Help Me Begin My New Chapter

Hi everyone,

I have never been one to ask for help or for aid really from anyone. It took me some strength and time to post on here asking for any help at all. I have gotten to a point where I have accepted and reminded myself that it is never wrong to ask for help, as it doesn’t make you any weaker or seem any less.

My name is Emma Van Dam and I’m currently 20 years old. I am in the midst of one of the most troubling times in my life. I am dealing with the sudden loss of my father and the passing of my mother in 2008.

 It’s always best to start at the beginning of any story. I was raised in a home that always felt full because of the love that I felt existed there. My mother, father, sister, and I used to live in Chicago, IL until my mother heard about the fantastic public school district that existed a short drive away in the Northern suburbs of Chicago. At a young age, my family and I picked up our belongings and moved to Deerfield, IL. I have been a resident and have lived in the same home in Deerfield for 17 years now. Truly this is the only home that I can fully remember and I’ve had so many great moments in this house including many amazing people who came to visit my family, parties, dinners, holidays, etc. I grew up very involved in my school district and neighborhood due to my mom’s constant encouragement.

In 2008, life took a staggering pause for my family and I. This year my mother decided instead of working in a bank located in downtown Chicago she would change positions and work closer to home to spend time with her family. She unconditionally loved my sister and I and honestly would never shut up about us- she made me feel so special to be her daughter. Right before she switched jobs, she went to a dinner to celebrate the new position she had been given in downtown Chicago with her friends and coworkers. While eating, a piece of food had been lodged in my mother’s throat unable to give her enough oxygen and within days I had found out that at the age of 10 I would have to cope with the loss of my mom. At the time I didn’t comprehend what I was losing or that I could never see her again.

Life moved on but the pain still existed within my immediate family that our Christmases, holidays, and home never felt quite the same. My dad was truly strong and took it upon himself to raise two daughters on his own. We continued to live in the same house, it would’ve been a lot at the time to remove both my sister and I from our home after losing her.

Years and time had passed that in 2016 I was able to graduate high school and was able to commit to the beautiful University of Arizona. In that summer before I had left for school I was the one to find the large mass on my dad’s back that was later identified as melanoma. That summer was truly difficult, they were able to operate and remove it but he still remained feeling uneasy and sick most of the time. My dad was happy to settle me at University of Arizona – eager to return to visit me. In September, after less than a month, my father called to let me know that he had been diagnosed with a late stage of colon cancer that had already spread to his liver. I remember crying in both my room and my college neighbors room for nights. I had a sense something was wrong before, but never wanted to believe it was true. After months of painful chemo, I progressively saw my dad draw weaker and weaker. After that first semester of Sophomore year, I knew I needed to come back. Over that winter break my dad had a various amount of collapses, run-ins with the hospital and paramedics, and soon his chemo, the surgeries, everything stopped working.

In the month of January, I saw my dad unable to get himself up the stairs or walk around and weaker than I had ever seen before. By February, he was unable to even get out of bed. On February 10, at 1:21 am I had lost my dad during his stay at hospice care (Journey Care, Glenview IL)

18 days since that morning, sitting in his hospice room, I still miss my best friend. I miss him an unbelievable amount and my home hasn’t felt the same since.

We are in the midst of selling our family home, along with cars, furniture and whatever else we can scramble together before we have to put the house on the market. Things have been moving so fast, and it makes it difficult to take a pause and realize everything that is going on. Asking for help hasn’t been easy, and since my dad was always the one in charge of the household there is so much I am learning and trying to understand so quickly.

In the midst of this too, I have to decide where I am going to move to or who I am going to live with, what college I am going to decide on studying at, possibly a change in major, and various other questions which most honestly… I don’t have the answers to. I am trying to juggle so much that this all has taken a large toll on my emotional health and being. The reason I’ve made this GoFundMe is for the means to take little things off of my plate, and most importantly to me to take an immediate needed spiritual retreat with a program that will be willing to help me with my mental state and help me find my place in the world. With this specific trip, I would be able to take a pause before making decisions on where to go to college, and where to move to. It's important to me to take that necessary time to regain myself in the most humble way possible. 

It has been very difficult to be honest in asking for help, but it’s time to accept that I’ll need it. Thank you so much already for the love and support I have received with mention of free therapy resources, future internship possibilities, offering your homes, offering places to stay in the meantime. It all has meant so much to me during all of this, and I cannot thank you all enough.
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Emma Van Dam 
Deerfield, IL
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