Whenever someone I know gets sick, I become terrified. What if they die like my dad did?
During the first summer after my dad's death, my sister and I spent the night at our Aunt Sophie's* house. Sophie lived a few hours away, so this was an exciting weekend for us.
Our first day together went amazingly well. We went out to lunch at a delicious restaurant, visited some shops nearby, and had fun. By the time we got back to Sophie's house, we were all exhausted and ready for rest.
The next day I woke up, got dressed, and grabbed my tennis shoes. The night before, plans had been made to go to the park when we all woke up. But, when I walked into the kitchen, I saw that my aunt had gotten sick overnight and didn't feel well enough to take us to the park. So, the trip was canceled.
When my aunt told my sister and me this, we had very different reactions: she was devastated that we weren't going, and I was terrified. Terrified that Aunt Sophie was going to get sick and die, just like my dad.
My dad's death had been very unexpected. At least, it had been for me. During the year leading up to his death, Dad had slowly gotten sicker and sicker. The signs had all been staring me in the face, but I was oblivious. Ever since I had been terrified that that would happen again.
Aunt Sophie cooked us breakfast while my sister and I played a game. I was panic-stricken; convinced that Sophie was going to die. It didn't matter that the logical side of my brain was screaming out hundreds of reasons why my theory wasn't true; my mind was still convinced that I was being thrown back into the same situation as my dad's. I continued to watch my aunt for the rest of our visit, looking for the all too familiar signs. But, there were none.
To this day I can happily report that Aunt Sophie is fine and that she did just have a cold. But, that hasn't stopped me from still freaking out whenever my mom, relative, or friend gets sick. And, like my aunt, all of those people are doing just fine now. Whenever a little voice in my head tells me that sickness always equals death, I've had to learn to shut it out. Some fears are real, yes. But, expecting generally healthy people to pass away suddenly because of a small sickness isn't realistic. So I've had to learn that yes, sometimes a cold is just a cold.
*Name has been changed for privacy purposes.
Written by Natalie Adams, the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks. Photo by the CDC.