Wellbeing

Writing: A Process of Healing

Zach Sobiech Family

The Sobiech Family of Minnesota in 2011, in the midst of Zach’s treatment for osteosarcoma. Meet more CaringBridge families who shared their stories in the How We Heal series.

It was eleven o’clock at night, everyone else was in bed, the only sound was the steady ticking of the oversized pendulum clock that hung on the wall in our Minnesota home. I’d just hit “Send” on a mass email I’d spent a couple of hours putting together to update as many people as I could think of with the latest news: Zach had been diagnosed with osteosarcoma, at age 14.

Friends and family were clamoring for information, and I was doing my best to get it out, even as I was processing the news myself and trying to get my bearings in the new life that we’d been thrust into. A friend replied with a suggestion to start a CaringBridge website to get the information out quickly and easily. And so began my writing career.

“…It was a time to wrestle some meaning out of it all, and arrange it neatly onto the blank page before me.”

What started as simple updates of Zach’s medical milestones quickly turned into a reflection on the bigger things that come with a diagnosis like cancer: reflections of the spirit.

I had known from that very first day, the day we heard the word “tumor,” and our lives changed forever, that this journey would be so much more than just a medical battle. As our new life unfolded and the chaos of cancer became the new normal, writing updates on CaringBridge became a time for me to steady myself, to sit quietly in the eye of the storm and sort through it all … the whats and whys and the why nots. It was a time to wrestle some meaning out of it all and arrange it neatly onto the blank page before me.

Most times, I would sit before my computer with no words ready, just jumbled emotions and muddled thoughts bouncing around in my head. Sorting through them, organizing them and writing them all out allowed me to untangle emotionally and survey our life from different angles, then somehow make some sense from the chaos our lives had become.

Examining the joyful moments against the backdrop of darkness allowed me to see our lives, Zach’s life, in a new light. Writing became a way of reining in the wildness of the landscape of the cancer life, where monsters lurked around corners waiting to throw our lives into another tailspin, and somehow tame it and make it a little less scary.

Writing became a way to pause in the midst of the battle and find shelter in the order of words.

“I found that being vulnerable and raw could be a catalyst to healing…”

I wrote with the intention of being open about our struggle, allowing the readers to enter into the battle with us. I found that being vulnerable and raw could be a catalyst to healing; like scraping a wound, it allowed me to shed the fear that threatened to fester and infect.

Exposing these hidden parts of me onto the page felt risky at times; being misunderstood or judged is a chance that I took. But what I found was that it wasn’t just me who was healing through the process; the readers were as well.

So much of my healing came from the response of those who faithfully read what I was pouring out onto the page. The Comments they would leave were the moments of joy I so relied on to get me through the tough days.

From the gloom of a hospital room, a note from someone who has taken the time to reach out and let you know they heard you can remind you there is still a great big world out there–a world beyond cancer.

“Sometimes, on the hard days, I visit him in those pages and I find there is healing in the remembering.”

Zach has been gone since 2013. He died on May 20, just 17 days after turning 18. But CaringBridge continues to aid in my healing. I continue to share the triumphs and struggles as our family progresses through the grief of loss and letting go.

Reading through the hundreds of entries that I posted as Zach battled his disease, experienced the enormous success of his music, his dying and then the wonderful and beautiful things that happened after his death remains a comfort to me. Sometimes, on the hard days, I visit him in those pages and I find there is healing in the remembering.

Check out the SoulPancake video below to watch more about Zach’s story.

Zach’s Mom, Laura, is also author of a book titled, “Fly a Little Higher: How God Answered a Mom’s Small Prayer in a Big Way” about her family’s journey with Zach, as he battled cancer and eventually wrote a goodbye song called “Clouds.” She spends much of her time sharing that story, speaking at various events around the country and working with Children’s Cancer Research Fund, a CaringBridge partner. To read more blogs by Laura, visit http://www.laurasobiech.com.

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Comments (30)

