Parents feel an acute sense of loss when their child is diagnosed with leukemia. They feel unprepared to cope with the possibility of death, and fear that they may simply not be able to deal with the enormity of the problems facing the family. Parents describe feeling engulfed by sadness. Grieving for the child is common, even when the prognosis is good. Parents grieve the loss of normalcy, the realization that life will never be the same. They grieve the loss of their dreams and aspirations for their child. Shame and embarrassment are also felt by some parents. Cultural background, individual coping styles, basic temperament, and family dynamics all affect the type of emotions experienced.
Even though my daughter's prognosis was good, I would find myself daydreaming about her funeral. Certain songs especially triggered this feeling. I invariably burst into tears because I was ashamed to be thinking/planning a funeral when I just could not imagine my life without her. When these feelings washed over me, I could actually feel a physical sensation of my heart ripping.
Cynthia Krummes book Having Leukemia Isn't So Bad. Of Course It Wouldn't Be My First Choice describes a message tacked on the Massachusetts General Clinic bulletin board:
How do I feel? Don't ask!...aside from nervousness, irritability, exhaustion, faintness, dizziness, tremors, cold sweats, depression, insomnia, muscle pains, mental confusion, internal trembling, numbness, indecisiveness, crying spells, unsocial, asocial, and anti-social behavior. I feel fine..Thank you.
Parents travel a tumultuous emotional path where overwhelming emotions subside only to resurface later. All of these are normal, common responses to a catastrophic event. For many parents, these strong emotions begin to fade as hope grows.
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