rest of his life with me, but I wouldn't spend the rest of my life with him.

4. Are you in a support group? Nope, but again, I would consider it. I did go to one last summer, but it wasn't helpful for me at all. First off, a lot of the support groups are during the day. So I guess clearly everyone that loses someone doesn't work! Second, as a young adult, my experiences are very different than the average person who experiences death. Not saying that one is harder than the other, just different. If there were a support group for people my age, I would get more out of it. As I said, I did go once or twice and found it to be counter-productive.

5. Are you working? No, I haven't been, but I go back Tuesday! I am excited and anxious, but feel good about it. I was 100% completely supported by my employer. I was treated like a person, not a policy. At first, I couldn't imagine going back to work because I felt very overwhelmed by the "administration" of death and NCCF. But once I came to grips that I wasn't going to be able to wrap up every detail for awhile, work seemed a lot more manageable.

6. What have you been doing? Well, I do admit that I like to watch Lifetime TV in the morning (a complete departure from my usual SportsCenter). Who knew that Reba and Frazier re-runs are so charming? I have alotted a lot of down time to myself. But I've been very busy with Dan's estate and NCCF, so I've been "working", just in much different ways. I've seen a lot of friends, but actually find it better to do one-on-one. I tend to find larger social things overwhelming at the moment. And I'm trying, but I am still not that big of a phone person.

7. Did Dan leave any special instructions? Yes, both in a personal letter and in a Will. I'll eventually share them, and some of you know them. But I feel like they deserve their own entries.

8. What is the best piece of advice people have given you? The problem with advice is that it's usually specific to someone's personal experiences. I get a lot of "you should do this or that". But I am just going to do what I need to do that day. I think the biggest mistake is to not allow myself to grieve. I don't really hide anything, and I do allow myself a few tears every day, regardless of where I am. But the best advice I go back to is Dan- If I don't get up every day believing that I am going to get through it, believing that I'll survive, then I don't deserve to get up. You know, I used to think Dan was full of it with some of the things he said, but I didn't have the right perspective to understand what he was really talking about. And now I do.

9. What is the hardest part? Some might think that being at home is hard, because Dan died here. It doesn't bother me at all, and I can actually find solace in the silence. I may move in time, but for now, I don't feel the need to (note that I successfully convinced my neighbor downstairs to not smoke under my window!). For me, I know I will get to move on and get to experience new things and adventures. So it really gets to me that Dan won't. While I miss him, I am still deeply affected by the actual experience leading up to his death- the last few weeks while he was home and the night he passed away. I know things that few do (outside of doctors and nurses), and in that way, have lost a lot of innocence. It's not that I am afraid that bad things will happen, I've just lived through them, and it's been a very profound and somewhat isolating experience at times.

10. How long will you write this blog? Well, as long as I feel like I have something to say. It does provide a very good outlet for me, and I think it brings others some peace as well. But, it won't go on forever. Like I said, I will never get over this. I am a much better person for the experience, and in many ways, stronger than I thought. When you watch someone you love go through what I did, all you want to do is take away the pain or prevent the inevitable. I can't do that anymore, but I can still fight Dan's fight. That I can do for him. And I always will, be it through NCCF or some other organization.

11. Is there anything positive that has come of this? We always said that no one gave us a guidebook for this, and we made up our rules as we went. The only rule in life is that we will all die. I now know what that looks like, and with that, there is a new need in my life to be generous with my love and generous with my life. But I am still me- I am still a little messy and not good at returning phone calls. Some things will never change, no matter how much insight I have into life ;)

12. Can you laugh? Anyone that didn't laugh at Cafe Disco on last night's episode of The Office is not someone I care to know.

Ok, that is all I can think of for the moment. But I am sure there will be a part 2!

PS- If you're wondering whether I got your card, email or Facebook note. I did, and I read them all. I would have liked to get back to everyone, but there were hundreds. And yes, I was the one that opened all the mail that goes to NCCF. And if you haven't gotten your thank you letter, I am almost done and they should be out this week!


Anonymous said...


Terrific post. Interesting that most everyone has pretty much the aame questions. Thanks for answering. I have to say that your remark about finally getting your downstairs neighbnor to stop smoking under your window rang with me. Since I stopped smoking I have become so sensitive to the smell of cigarette and just so grateful to everyone in the family for not jumping all over me for smoking. But I'm SO glad not to be controlled by that craving any more.

Your smoke free aunt Ruth

Anonymous said...

Hooray meghan! You sound so very well put together and balanced. Yeah, you are strong. Good luck at work next week.
Love, Aunt Kitty

Carl said...

You're onto something with your comments about anticipatory grief. One way to look on it is that it's a kind of work, that needs to be completed over a period of time. In the case of loved one with an illness that's likely to end in death, the work begins even before the death occurs.

To say that is in no way to write the person off, or to give up hope. It's just the way things work.

Grace and peace.

"A Pastor's Cancer Diary"

Patrice said...


I agree--I think I have asked you many of the same questions and if peopel don't ask I am sure they are thinking about all these questions. You are in our thoughts every day.
The Urbans

Diane said...

Our thoughts and prayers are with you Meg. I was very moved by your comments and Carl's about anticipatory grief. I have had those moments many times during Scott's journey. He is only 15, and we don't know what will happen with his cancer adventure, but he has shown us all so much about bravery and strength, just like Dan did ... while being humble. Scott is a lot like Dan .. never complaining and looking forward to life while we wait for that CT scan result that he will be having on Monday. He started radiation two days ago, and I have never been so proud of him. We send our strength and love to you.

Diane and Scott

Anonymous said...

I still do read your Blog and think of you very often, I also lost my litlle on with cancer at the age of four, I know what it is like to lose a loved one.God bless you Meg, I am Cicily's ecuadorian sister. From so far away...God Bless you Meg , peace for you....
you are so strong...I wasn't...and still cry sometimes...all my love to you...Gladys from Ecuador

Jeanne said...

I've been wondering about many of the same questions, and also thinking you must get tired of answering ones like, how are you. It's great you are able to share on the blog so that everyone knows how you're doing. I check it often and appreciate all your insights.

Anonymous said...

Meghan, I read your blog a few times a week. I feel we are living what you just went through. I know John and Dan talked shortly before he died. John's cancer has progressed to his liver and he is currently in the ICU fighting, as he has been for the past 2 years, for his life. His situation is more critical than it has ever been and the road ahead is tough. I thank you for all your blogs. It is my therapy.....I think of you daily, although I have never met you, nor did I meet Dan.
Sincerely, Jenny Atkinson (John Atkinson's sister-in-law).

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting answers to many of the questions we have thought of.

And Cafe Disco was hysterical. Save that one for a rainy day when you need a good laugh.

Sarah Hudson

Anonymous said...


Hope your first day back to work is going well for you!

Julie LaMotte