Last week our family got some difficult news – you know, the kind of news that is a really BIG deal and throws most people for a major loop – me included. And out of respect for those involved, I won’t give the exact details of what’s going on; but it’s the sort of news akin to hearing from your doctor (a) “We’ve found a lump” or (b) “Are you the parent of (insert name here)” by a couple of somber-looking cops that might show up at your house at 3 a.m. some Sunday morning.
And don’t worry: No-one around here has been recently diagnosed with cancer or has perished in a fiery post-drinking-binge car crash – however the news we got has still nonetheless shaken me to the core, and wondering: How do people deal with the difficult news – “difficult” being defined as really life-changing news – that they get, especially when it’s regarding a serious situation like – let’s say – described in the cartoon above?
Let’s face it: As much as we hear about terrible things in the media (“ISIS beheads two more Western Journalists”) or read about them on Facebook (“Robin Williams dies in apparent suicide”) nothing can compare us for when something really tragic happens to either us, or someone we actually love and care about. (Note: Those journalists and Robin Williams had families, right? This is what I’m talking about) – How are these folks dealing with the kind of shocking, horrific news they all received; and then, how do they eventually move on and live with it?
The answer is that I don’t have a single clue; and trying to figure out how to move forward with this latest development is honestly freaking me out a ton, because looking back on my own life, I haven’t really had to deal with any big, unexpected shocks like this before. Okay, I have; but circumstances were such that – looking back now – I realized “softened” the blow for me. Here’s what I mean:
The last “big” news I remember getting is when my son Tristan was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy way back in 2,000 – and although it was a big deal, since there was no immediate physical change to him, and he was too young to really know what was going on, it was all just sort of status quo. I just processed the information, then used the time I had to go out and show him some excellent adventures that would take all our minds off of what else was going on. As the illness progressed, we already knew what to expect so there was no big sudden shock to deal with.
Or there’s this: One morning around April 1990 I went into work, only to be pounced upon by my business partner the second I walked through the door. He grabbed me by the shoulder, and in his thick Aussie accent said : “Oh Mate, yer mum called and yer dad died last night – sorry”. Okay…? I jumped in the car, and drove due North for a couple of hours to my parent’s home. There I found my brother busy on the phone trying to get the other siblings organized, while mom busied herself in a stoic fashion in order to keep her mind off the fact that her husband of 44 years just passed. She said she “knew something was wrong”, but after all, dad had been sick for a while so his death wasn’t a total surprise to us.
Or even this: 3 years later I got a similar call from my brother saying “Mom died last night” (brevity obviously being part of the Knapp-Fisher “passing-on-of-vital-information” code) and so we went through it all again, except that mom was sick but didn’t let any of us know. The truth is that once my dad – the only love of her life – died, she pretty much gave up and kept her illnesses to herself. Still, since she didn’t lead a very healthy lifestyle so again, her death didn’t come as a total shock… not like the news we got this week.
So for now, it appears my past history doesn’t offer up much in the way of help for me to deal with this sudden new development, or how it will affect our lives. I guess all I can do is hope for the best, and try to keep everyone involved in good spirits by minimizing the scary thoughts and fuzzy flow of information, and just keep on living every day the best we can, right? I mean, because what else can any of us do when life hands us a tough bit of news?
Until next time…