Friday, December 7, 2007

Sudden Trauma: What's a Couples to Do?

I just got an email from an old colleague. He wrote that his wife, on her way back from posting a letter across the street, tripped and fell, hitting her head on a rock. She was unconscious and had to be rushed to a trauma ICU where they removed a piece of her skull so the blood could drain out. The odds of people surviving the procedure are 50-50. She is part of the lucky 50% and is doing very well.

When I heard this news I was whiplashed by the fact that it happened to her – a vibrant, smart consultant, a vegetarian, a yoga practitioner with a high social and spiritual consciousness. None of these qualities protected her from the chaos that buzzes around us all the time. And, of course, the extrapolation is that we are all susceptible.

As couples, we drift from moment to moment, counting on the illusion of control while ignoring the ubiquity of chaos, so that we can chart our lives with a sense of continuity and security. We plan to buy our first home, to have babies, to find satisfying careers, to travel, to grow old with dignity, and to retire with secure income streams. Some of us may separate or divorce, have boring jobs, and wind up with cats instead of kids. But that is never the script we write for ourselves. And nowhere in our story is there a placeholder for the intrusion of illness or trauma.

I think the best we can do, which is what these friends have done, is to build a loving foundation and to have had enough practice at communicating about the smaller hard stuff, so that when the skies rip apart and the lightening bolts strike, we can still find each other in the storm.


Emily said...

i'm so sorry your friend has been injured.

i can't agree strongly enough w/this sentence: "nowhere in our story is there a placeholder for the intrusion of illness or trauma."

i suppose i always thought there was a possibility of illness or pain taking hold once we were older, but i NEVER considered the idea that i would spend so much of my 20s in pain. i am lucky that i have such a kind husband, and we are building our relationship in the midst of it. unfortunately, our normal is my being in pain.

and hopefully this isn't blabbering on too much, but the more i learn about friends and family, the more i see that everyone has something difficult to deal with. if it's not health, it's emotional or financial. no one has a life devoid of pain.

Barbara Kivowitz said...

A very wise comment, Emily. We all carry a load. I'm glad your husband helps you carry yours. And I hope your pain, one day, just goes away.

Terry at Counting Sheep said...


Thank you for a wonderfully clarifying outlook on life and what happens to us along the way; what we can and cannot control. I am bookmarking and saving this article. I am also forwarding to the people I love.

Beautifully written and articulated.

Best of luck to your friend.

therapydoc said...

I like the bit about built-in friendship the most.