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June 19, 2014

When Mom Has Cancer (Part 2): Give Kids Space

Seven months ago, Sarah Holley was diagnosed with cancer. She’s learned a few lessons along the way that she is sharing in this series of articles. To read Part 1, click here.

Sarah Headshot Oct2013 HDR

Telling my kids that I had cancer was beyond difficult. At 16, 13, and 12, they’ve watched some of my dear friends walk the cancer journey, so they knew the realities.The lesson I learned as I communicated with them was the importance of giving them space to process it in their own way.

I saw clearly (once again) that my kids are all individuals with individual ways of dealing with bad news. One became angry, one was silent and withdrawn, and one was angry-sad-worried. And that’s okay. Why should I expect that they would all react the same way? What’s important is that I give them the space they need in order to deal with things in their own way and at their own pace.

Lest you think I’m superhuman, I want to confess something: This was not easy. Not at all. On the one hand, I wanted to make sure that they were okay, so I tried to encourage them to talk to me about how they were doing. But, on the other hand, the emotions of it all were overwhelming to me. It was hard enough to deal with my own fears, anxiety, and sadness, much less my kids’ fears, anxiety, and sadness. Unfortunately, I had a less-than-stellar parenting moment when two of my kids overheard me venting to my husband about being overwhelmed by the third kid’s emotions. How did I expect them to tell me how they really were doing now? Ugh!

Here’s where being in a good community of friends can help. And boy did mine help! I’ll never forget when my dear friend, Susan, pulled my daughter aside and encouraged her, letting her know that it was okay to hurt but to take that hurt to the Healer.

Which brings me to another important lesson. Which I’ll share with you tomorrow….


2 thoughts on “When Mom Has Cancer (Part 2): Give Kids Space

  1. Sara, the ages of our kids definitely plays a part in how much we tell them and how we tell them. It sounds like you did a beautiful job. And I’m so thankful that your “Kansas” was not that bad!

  2. My kids we a lot younger when I was diagnosed. In some ways that was good because they didn’t understand, in others it was hard because they needed me and I wasn’t very available.

    I’ll never forget the day I told my kids…very casually through the rear view mirror on the way to Disneyland. I explained that some cancer was really bad and some was not as bad and mine was the not as bad kind and I would be having surgery in a few days to remove it. The next day my son’s kindergarden teacher called to let me know that he had announced to the class that his mom has “Kansas” but it’s not that bad. These sweet, innocent moments are what helped me pull through.

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