Grief and sadness is a terrible thing in and of itself.

It’s hard to know where and when to stop being happy because other people are so sad, sometimes other people close to you are sad which means you should probably adjust the amount of happiness you’re capable of to better match the sadness of others. Or at least that’s what it feels like sometimes. The sun is shining, my family is marvelous and I have a very good life. I am well, I am healthy and I am quite happy.

But not too happy. The sun may be shining but people are dying. I have a very good life while others are struggling to hang on.

I have been on the other side of sadness. When I was released from the hospital Cody took me to a video store. I stared at all the people in the store laughing and carrying on without a care in the world. Didn’t they know I had just been locked up and unable to feel the sunshine on my face? Didn’t they know there were people still locked up who may never make it to a video store again? On the very long flight back from a child’s funeral it was hard not to look at frustrated parents and think “At least your child is still here. Children die and yours could too.”

It’s a terrible way to think but it’s also a very human way to think.

With what’s going on with my friend Dawn, it’s hard to fully immerse myself in all the good things surrounding me. Her family is losing her. She is not going to get better (But the eternally optimistic part of me hopes she will. I hope that part of me never shuts down.) Rather than dwell on impending sadness and doom I am focusing all my efforts for good, it’s what Dawn would do. It’s what she would want all of us to do. Take better care of each other. Complain less. Compliment more.

When I think back to the times I was sad and broken, it was your eternal optimism that convinced me I would some day get better. Had you all become sad and dreary to match my mood no one would have gotten better. I didn’t want anyone to enjoy their life any less simply because I couldn’t find any joy in mine.

There is so much sadness out in the world right now. Normally I’m in the thick of it, but for the first time I’m watching it envelop so many and I am desperate to do something about it.

Have you ever taken the time to look away from the sky during a fireworks show and look back on the crowd? That moment when the fireworks explode and everyone’s face lights up with colored light and awe?

Symphony on the Prairie-Glorious Fourth
Sadness is a single light shooting out into the great dark unknown, and when the time is right the optimism of those surrounding it should cause it to explode into a thousand tiny flashes of good deeds and kindness, lighting up the faces of those who witness it.

I am heartbroken at all the sadness we must feel in this life, but I also know from personal experience how much stronger it makes us after we survive it. I choose to complain less, laugh more and when I am able, turn the sadness around me into a thousand tiny lights to help others find their way.


While donations to The Melanoma Research Foundation in Dawn’s name will always be appreciated, donations are being gathered to help Mike and his sons directly with warm food, services and comforts that no one should have to worry about while losing a loved one.

UPDATE: 2pm EST. Dawn is gone. Please pray/sing/send juju, whatever it is you may do to her husband Michael and their two boys.


  1. I remember the heaviness after my “lock up.” The questioning of whether I was good enough, happy enough or fixed enough to belong to the happy people around me.

    I am sorry you are sad….but I am glad you are feeling. When you CAN’T feel is when something is very much wrong.


    Katie Reply:

    @CJ, I was there a couple years ago. There were no feelings. I wanted to say I was depressed, but that wasn’t even true because I just didn’t care. About anything. It was awful and terrible and I never told anyone because how do you tell someone you can’t *feel*?

    Luckily, I found a way out of it, but there are still times when I find myself heading in that direction and it scares me. It’s everything I can do to distract myself from that place. It’s something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

    CJ Reply:

    @Katie, It used to visit me often, from a very young age. I called it The Nothing. I have been free for a number of years, but I am aware it dances around the fringe of who I was and could easily slip back in.

    Death is hard. So, so hard. Let it be hard.

    Casey Reply:

    @Katie, I’ve got you, I know the inability to feel.

    Casey Reply:

    @CJ, Oh yes, not feeling is a terrible (lack of) feeling. Like you simply shouldn’t exist.

  2. I’ll be praying for your friend, and for you! We all have those days from time to time. The feelings we experience in times like this helps us grow, and if choose to be strong the sadness will slowly diminish. It’s okay to be sad though. We wouldn’t be human if we weren’t, and to feel is to be humanly normal. I hope all will be well in time. Take care Casey. Love ya!