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Faith Brantmeier Apr 21, 2018 11:19am
Your family's story is truly an inspiration in hope, faith and perseverance.
Kristin Pritzl Jan 30, 2018 3:26pm
Dearest Laura, God is so GOOD, I pray that God has lessened, that heavy heartache, grief, and sadness, and that he has filled your broken hearts with loads of hope, lots, of love and strength to carry on. You have demonstrated such faith and courage! You have given me strength and encouragement. Thank you for touching my heart, and being my inspiration.
LJ Jul 07, 2014 4:48pm
It was the week I was to return my foster child due to a "disrupted adoption". I took him for his last visit to our library and leisurely walking around I came across and checked out your book. I cannot tell you how much I had been praying and asking God to send me a sign that we were making the right decision and a sign that we were going to be able to let him go. The words that stuck to me were when you wrote that a person's suffering is a powerful thing when united with Christ's. I also knew God was asking me to trust him in the means of giving up my foster child to save the rest of my family from harm. You are an inspiration as a mother. The tears you had to hold back when you truly felt like falling apart.....I get it.....Thank you for writing such a great faith based book.
Eleanor Stewart Jun 15, 2014 12:36am
What an awesome story & precious family. Having traveled many years myself with a long journey thru unseeming odds for living, my one guide was always HOPE & my precious LORD. what I saw in you all doing was also Hope in each day, hour,minute & second was being real with one another & others. We all have something with in us to make a difference where ever we are to make this world a better place & spread more love. To GOD be the GLORY!!!
Julie Tussing Jun 14, 2014 9:51am
What a wonderful, sad but uplifting story about this loving family and the loss of their son and brother Zach. I love the song! They have been blessed and have blessed others. I'd like to buy the book.
Barbara Post Jun 13, 2014 9:46am
You have a genuine gift Zach and you are not alone. May God bless you and keep you.
Pam Hass Jun 12, 2014 11:01am
What a story! I'm sorry for the loss if your beloved son. Me neighbor who has an I curable brain tumor uses Caring Bridge to keep neighbors, family, friends, co workers & so on updated on what is going on in her & her families life. It is great to get the updates so she is not repeating herself so much. I wait for her update daily as do many. Her & her family wait for the comments with words of encouragement, thoughts, prayers & so on. Caring Bridge is a great site! God Bless you & your family as you move on with your life & new challenges without Zach physically with you. He is with you & watching over you from heaven!
Kathleen Ellingson Jun 11, 2014 6:02pm
Thank you! Bless you!
Derrick Bell. Jun 11, 2014 4:09pm
Let's all stand up to cancer. Together we can fight this disease, and we'll win.
Carol Rieger Jun 11, 2014 2:56pm
Dear Laura and family, Every time I hear about another who has lost a child to Osteosarcoma my heart just aches for you. When they say the hardest thing in life is to loose a child, this is so true. Our Missy was not quite 15, and died on July 4, 1985. After reading about Zach it brought back a lot of similar memories. We had been married 18 yrs and 4 daughters, 16, 14 Missy, 12, 8. Your sharing your story is so great for all of us out here. There are so many many more outlets for families with childhood cancers now than there were back then. Lives are taken in new directions, the memories linger except the bad are overtaken by the good ones. I like you have been involved in so many things over the years but still never a day goes by even after almost 30 years without a thought of her. Grief, healing and mostly a faith in God keeps you focused and that life does go on and for some it takes us down different paths. I will purchase you book and hope to get his song 'Clouds'
kapaunda bannister Jun 11, 2014 11:30am
may god countinue to bless you and your family.....
Melissa Keller Jun 11, 2014 10:17am
How your story is so touching thanks so much for sharing it to us. I know how cancer can just take our love ones away. My grandmas just passed away year ago of cancer. When she found out we only had 2weeks with her the cancer was all ready at stage 4. We'll I training with The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society going do my First Marathon in honor of all the people going through cancer and ones who did not make it. Even tho Zack did not have Leukemia I will have him in my prayers and finish the race for him in mind. Wish you and your family the best luck in life
Linda Kennedy Jun 11, 2014 9:58am
Awesome testimony of God using a sad situation to bring good out of it! Thank you for sharing Zach's story. May God continue to use his story to help others dealing with similar life issues.
Rosie Lopez Jun 11, 2014 9:42am
Dear Laura and the entire Sobiech family, Thank you , Thank you , Thank you for sharing the amazing story of Zach and your family. I am inspired and touched by the love that leaps off your story and into my heart. I am currently being treated for ovarian cancer, and am so aware of so many people fighting cancer and other challenging illnesses. I praise God for sending us so many Silverlinings that teach us to appreciate the truly important things in life, like family, friends, love and living every moment to it's fullest. God bless you for giving us the gift of Zachary and your testimony. Laura- I plan to read your book. Most Sincerely, Rosie Lopez
Deborah Steger Jun 11, 2014 8:45am
What beautiful inspiring story thank you for letting me e a part of it by reading it!
Illisa Lipkin Jun 11, 2014 8:38am
