When it comes to experiencing grief, I find this quote by Terri Irwin to be very accurate: “Grief is never something you get over. You don’t wake up one morning and say, ‘I’ve conquered that; now I’m moving on.’ It’s something that walks beside you every day. And if you can learn how to manage it and honor the person that you miss, you can take something that is incredibly sad and have some form of positivity.”
A string of thoughts swirls around my head when I think about my friend Daniel’s battle with brain cancer, on top of having Cerebral Palsy as a fifteen-year boy with so much ahead of him.
I think things like: Another year has gone by without you, but it feels like just yesterday that you said goodbye to this world and the chapters of your book came to an end. But there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about you or the battle you faced. You were very brave and courageous and for that, I’m proud of you.
Missing My Best Friend: How My Friend’s Cancer Journey Impacted My Life
It’s been nine years since he’s been gone but, in all seriousness, it still feels yesterday.
Within the first year of Daniel passing I struggled to come to terms with my grief and that cancer had taken my best friend, who was like a brother to me. He was my biggest supporter next to my mom. I became very angry at the world, to the point where I started to become more rebellious. As a result my grades started to slip.
I was finding my freshman year of high school so difficult that I started to skip classes. I didn’t care about my future. I would often ask myself if there was anything I could have done to save Daniel’s life. I would even wish that it were me who got cancer instead of him.
My experience with survivor’s guilt as a side effect of my grief
The guilt was isolating. I couldn’t go out and do the things I enjoyed like going to the bookstore or attending football games without feeling guilty about it. I would often say things like “too bad Daniel can’t be here right now”. To avoid feeling like this I would stay home as much as possible.
As you can imagine, this was not good for me. At all. I would post about him every day on social media, writing about how much I wanted my brother back. A part of me hoped God would read my post and say: “Here’s Daniel back”. It was like I had separated myself from reality as a way to cope; away from the reality that Daniel was gone and that I had to move on.
Moving on wasn’t easy by any means. A year after Daniel’s passing, I decided I wanted to support children fighting cancer; so I would send toys to the kids in Hospitals. It was a good way to help me cope with my grief as well as setting aside the anger I felt.
I donated soft toys to child cancer patients to honor my best friend
Moving on from such grief requires a lot of bravery. “There is something you must always remember. you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”- Winnie the Pooh
A year later I went on to write James Ticking Time Bomb in honor of Daniel and his battle with cancer. I’ve been writing with the aim of bringing awareness to childhood cancer ever since.
Though I’ve Moved On, I’m Still Grieving
It’s nine years later and I am now 24 years old and in college. I’m doing what I love most, which is spreading awareness for causes that matter to me through writing, the one thing that helped me cope the most with the grief of Daniel’s death. I still rely on writing as a coping mechanism to help me get through my grief as an adult. So now, every time I open up my laptop and begin writing, it serves as a reminder than Daniel’s spirit is always with me, and that I’ll see him again someday.