Living After Loss & Coping WIth Trauma
- Mad Men star Jon Hamm faced unfathomable loss as a youth, losing his mother to colon cancer when he was just 10 and both parents by the age of 20.
- Hamm credits his community, both his extended family and his schooling for helping him through, and has raved about the benefits from mental health counseling.
- Everyone goes through the stages of grief at their own pace. When you lose a parent to cancer, especially if it happens at a young age like Hamm, that feeling of loss and sadness can linger, but it is possible to channel it into something constructive and not hide behind trauma in order to live a full life after loss.
- SurvivorNet Mental Health Resources are here.
The Morning Show star, 52, who first dazzled the world with his “Don Draper” role on Mad Men, has been candid over the years about his struggles and credits his extended family and schooling — along with therapy — to his success.Read More
A Heavy Loss
During a past appearance on In Depth Graham Bensinger, Hamm further discussed his mother’s colon cancer, explaining that “the only thing worse” than losing a parent is “losing a child,” which he had to see through his grandparents eyes.
‘‘It was very fast. It was incredibly hard to watch. Life really does a number on you. I watched my mum shrivel up, and at 35,” Hamm shared with GQ about the traumatic time. “She was this incredibly healthy, beautiful woman and by the time she died she weighed 80 pounds and looked like she was 70.”
As he echoed to Bensinger, he told the outlet how he remembered seeing his grandparents and other family members “completely lose their sh*it” after her diagnosis. Not only was he losing his mom, but he witnessed firsthand the effect that cancer has on loved ones and caregivers, especially on his father, Daniel.
“He was just so much older, so much sadder. Life was harder.”
Hamm had one focus, however, and that was “to achieve.” His mom, he said, left him a “nest egg” to go toward his academics, which he thinks is the most important thing in a kid’s life. He had the “Cadillac version” of schooling, which helped propel him through his teenage years.
Once Hamm lost his father, he said he just felt so incredibly alone, but shows immense gratitude for the people who stepped up for him at that time.
“I give thanks, you know, to the people in my life who helped me reorient during that time, which were these really close family friends.”
Turning to Therapy
Aiming to ease his own suffering, Hamm credits his sister for suggesting counseling in helping him to cope with the loss of their parents. Later on, he struggled with alcoholism.
“People go for all sorts of reasons, not all of which are chemically related,” he explained to Mr. Porter’s The Journal. “But there’s something to be said for pulling yourself out of the grind for a period of time and concentrating on re-calibrating the system. And it works. It’s great.”
Everyone goes through the stages of grief at their own pace. When you lose a parent to cancer, especially if it happens at a young age like Hamm, that feeling of loss and sadness can linger. But that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.
Learning Through Loss
Camila Legaspi lost her mom to breast cancer when she was in high school, and told SurvivorNet that the tragedy of losing a parent as a teenager kind of defined her high school experience.
However, after she went off to college, Camila was able to turn that immense sense of loss that she felt into inspiration for creating.
“I actually took this sadness and let it motivate me,” Camila told SurvivorNet. “I learned that it’s OK to be sad sometimes. It’s OK to carry sadness with you … it’s not always a bad thing. It makes you who you are and it gives you a story to tell and it helps you teach other people to cope with their sadness.”
Camila, one of four siblings, said that her mother was a very creative person. She said she turned to writing as an outlet, and used her mother’s creativity as a motivator. Camila went to Princeton University, and got involved with the school’s magazine. She explained that instead of thinking of the loss of her mother as something terrible that happened to her family, she has let it serve as inspiration for poetry, fiction, or whatever else she may be inspired to write.
“I’ve learned to have it impact me in a positive way, and have it not just be a sad story,” Camila said. “Instead, I’m using it for a better purpose.”