As the holiday season is upon us, if you are like me, those that are no longer with us seem to penetrate the consciousness and soul more intensely than ever. Each loss we experience alters the reality of our lives no matter if it is the loss of a parent, child or friend. But this sense of loss seems to be particularly acute during holiday celebrations. As we try to keep our spirits up during the chaos of the season, we sometimes are shocked to find ourselves feeling a deep sadness. That makes us human as we experience the intense desire of longing for that one more moment to be with that person we miss and so loved in our lives.
I find that our family traditions tend to jolt me into remembering that person. Simple things like setting a candle out, hanging a wreath, putting ornaments on a tree, cooking a family recipe are triggers to remembering that person who once shared such joyful celebrations. But is that a bad thing? If that person is in our heart, it also comforts us to know they are still truly part of our life. They remain with us in an unbreakable spiritual bond.
I don’t know about you, but living with chronic pain, there are only certain people who have chosen to take the time to understand the impact of my chronic pain. They have also provided the invaluable emotional support necessary to sustain that sense of normalcy so often missing in the lives of those suffering chronic and often debilitating conditions. So, to lose those special persons can prove more painful. Living with chronic pain can mean the loss of friends can intensify one’s isolation. So to lose that special person or persons that did not abandon you due to your acquired complications can often be emotionally overwhelming. But, if that person you lost was one of the negative judges to your life, you also are reminded of that hurt and the fact that maybe you never forgave them or came to terms with them, another loss in its own way.
Through my fifty-four years of searching for answers as to what was wrong with me, the two people that always believed in me and knowing there was an answer out there for me, were my parents. They knew my character and passion for life and never once doubted something was wrong, despite getting no answers for fifty-four years. Unfortunately, that was not the case with most around me. I looked so normal to many that they assumed I just needed to see a psychiatrist and get my head straightened out! It was painful and emotional enough to lose my career, face surgery after surgery to get my walking, breathing and extremities working better, that to lose support with so many felt so cruel and unfair. Had my diagnosis been cancer instead of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, I am guessing those same people would have instead embraced my journey with love and support. It has taken me years to learn to forgive them, feel secure and move on with my life, with some but not all in my life.
People don’t realize how painful it is to be judged and cut off emotionally. I am not a vindictive person, but don’t you just wish for a moment they could climb into our bodies and understand the horrors we have had to face and with more unknown on the horizon? And not only have we faced these horrors, but many of us have also had to do it alone as the critical support we so craved was not forthcoming. The result is that we faced the incredible challenge of attempting to hold onto our dignity on our own.
So, to lose those who once were so critical in creating that emotional safety net and who were a part of our life is painful. But I also realize, as I think of those I have lost, that I am very lucky to have had them in my life. Even if their presence on earth was shortened, we need to try to focus and bask in the joy that they touched our lives.
May you find peace in this holiday season and find joy in those you miss.
May life be kind to you,
Ellen Lenox Smith
Author of: It Hurts Like Hell!: I Live With Pain– And Have a Good Life, Anyway, and My Life as a Service Dog!
The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of National Pain Report.