Your Grief Doesn't Matter

My name doesn’t matter. It’s not as if you’ll remember it anyway. My name could be Finn or Lotte. Kate, Marissa, Matthew, TJ, James, Victoria, Adam, Grace, Ashley, Claire. We are not mothers. We are not fathers. All we are are brothers and sisters. Siblings. We are the forgotten mourners and those left behind in the wake of a child dying from cancer. Our grief does not matter.

I did not carry my brother for nine months. I did not give birth to him. I did not nurse him. I did not potty train him. I did not teach him how to read. I did not check for monsters in his closet. I did not drive him to school every morning and pick him up every night. I did not supply for him. I did not teach him how to ride a bike. I did not teach him how to drive a car. I did not raise him. I am not his mother. I am not his father. And because of that, my grief does not matter. 

But I did play with him. I consoled him when he cried. I changed his diapers. I helped him with homework. I stuck up for him at the playground. I taught him how to play hockey. I read to him every night before bed. I fed him as a baby and bought him his first drink as an adult. I listened to his fears and encouraged his dreams. I watched him grow up, proud as I could ever hope to be. Eventually, I stood by his side as the word cancer was uttered. I held his hand as he shaved his head. I prayed for him. And when that didn’t work, I tried to make him laugh. I kept watch all night long as he lay dying. And when that unexpected moment came when I had to say goodbye, I was able to let him go. 

I was with him every step of the way. I shared in each season of his life. Teaching like a parent and laughing like a sister. But because I am not labeled a mother or a father, my grief doesn’t matter. 

I am the silent mourner, a muzzle put over my mouth by those around me. Those who tell me I need to be strong for my parents and especially by those who tell me that I couldn’t possibly understand what my parents are going through, but I’ll understand someday when I have kids.

I am the silent mourner, a muzzle put over my mouth by those around me. Those who tell me I need to be strong for my parents and especially by those who tell me that I couldn’t possibly understand what my parents are going through, but I’ll understand someday when I have kids. 

I am the painful truth for those around me, proof that I can go through hell, and still survive with no other option aside from continuing on.  

I am the guilty survivor, willing to trade places with my brother if it meant bringing even a shred of happiness back to my family. 

I am the forgotten casualty, wounded by my brother’s cancer diagnosis and left alone in the trenches of loss.

My grief doesn’t matter. Our grief doesn’t matter. At least not to you. We may never have gotten permission to grieve by those around us, and so, we take it upon our own shoulders. We must be soft and slow, able to let our tears flow and our emotions be felt. We are going to laugh and cry and scream and moan and curse and wail and then laugh and cry some more. We are taking back our memories, our emotions, and our grief. Our grief may not matter to you but it sure as hell matters to us, and we’re going to grieve unabashedly whether you like it or not.  

-Amanda Woomer

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Amanda received her first award for her writing at 12 years old and has works featured in best-selling anthologies and literary magazines all over the world. She began writing full-time after her brother, Jedidiah, passed away in 2015 as a way to cope with her grief. She currently lives in New York with her husband and cactus collection. 

GriefJulia Nusbaum3 Comments