Written By: Jennifer Doerr
I sat across the dinner table the other night from my daughterís friend who was asking me about what type of therapist I will be. He went on to say that he had some experience with counselors, and he didnít find them helpful. I told him I was the type of counselor that would take the time to put the pieces of his puzzle together, find out who he is, get to what is broken, and help him get on a path to heal his issues. I could see the look in his eyes change, he was uncomfortably exposed. We went on to another subject as I knew he had suffered a terrible loss at a young age when his father took his own life. Suicide is like an atomic bomb in a family tree. It leaves a hole for generations. I knew this young man had pain, not just because I was aware of his history, but because we all have a certain amount of pain and grief. Imagine the pain of knowing your father didnít care enough about you that he left this world on purpose! Imagine the pain of never being able to ask your father a question, how to fix a car, how to talk to girls, how to throw a baseball. All of us walk around carrying pain.
I am also sensitive to those in pain because of my own personal loss and tragedy; it seems I can somehow internally sense otherís pain even if they have a smile on their face. Interesting side effect, I admit. In 2007, my fiance didnít return home after a night at the local bar. It was a cold sub-zero night like we have sometimes here in February. When I woke up the next morning, I called the police to file a missing persons reportóbut they couldnít help until after 24 full hours had passed. I called everyone who might know his whereabouts. No one knew. My head raced with all sorts of possibilities. I started looking everywhere. I drove the route from my apartment to the bar. I walked the route from the bar to the apartment. I went to the bar. I went to the hotels in the area. I went to the restaurants in the area. No signs. Gone. As more panic set in, I searched well after dark the next day and into the middle of the night and found him. I found him at the bottom of a hill near an overpass, dead, and frozen in the snow. Pure horror. Itís one thing to find someone elderly or with an illness when they have passed. Itís another to find an otherwise perfectly healthy person dead in an isolated place. I was by myself searching frantically in every possible place near where he was seen last and ended up exactly where he was. The feeling or state of mind in that moment of finding him and for several months thereafter was the most disturbing, unsettling feeling I had and have ever experienced. In the days after finding him and dealing with his family and arrangements for him, I was told by his family that he had issues and lied to everyone. They said he had other girlfriends, had asked someone else to marry him, and was moving to another state for a new job. The hits just kept coming at me, and I believe now that it was like suffering one tragedy after another after another. The amount of pain that sat inside of me was horrendous, and I wouldnít wish it on anyone. It turned my world upside down and shook out everything I ever believed was true and right about people and about myself.
When I put myself back together, I was more aware of some truths in life that I had not been aware of before. Now, I look around and observe people, and I see a lot of what I saw the other night across the dinner table. I see people in pain and feeling like whatever they are carrying around with them really isnít acceptable to have. They want to conceal it so that no one knows how ďmessed upĒ they are. Everyone is so busy trying to look ďnormalĒ, put together well, successful in their jobs, families, homes and friendships, that they are missing out on the fact that we are all messed up. Spending your time and energy concealing it or shaming yourself for carrying it around, is only deterring you from healing it and actually being as happy as you are trying to seem to be. Sometimes digging into your past and getting to the core of you can change your entire perspective and future.
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