I always tell people that dying was the greatest gift that my parents ever gave me, as morbid as that may sound. Their deaths cursed me with a lifetime of sorrow and missed opportunities, but also blessed me with endless compassion, understanding and appreciation for each and every breath I take. Losing my parents robbed me of so many moments in life; my mother seeing me graduate, my father walking me down the aisle, my parents holding my children someday and being involved in their lives, seeing me find a career I am passionate about, that also pays the bills. The silence in moments like these is deafening and I feel their absences like a knife in my chest.
Grief is a creature of many faces. It stalks amidst the shadows of our lives - hunting us, preying on our moments of weakness and feasting on heartache and loneliness. Grief is a festering, silent, incurable disease. Grief is a tangible emptiness writhing in the pit of your stomach. Grief is an ocean of despair whose depths are so profound that they could never be measured. Grief makes slaves of us all, whipping us into a desolation that is inevitable submission. We are all carriers of grief. Grief does not discriminate based on class or circumstance. In that dark and empty place where loss lives, it finds us - and in that place, we are all equals..
When I was sixteen years old, my mother died of brain cancer. I cradled her in my arms as she took her last ragged breaths. Two weeks earlier, she had entered a coma. Since then, her body had started to decompose. I can still remember the way she smelled – like a corpse, her breath rattling with the fluids that had begun to fill her lungs. In those last moments of her life, I was irrevocably changed on a core level. My beliefs, my hopes, my dreams, my fears - every detail that had defined me for sixteen years shattered in the stretch of a single heartbeat.
I spent the next few months drowning.
Kaylyn Hansen has worked in the alternative medicine field for over four years as a patient liaison, educator, and physician's assistant.