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Grief and Cancer – what does it mean?


Grief - a word thrown around during hard parts of our lives. But what does it mean?

Grief by definition: “Intense feelings of sorrow and sadness, often after a loved one's death”. It is a natural response which we experience when we lose someone or something important to us, that can affect many parts of our lives. It’s personal, challenging, and experienced differently by everyone.

Rather than an emotion, grief is a process filled with a range of complicated emotions. This process, for many, can include the initial emotions surrounding loss and the gradual acceptance of circumstances. Even years afterwards, moments in life can bring back memories or reminders of our losses, and we may have times where the physical and emotional tolls come back to us.

Grief may be experienced after we lose someone in our lives; a parent or carer, sibling, relative or friend. We may also feel grief when we lose parts of our own lives. For example, we may experience loss of abilities, our health or some positive emotions. Though we may also grieve for things we never get to experience. Perhaps we were diagnosed with cancer as a child and lost experiences; or we may grieve for the time we never got to spend with our loved one who passed away.

Some examples of grief may be:

- The death of a loved one

- Having to say goodbye to something you love

- Breaking up with a partner

- Leaving home

- Illness/loss of health

- Death of a pet

- Change of job

- Graduation from school

- Loss of a physical ability

- Loss of financial security

All of these experiences may result in grief, but however you may experience them, it’s important to recognise that this is a natural response to loss, and something many of us will face. Grief can come with a range of emotions; pain, sadness, shock, anger, frustration. We may experience physical changes in our bodies, such as headaches, changes in appetite, irregular sleep, or tiredness. It’s important to recognise that your experience is unique to you, but you are not alone in your journey. There are many ways in which we all grieve. Some people keep it locked inside, some people want to forget the experience all together, others may verbalise it.

Losing someone is a huge thing. Often people think they should deal with it by themselves, but it often helps more to reach out to someone. Whether it be a friend, family member or an organisation. It can really help to tell someone what it feels like for you. If you need any extra grief support, there are some 24/7 options here

And of course, Canteen Australia and Canteen Aotearoa!

Canteen has many resources available where you can learn about living with grief, like:

- Books and resources - Living with the death of your parent or sibling

- Hear stories from young people living with different types of grief and loss

- Tips for friends who are trying to be supportive

- Headspace's article has some useful insights on grief

If you ever need to reach out for grief support, or want to connect with people with similar experience, you can do here on Canteen Connect, or any of the above listed services.

By Kai and Bron, Connect Youth Leaders