Recovering from the loss of a loved one can be a long journey, with a lot of ups, downs, moments when things seem to be okay, and sudden periods of grief. Months after Beth Chapman’s death from stage four lung cancer, her daughter Bonnie posted a slideshow of photos of her mom to show how much she misses the family matriarch, and to share her mom’s memory with all of her supporters.
“I miss you everyday. Your birthday is coming up, wish I could celebrate with you one last time. Thank you for being there for my graduation, now I’m so thankful I have that moment with you,” Bonnie wrote alongside the slideshow. In the first photo, Beth smiles on a beach while in the next few, Bonnie, Beth and Dog, decked out in Hawaiian lei necklaces celebrate Bonnie’s high school graduation. It seems from the photos that thinking about milestones is an important part of Bonnie’s grieving process, as the day when Beth was born approaches for the first time since her death.
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Supporters commented to show Bonnie their love, writing about how much Beth loved her, “Baby she soooooo LOVED YOU!! HONEY SHES ALWAYS WATCHING OVER YOU!! I LOVE YOU! Hang in there beautiful girl!” and thanking her for posting about her memories, “Love this pics! Thanks for sharing with us.”
This comes shortly after Bonnie posted a tweet saying that, “Honestly the past month has been the worst and I just wish things would get better.”
Honestly the past month has been the worst and I just wish things would get better
— Bonnie Chapman (@Bonniejoc) October 24, 2019
Her supporters were quick to make the link between her mom’s death and the difficult emotions Bonnie is dealing with right now, “It will get better. With your loss everything hurts so much more than it should. I am keeping you in my prayers . Don’t give up. You are so beautiful and talented.”
“Oh sweetie I am so sorry to hear things are going so rough for you right now. I pray things start working out for you Hang in there and remember The Lord won’t throw anything at you that you can’t handle. Your as strong as your mom and a fighter just like her.”
She also wrote about the difficulty she’s had expressing herself, because she’s too emotional to get the words out, “Honestly so done with everything, nothing has been getting better. I haven’t even talked about the shit we’ve been going through because each time I try I bawl my eyes out.”
Honestly so done with everything, nothing has been getting better. I haven’t even talked about the shit we’ve been going through because each time I try I bawl my eyes out
— Bonnie Chapman (@Bonniejoc) October 24, 2019
In the comments, one supporter related their own story about losing a parent at a young age, “I know it’s really hard Bonnie I lost my father when I was 14 and after he died everything fell apart. It a little bit of time but we finally got back on track. It’s gonna take some time but everything will be alright. Keep faith hun.”
While others offered words of support, “Keep you head up high. Things happen in life and the only way to get out from under it, is to ride the wave. :)”
As well as their prayers for her healing, “Sending my love prayers and hugs.”
Bonnie Chapman, anxiety, and the death of her mom Beth
We know that Beth’s disease has been a big part of Bonnie’s anxiety since her mother’s tragic diagnosis. In 2017, Bonnie shared with her fans how devastating she found it as her mother embarked on her cancer journey:
“Two weeks later, the most heartbreaking news hit me, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Balancing my already overflowing emotions, and college classes was difficult. My depression was at its all time high. Stress levels seemed to just keep raising, and even though I had only one exam; stress radiated off of everyone on campus. From all this, I learned so much. I don’t regret anything, life is too short to regret things anyways. I was able to love myself, and gain confidence. The beginning of last year I had gotten my first tattoo, and now I’m up to 3.”
Bonnie was just coming into her own as a pansexual when she came face to face with her beloved mom’s diagnosis. Her decision to be by her mom’s side while her mom fights cancer in an induced coma comes after she initially expressed that she didn’t really want to head back to Hawaii, and had some of her own anxieties and fears about the place where her family lived.
Bonnie (who was believed to be in Colorado) wrote of her home in Hawaii, where the close-knit Chapman clan is based: “Everyone I know is so excited to go back to the islands, meanwhile I’ll do anything not to return.” She added a “palms up,” questioning emoji to the end of the tweet.
At the time, Bonnie’s supporters appeared to refer in the comments to her pain surrounding her mother’s cancer. Replying to a question from “BerthaBoo” asking “Why is that?” regarding Bonnie’s aversion to Hawaii, Bonnie wrote “Traffic, too many people and I just had overwhelming anxiety there.”
“Anxiety sucks, I know what you mean. I live in a small village without any public transportation and only necessary shops,” BerthaBoo replied.
Another follower replied to the thread with supportive comments, telling her to pursue what makes her happy. “Sweetie you do what is best for you. I’m sure you are all going through a lot considering. But just follow your heart.best of luck in all that you do.”
As Bonnie herself has noted, being the child of a cancer patient can be really difficult, and navigating family relationships during that time extremely hard. Still, Bonnie seems to have always responded with openness and questioning, and always returned to her mom’s side when she felt it mattered most.
When SurvivorNet asked Bonnie what it’s like to watch her mom in this season of “Dog’s Most Wanted” after her death, Bonnie replied that it hasn’t been easy. “It’s really hard I’m not gonna lie,” she admitted. “To see new moments of [my mom] that I haven’t seen… it brings back a flood of emotion. It makes me feel like she’s still here, but then I’m brought back to reality, realizing it’s something that happened in the past, not right now.”
The series chronicles some of the hardest moments in Beth Chapman’s cancer journey, including her hair loss and her diminishing physical strength. Despite becoming gradually weaker physically, though, Bonnie said that her mother’s mental and emotional strength never wavered, even in her moments of debilitating pain.
Information about dealing with anxiety during cancer
For a lot of people, connecting to someone else with cancer can help with some of the difficult emotions that that can come with the diagnosis. Anxiety and fear are totally normal reactions to the news of cancer, and acknowledging these emotions can be therapeutic and important to the healing process.
“I think the most important advice I would give to someone who has just received a cancer diagnosis is to find people whom they find as a source of support. To allow themselves to go through all of the different emotional reactions to that news,” said Dr. Susan Parons, Director of the Center for Health Solutions/Center on Child and Family Outcomes at Tufts Medical Center, in a prior interview with SurvivorNet. Dr. Parsons did not comment on this case specifically.
“The anger, the frustration, the fear. The disappointment. Whatever those emotions are, figure out what’s important to you and find those people that can help you realize that.”
Dr. Susan Parons, Director of the Center for Health Solutions/Center on Child and Family Outcomes at Tufts Medical Center on dealing with fear and anxiety after a cancer diagnosis.
In times of frustration, it can be useful to a little bit of direction on specific ways to deal with it. A few of the most common ways to deal with fear and anxiety after a cancer diagnosis, that have helped people in the SurvivorNet community in the past, include:
1. Let your family and close friends know – and let them help. So many cancer survivors tell us they want and need support but are often too preoccupied to make specific requests. Urge those close to you to jump in with whatever practical help they can offer.
2. Keep a journal. It can be extremely cathartic to let those feelings loose on paper. Grab a pen and a nice journal and chronical your different thoughts throughout the day.
3. Join a cancer support group. There are groups in nearly every community offering opportunities to connect with others going through a similar journey. You’ll learn incredibly helpful insight from others who can tell you about what to expect and how to stay strong on tough days.
4. Consider seeing a therapist. Ask your doctor to refer you to a therapist so you can discuss your fears and concerns in a safe space. Often, vocalizing your thoughts and feelings rather than internalizing them can provide relief.