    Casey Reply:

    @rose, Finding the joy in sadness, it’s really hard but makes life so much sweeter.

  3. This is how I felt when I pulled out of it and got stable and had to watch you still struggling when you were pregnant with Vivi. It’s how I feel whe our mmutual friend in Indy posts abouthow hard it is to watch others being happy wwhile she’s trying so hard just to keep her head above water. It’s how I feel when I think of Karl’s cousin and his wife, to whom we are very close, and the 3 of their 4 kids with mitochondrial disease, which has no treatments and no cure. I’m so blessed, and I need to use my current happiness to bless others against the time when I myself will need such kindnesses again.

    Casey Reply:

    @Chrysta, Exactly.

  4. Back in August when we had the big scary happen, I remember going to a park with my husband and kids. We just stared at each other and other people and it was like, “Don’t these other people know the world might be ending? That we’re hurting so deeply? How can they laugh? Will I ever be able to laugh again?”

    It’s a weird feeling.

    We’ll keep this family in our prayers. I’m so sorry they’re going through this. Sucks. Balls.

    Casey Reply:

    @Ashley, Yes, which is why I beg everyone to be kind to everyone else. You NEVER know who is going through what.

  5. I’m really just so damn sorry about Dawn. I wish for her and her family meaningful moments, a warehouse of good memories and eventually some peace.
    You’ve been a light for me fo sho and I love you for it.

    Casey Reply:

    @Joules, It just hurts. She was so good. I hate using past tense to even talk about her. xo

  6. Bethany says:

    praying for Dawn’s boys and for everyone lucky enough to have called her a friend

    Casey Reply:

    @Bethany, thank you darling.

  7. so sorry for the loss of your friend. 🙁

    Casey Reply:

    @kristen, Thank you. She will be missed terribly and celebrated properly.

  8. I can’t wrap my mind around Dawn being gone.

    I just can’t.

    I’m having a really hard time remembering that my life is allowed to still be blessed even though her husband and boys are hurting.

    It’s all too..close. Too similar. Too…much,

    Casey Reply:

    @Katie, Her optimism made it hard for a lot of us. How can someone with such a joy and a light be dying?
    If nothing else, it’s a brilliant example of how to live life.

    Katie Reply:

    @Casey, it reminded me so much of Cort’s dad at the end. I hate cancer.

  9. Stupid, stinking, good for nothing cancer! I know it doesn’t always win, but it sure does hate to lose. Thank you for posting the link. I don’t know Mike, but I know where he is in his heart right now. I wish I didn’t know…I wish I could help make it better. Hugs to you just because I like you so awful much.

    Casey Reply:

    @Mary, Oh, yes my friend. If anyone who has commented here knows this pain…death is just a whole new kind of pain. So unique and nagging. xo

  10. Stephanie says:

    I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. I hate cancer so, so much. To do this to a young woman with two young boys. It’s not fair!!

    Off to make an appointment with my PCP to look at all my hundreds of moles…

    So sorry again.

    Casey Reply:

    @Stephanie, It’s not fair. At all.
    I’ll be doing a big old skin check too.

  11. I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. Cancer is just so awful. I am sending the warmest wishes I have to her family.

    Casey Reply:

    @Sarah @, Thank you. I’m sure they can feel it. They have to. xo

  12. Jacqueline M. says:

    I never comment but I had to on this. Melanoma (and Cancer in general) is the worst thing to exist! I just lost my Grandfather to stage 4 Melanoma in August of this past year and watching someone go through such a slow and painful death is something I would not wish on my worst enemy! I am Catholic and my belief in Heaven was exactly what got me through that time, knowing that it was in God’s hands the entire time and he chose him to leave his family here on earth to return to his heavenly family. I will say lots of prayers for Dawn’s family and I am hopeful that one day, there will be a lot more cures for the dreadful C word.