I remember it like it was yesterday…..I got a call from my husband friend wife telling me to get to a certain spot…my husband was in a bad accident really bad. I ran out of the house with the kids to find him and went to the location. We couldn’t find him so I was thinking maybe they rushed him to the hospital so we flagged down a police who told me he was somewhere else and that he had passed. The police told me to step out of the car and asked who I was before he told me that my husband was deceased. I didn’t tell his sister I just told his sister where he was because I knew she was driving and that would be hard to tell someone so I got back in my car and headed to my Mother in Law’s house to give her the news……the moment my phone rang and my husbands sister started screaming was the moment I had to tell my kids that their father was gone. They heard it in her screams and I couldn’t lie to them. At the time my daughter was 6 and my son was 9. I just held their hand while driving with the other and said in the most simplest terms …Dad was gone. My son took it the hardest but my daughter said mom…you mean we have our own personal angel now. I said yes….yes we do.

Having conversations like these can be tough. You don’t want to lie to your children but you don’t want to sugarcoat to much of it either. There is no easy way to have difficult conversations with people. Whether it’s through death, job loss, losing their home, telling a friend that you can’t be around them anymore. These conversations are hard to have but in life we have to have a dialogue so that we can talk it out. Valentine’s day is this week and I would love to have a conversation with you about how we handle the task of telling others about difficult things that are about to happen or have happened. I am joined by 3 others who will give me their take on how they have difficult conversations and then I want you to tell me in the comments how you have hard conversations with people. Let’s start with
Heather Von St. James. If you haven’t heard about her I suggest that you do. She is amazing and she is on my new sHERO list! This is her take on how she tells someone she loves that life is about to change…….

I have learned all too well from experience that things can change in an instant, and because of that I havechosen to always be open and honest. When I was 36 years old I knew exactly where my life was going. I had a great job, a wonderful husband, a safe home and I was pregnant with my first (and only) child. Littledid I know just 3 ½ months after I gave birth to Lily I’d be diagnosed with a cancer called mesothelioma. I was told I had 15 months to live, and was extremely terrified that I wouldn’t be there to see Lily grow up. So Imade a promise to my baby girl that I would do whatever it took to be there to raise her.

I fought hard. I went through experimental surgery and painful treatments, fast forward 11 years, here I amtoday, a cancer survivor! Lily was so young when it happened so she didn’t know what was going on, but asshe grew up she’s had some questions. The future is still uncertain, so my husband Cam and I have chosento be honest with Lily. I remember when I was younger and my parents hid my father’s health problems fromme. I remember feeling left out of decisions and knowledge and I vowed I’d never do that to Lily, so Camand I treat her as an equal. Yes, she is our daughter, but we don’t treat her like a kid that doesn’t deserve tobe included. Of course I spare the gory details as I don’t want to take away her innocence, but I want her toknow the truth, and know to savor every moment of her childhood.

My post-cancer lifestyle and limitations were something Lily grew up with so it just became part of her life.She would see me traveling all the time and ask why. I’d say “I have to go to Boston for checkups, I have togo see my doctor,” and she understood. I’d get fatigued playing with her because my left lung was removedand she sometimes got upset or sad. I’d explain all the positive things that happened because my lung was removed (including the fact that I’m alive) and she understood. She would see me crying because a fellow patient turned friend passed away due to cancer. I’d tell her about the circle of life and how we will all diesomeday, but today was that friend’s time, and I think she understood. The older she gets the more sheunderstands what I went through and what I faced to be alive today.

This honesty means that Lily has definitely grown up faster than many kids her age do. Her outlook on life ismuch different than most 11-year-olds. This year she spent a weekend with me at the 8th Annual Miles for Meso 5K fundraiser, and rather than getting presents for her 10th birthday, Lily asked people to donate tothe Humane Society and raised $600! She is very mature, has more empathy than most, and I could not bemore proud of my girl. Recently, Lily told me she feels comfortable sharing her feelings with me and Icouldn’t have been happier to hear that. I hope she always feels that way. I hope we will always be openand honest with each other. I pray that I continue in my good health and will be there for Lily through all herlife milestones. This open communication might not be the answer for every family, but it was the answer formine, and I’m proud of the daughter Cam and I are raising. 

I asked a few of my friends who they had difficult conversations with people that they loved…

Monique – There was a friend that was toxic to my life. She took took took and never gave. I had to find a way to get rid of her so I thought by not speaking to her it would help….it didn’t. She kept calling and kept texting until finally I had to have a conversation with her. A difficult one that came from my heart. I had to tell her that her season in my life was over. No longer could I be her friend. I didn’t hate her, I didn’t want to see her hurt but I knew that I was beginning to walk a different path so I needed to get rid of people who weren’t on that path. We had the conversation and she was not happy but somehow I was. I haven’t heard from her in years and saw her the other day. She actually came and hugged me and said that she needed to hear my words of how much she was being a toxic person in my life. She needed to hear that from someone because no one told her what she was doing wrong and she began to change her ways and her life. I was proud of her and proud of myself. That conversation shaped the way I handled others. To this day I still care about her but I want you to know that you can love people and care for them without having them in your life!

Cory – I had to tell my kids that I no longer loved their mother. I no longer felt that we represented a loving relationship and I didn’t want them to grow up in a home that didn’t represent that. I still loved her because she was a good mother but I started to question did I ever really love her like a man should. I didn’t want to hurt my wife but I knew I definitely didn’t want to hurt my kids. We had to sit down and tell them but what helped was that her and I sat down and talked about it first. We put our children first and having that conversation about not living together was tough because our kids didn’t understand why. We had to continue to show them that we loved each other even though we didn’t live with each other. That meant that her and I needed to respect each other, no talking bad about the other, making sure that we are careful who we bring around our kids, having honest communication about who we were and what we wanted for ourselves and our kids. She is honestly my best friend now and the kids have nothing to worry about because we didn’t hide anything and we didn’t lie about anything. We told them as much as they could handle for their age and as they get older we answer the questions that they have together!

I don’t like difficult conversations. I think it’s because I like to avoid hurting people so I just cut them off cold turkey. I can’t do that with my kids…so I tend to have to learn how to have conversations with them. I remember when my mom died…she didn’t have a conversation with me about her dying she just told me what she wanted for her funeral and what she wanted done with her property when she died. She didn’t mention how I needed to be after she died or why she was dying I just knew that she was dying. I think it was hard for her to have that conversation with me so I didn’t push it. My mother died of cancer but I knew that she loved me and wanted to avoid having that life after death conversation with me. We tend to avoid it as much as possible. I have learned to make sure we talk because when hold on to things inside….it tends to get us down and depressed. I talk about my mother all the time and I also talk about my husband all the time because the conversation doesn’t have to end when they die because for me…and this is me……they are always around because they live in us.

How do you have conversations with those that you love? How do you get rid of people who aren’t good for you? How do you tell people that you love the hard things in life?

Thank you so much to all of my guests today. To follow Heather please use the links below!

Twitter: @HeatherVSJ
Facebook: Heather Von St. James
Website: Blogger at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance

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