Just Feel the Pain
As I sit down to write this I am hearing two voices in my head. One voice is saying this is something I really want to do. I know this type of thing is therapeutic for me. I always appreciate the comments I get when someone reads one of my articles. This will be so beneficial for my own healing.
The other voice is asking me if I am sure that I want to be so vulnerable. Do I want to expose myself to the whole world? Won’t I feel as if I am taking something that is so laden with emotion and just throwing it out to the public?
The answer is – I don’t know. I am not sure. But I think I do, and therefore I am willing to take the risk.
My mother and sister were sick. Very sick. Although my mother had a good prognosis, the cancer refused to leave no matter what the treatment plan was. The scans never came out perfectly clean. It was scary as month after month nothing seemed to really help her. My mother was young. She was vibrant. And she was strong. So strong that no matter where the cancer showed up, she refused to let it stop her life. She continued living her life, treatment and all.
My sister never had a good prognosis. But she had that same will to survive. And she also continued onward with life. She went to work, continued with her extracurricular activities and even got married. Throughout the five years of their illnesses the rest of our family watched as they continuously deteriorated and, at the same time, refused to give up.
That’s why it was a real shock when one night my father, a perfectly healthy man, had a massive heart attack and died instantly. During the shivah I kept looking at my sister who looked so, so sick. And I thought, Hashem won’t take her also. Somehow she will get better.
Eight months later I attended her levayah; a year and a half later I was back in my hometown for my mother’s levayah.
The pain was so vast. My insides were so shredded. And I didn’t know how I could go onward. But I did. I put a smile on my face. I went to teach. I got up each morning and took care of my family. They had supper on the table each night. Clothes got clean and errands were done.
People told me I was strong. I shrugged my shoulders. I didn’t understand what they meant. I had responsibilities. I had a job and a family. But as the year wore on I saw that I wasn’t me anymore. I wasn’t the kind of mother or wife I wanted to be and certainly not the type of teacher I wanted to be. I was detached. I couldn’t be there for anyone emotionally. And I was always too tired or too busy to really pay attention to my children. I knew that something had to change. The following year I did not go back to work.
And then I learned what strength was. For me strength was to fall apart. To have time to cry, to mourn. I had been through three major losses in a very short period of time. I missed all three people so, so much. When my daughter said something cute and I couldn’t share it with my mother, I had the time to feel the loss and cry. I didn’t have to run out to work. When I had a financial question or needed a sisterly schmooze, I was able sit down and cry out the pain.
I learned that strength means I don’t have to do this all alone. Yes, no one I knew had been through so much. But that is okay. I can still speak to a friend and ask her to just listen to my pain. She can feel for me even if she never experienced it.
I learned that strength means to accept help. If I was having a hard week even a year after my mother died, it was okay to accept outside help, whether that meant more cleaning help or accepting my sister-in-law’s offer to make supper.
Strength means to really feel the pain. Not to just push forward. Because being in touch with oneself is the best thing anyone can do for themselves during these trying times. My experience is that to ever feel okay, one must first admit that the pain is there. Even if it shows up at the most unexpected of times.