Dear Laura, Rob and the Sobiech family our community has been grieving over the loss of an extraordinary child to Ewings Sarcoma. Julianna has not been gone a year yet and every week, every month brings moments of heartache and joy as we raise funds for The Truth 365 Foundation. This young girl - 12 years and wise beyond her years was also a writer and that's what drew me to your blog. Thank you. Thank you for sharing your story so I know WE are not alone and WE can stand together hugging and holding what is most important here on earth, the human spirit! Journey on - A Little Higher :) With love and kindness. xo Illisa
Donna Imbierowicz Jun 11, 2014 8:19am
Thank you so much for sharing Zach's story and for sharing your healing process with the world. You are all so amazing! Everyone does have something they are battling and we all need to know that Faith, Hope and Love will get us through along with amazing friends and family and all of our angels in Heaven!
Terri Jun 11, 2014 6:25am
Your story touches me so much as I had a daughter that passed away of cancer at the end of 2012 at the age of 30. Caring Bridge helped Jacqui to share her story, to vent, to uplift others and in general to touch many lives. I have not read your book but will do so! Jacqui was my only child and I know I will never be the same without her! God Bless you and your family, I pray that you find some peace in all the chaos we call life.
Fanny Jun 11, 2014 12:03am
A wonderfull family, God is with all of you .
Peg Feiler Jun 10, 2014 11:17pm
I had never heard this story before. But plan on reading the book. Your awesome faith as a family is a Glory to God. My prayers will be with you as you continue spreading Zach's story. Many will be touched and you will continue to be a inspiration. God Bless You! I cried as I watched and listened.
relida montoya Jun 10, 2014 10:43pm
what a wonderful story and family you are. Thank you for sharing your son's story. I lost my son last October 2013 at the age of 17. Laura your story touch me so much that I would like to be strong like you are. After 8 months that my son passed away I do not know what to do with my live. I missed him so much. Again thank you for sharing,,God Bless you all of you.
Laura Odintz Jun 10, 2014 10:40pm
Thank you for being YOU, Laura, and sharing your story with the world! Your amazing son, Zach, shared himself and his song and . . . he changed the world! Now you are changing the world too! Your beautiful family and Zach's friends are in my thoughts and prayers<3. Wishing you new hope.
Colleen Nunez Jun 10, 2014 9:19pm
WOW...blessings to you and your family. I can only pray to be as strong as you. Thank you for sharing Zac with all of us. God Bless
Carol Ellis Jun 10, 2014 8:43pm
I bought a copy of the book and have to say that it is a very touching, brave and heartfelt story. As a mother - I can only imagine what the loss of a child is like. Laura you are a special angel - and a gift as was Zach to all of you. Bless you. Thanks for sharing your story.
Deb Caldwell Jun 10, 2014 7:53pm
Your story touches me so much as I had a daughter that passed away of cancer at the end of 2011 at the age of 30. She has left a legacy to others through her uplifting caringbridge postings and has now inspired me to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit and pursue a life in Ministry so He may equip me to help others physically, mentally, and emotionally. The Lord heals in amazing ways as He did for me and will do it for everyone. Following Victoria's death, I lost my job and 6 other family members in 5 months. I know without a doubt God heals. Sometimes not always the way we want but our trust is in The Lord as we remain confident in His promises. Zach's legacy is powerful.
Dennis J. Boogerd Jun 10, 2014 6:35pm
God is so good. Love you, Zach.
Kim Lorton Jun 10, 2014 5:14pm
Dear Laura, you are, heard! I worked as a cancer nurse so long and then a hospice nurse, and I listened to the secret words of the dying, prayed for acceptance in to heaven for those who couldn't speak anymore, and prayed for my own souls to be able to help. It's a special community you belong to. But it is also one filled with hope and life and support and understanding than anyone could imagine. The need to crack a morbid joke, because that's where your mind was at that moment, and thinking no one would understand the need for humor "at a time like that." I saw Zacks' video, and I tell you, his song and his love for all those in his life, was beyond stunning. It spoke of his character, his desire to not see you all suffer once her left and couldn't comfort you! His love for a wonderful young woman... I was in tears before he started. I'm pretty sure God gives these special kids to special parents and families, so their message, His, message keeps on going. Death is a part of life and vice versa. One thing I know, and I am standing behind is that, as you grieve, you do it your way, your time, your whatever you need to do. There is no wrong way to say good bye. So, thank you, for singing Zach's song on and on, and may the addition of grandchildren and son and daughters in laws, make your life happy! I have no doubt your wonderful son, will be in heaven watching it all, and being a part of your lives, any way he can. Thank you! For sharing it all. Kim Lorton
Bertie Gronbach Jun 10, 2014 1:13pm
what a wonderful story and family you are. I am a cancer survivor so I say a lot of prayers for a lot of people. Without my faith I don't know where I would be. God is always there for me. Take care and thanks for sharing. Gods Blessings to allof you
Kim Kennedy Jun 10, 2014 10:55am
Thank you for sharing your happiness and your sorrows with the world. It does remind us of what is really important in life. You did and still do have a wonderful son who taught us all so much in his few years on earth!
Sue Bonilla Jun 10, 2014 10:35am
Laura is an amazing woman and an awesome Mom to Zach. The entire family are loving, caring, deeply religious people. I don't know them personally, but if I did I would be so proud to call them friends.