How I've Made Meaning of Loss
It can be challenging to make meaning from loss, but it is one way people find healing through grief. Some individuals turn to art therapy, others to storytelling, journaling, or grounding through nature, to process their losses. Grieving is a way that we can reconstruct meaning of our world after it has been challenged by loss, and help ourselves reconnect with our pre-grieving selves.
Losing my grandmother to leukemia
I lost my grandmother to leukemia when I was five years old. I was too young to understand much about this loss or grief itself. As the years went on, I thought of her, but it was not until I found myself in an internship as an oncology social worker over 20 years later that I was again exposed to the world of blood cancers and this type of loss. It was easy to see that great scientific progress had been made since my grandmother had had leukemia, as the patients I worked with were living longer and coping better with treatment. But I could also see that people were still struggling, still being diagnosed with blood cancer every few minutes, and relationships, like mine with my grandmother, were still getting cut short.
I went on to graduate and get a job as an oncology social worker. I’ve been fortunate to work with patients and families in this field for several meaningful years. And I’ve continued to experience loss, bearing witness to these patients and their families.
Fundraising for leukemia
A few years later, a colleague of mine nominated me to run for Woman of the Year (MWOY), a fundraising campaign of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. Through the MWOY campaign, candidates raise funds for LLS blood cancer research over the course of 10 weeks and compete in honor of children who are local blood cancer survivors, the “Boy of the Year” and “Girl of the Year.” Every dollar raised counts as one vote, and the titles are awarded to a woman and man with the most votes at the end of 10 weeks. My campaign was dedicated to my grandmother, who I called Nana; my goal was to raise $50,000 in the 10 weeks so that I could name a research grant in her memory.
With the help of family, friends, my colleagues, and even strangers, I was able to not only meet but far surpass my goal to raise #50KforNana. I ended up raising $64,000 for the Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the LLS, was named the runner-up Woman of the Year, and named a research grant, dedicated to finding better treatments and a cure for CLL, in memory of my grandmother.
Finding meaning through my career and passions
Running for Woman of the Year was an exciting experience, and also one that helped me make meaning of loss. There are many ways to process grief or make meaning of a cancer diagnosis. For me, raising money to help advance science and help others has been the most rewarding. If you are interested in learning more about how to become a candidate for MWOY, or any other fundraising campaigns of the LLS, you can visit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and search for your local chapter.