When I need to most – I don’t talk.
It’s when I am suffering that I withdraw from the public. I know that’s wrong. It’s just human nature, I think. We reach out when we feel stronger to accept help.
A couple of days ago, a friend asked me if I would be willing to talk to her niece who was recently diagnosed with leukemia. She is going to begin chemo treatments at the end of this month and is quite scared. Yes, the word is scared. She is only 27 years old. No wonder she is scared.
“I am willing to talk to her – of course”, I explained. “But does she want to talk?”
“I’ll ask”, responded my friend.
At first, I was a little nervous myself wondering if I was too close to my “event” to go there again with someone else. What words of wisdom and reassurance could I impart on this poor young thing? What wisdom did I acquire? And then it dawned on me that I don’t need to do the talking – I need to do the listening. I liked it when people listened. As my friend Thelma, from Rainbows Canada explained to me over and over again, “Our role is to be loving listeners.” I didn’t want people to lie to me and tell me it was going to be okay – because they couldn’t know that. I didn’t want people to tell me how brave I was – because I didn’t feel that way. I didn’t want people to spin tales of the beauty in having faith, or holding onto hope, or the power of positive thinking – because I didn’t see any of that through the haze of my situation. Cancer is a bitch and there is nothing more about that. I liked hugs. I liked to be close to people and just “listen” to them talking about life. I liked to be alone – when I needed to be and to be held when I cried. I liked, more than anything, to be listened to. So – that is what I will do – if this young lady wants to talk.
I really liked Facebook when I was in chemo as those conversations were on my time and the typing seems to slow conversations down so that details are not lost. Pacing is important. Funny, who knew that Facebook would be such a useful tool for healing? It was my life-line that extended beyond the walls of my isolated room. It was my window on the world. It was my face-to-face connection to reality – at my own pace.
Last night we hosted a guest for dinner. He is with the Canadian military and had served time in Afghanistan. It became clear, as he spoke, that he had seen some “not so pretty things” while in the theatre of war. Of course. The military gave him 20 odd days off to “debrief” from the trauma. (What a joke.) He was able to get through some stories, with a lot of editing. I wondered if he had ever had a chance to debrief his experience with someone who simply listened to him? What did he say? How was he feeling? Could he even process his emotions? I wondered too if he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and if that affected his current life situations. He was just going through a break up. Did this loss bring back other losses he had experienced while in Afghanistan – or when he had returned? I would have loved to have had the opportunity to ask of him, “Do you want to talk?”.
Eva Olsson (http://www.evaolsson.ca/Splash.aspx) is a Holocaust survivor and a very good friend of mine. She travels all over the world now telling her story about the Nazi bullies. I asked her once how she was able to process everything that had happened to her. She explained to me, “Stacey, you need to talk about it.”
Thelma Cockburn, founding National Director of the Canadian chapter (https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/rainbows-for-all-children-canada/) and a very good friend of mine also experienced a great deal of loss in her life. I asked her once how she was able to process everything that had happened to her. She explained to me, “Stacey, you need to tell your story 1, 000 or more times. Each time you tell it, you heal just a little bit more.”
I have not yet told the full story of my journey through cancer as I am not yet even one year down that road. Healed? Me? Not yet – but I can at least see the path and I know that I am not venturing down that road alone. My friend’s niece needs to know too that she is not alone. It is so important to reach out to others – as importantly as it is for others to simply listen.
Talking is healing and healing is talking. I am still learning and still healing – and still talking…. as long as someone is listening.