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An Open Letter to a Teenager Who Lost a Parent to Cancer

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SFU chapter.

Dear ________,

I am so sorry.  Though, I’m sure the word ‘sorry’ has become numb to you now. I am sorry that you have had to go through such a traumatic, raw and grueling experience at such an important time of your life.

The teen years are supposed to be easy, and carefree; they are not supposed to be heart-breaking and deep. If it helps, know that you are not alone, no matter how much you feel that way at times. When my Mom passed away, I felt as though I had no one to talk to who had experienced the same thing. I promise that one day you will.

If I could give some advice to you here’s what it would be: Some days suck. Some days are okay. Do not expect them to be all or another. It is going to suck for a long time, but impossible to tell if it will ever get better.

Holidays may seem impossible now, but they are not as bad as they seem. Use these days to celebrate them and remember all the memories you had with them. Try and focus on the good ones but remember the bad ones.

Do not try and frame them as someone that they were not. People will try and make it seem as though they were a hero, but they were flawed. Those flaws were apart of them and made up their identity. Do not be afraid to remember them.

They are proud of you. So many people will say this to you but it won’t resonate with you. Even doing something as small as waking up today makes them proud of you.

Try and hold on to old traditions, but do not hesitate to modify them. At Christmas time, my Mom used to always make biscotti to give to friends and family. So this year, my Mom’s friend and I made them; trying to remember the way she did it but not being afraid if they turned out slightly differently.

Celebrate them. They will be in your thoughts every day, try and keep the thoughts positive and see the good in them. It helps get through it.

Share memories with others about them. Remember that time a bird pooped on their head in Mexico? She was so mad you and your siblings thought it was hilarious. Tell it to others as if she was still here.

Do not be afraid to let things go. You cannot keep everything the same.

On the other hand, keep small things to remind you of her. It makes you feel closer to them and helps with the pain.

Crying is okay. Crying to other people is okay. Crying silently in the middle of a lecture hall full of people is okay. The way that you are feeling is okay.

Hug the rest of your family, lean on each other for support.

Always try and see at least a little bit of light, it doesn’t get better but it does become more normal.

Do not hesitate to reach out for help,


Hi! I'm a second year in Communications student minoring in Publishing at SFU! So far, i've loved very moment of my time at SFU! I have a strong passion for writing and expanding my knowledge of the world. If you want to find more of my writing, feel free to check out my personal blog: https://sophiecummingss.wordpress.com/
Terri is currently a fourth-year Communication major at Simon Fraser University and Campus Correspondent for Her Campus SFU. Hailing from Hong Kong and raised in Vancouver, she has grown to love the outdoors and mountains of BC. Her favourite pastimes are reading historical fiction, hiking, lying on the beach drinking mojitos and attempting to snowboard. You can get to know her more on Instagram and Twitter at @terriling.