Unwrapping the Pain, But Not Alone

It was like slowly, gently unwrapping a piece of glass that had been stored away for decades. With tears running down her face, my client shared a secret that had been inside since she was a young child. I have been seeing this client for several years and she has made amazing progress on her therapy goals. But now, in the new peacefulness of her life, these old memories came from the far reaches of her mind to the front of her awareness. Vivid, confusing, painful. The fear of not being believed had silenced her truth, but now she had begun to let her truth be told. And she was believed.

Two questions came up. One of them I waited for, knew was coming, had heard from others many times. The other took me by surprise. The first one was “why?” Why is a tricky question because it can lull us into believing that if we understand the why, the pain will subside. But, after all, pain is pain. Inside of the why is a desire to know if it is our fault. Inside the why is a desire to know how to protect ourselves in the future.

I understand the desire of knowing the why. I’ve had moments with it during my journey with cancer. I wanted the why because then, just maybe, I would not be so afraid of the cancer. But, after all, fear is fear. Inside the why is my desire to know if it was my fault. I’ve always been a fool for sweets. Did my love all of things chocolate cause the cancer? Inside the why is my desire to understand how to stop the cancer, control the cancer, end the cancer. I truly understand the power of why. But I have learned to not question the why of cancer unless I am willing to question the why of the many blessings I have in my life.

My client is intelligent and knows these memories may take a period of time to process. Her second question was about whether I would be there to walk this path with her or whether cancer would get in the way. I have no answer for that. My response may have sounded trite, but it was no less true. My client found her way to me and I have faith she will find her way to someone who will help her continue our work. Her strength is, and always has been, within her. It is not in me. Knowing that does not remove the guilt. I know my journey with cancer is not one I take alone. All the emotions that come along with cancer are also there for the people who care about me…fear, anger, sadness, gratitude, faith. My client’s question was another opportunity to face that.

So, what is the take away from this post? It is that we are all connected, that we all share in this crazy ride called life. And that means we can be there for each other. That one woman’s tears caused some of my own to fall. And that in our greatest pain, we have other people to help us carry it.

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