Saturday, September 20, 2014
Kicked and Kicked Again
"Do no harm."
That is the creed and foundation of the helping professions . . . do no harm . . . and, yet, it is broken on a consistent basis without most of those who are attempting to help even being aware. Instead of minimizing the trauma, the trauma is unsuspectingly multiplied. Unfortunately it happens all of the time.
As stated in an earlier blog, I hit a deer with the car I only bought a few months ago . . . yes, my new car. It was pretty traumatic for several reasons. One is that it happened in my new car and did what I could see was a lot of damage . . . turns out to be about $6,5000 worth of damage. Though the auto repair shop promises that the car will be as good as new, it will never be the same . . . it will be damaged goods and I will know it whether anyone else knows it or not. Another reason is that I am the one always warning family and friends to "be careful out there because of the deer" . . . and it was I who hit the deer. Makes one feel pretty stupid no matter how many people attempt to reassure me that it was not my fault. I also think about what could have happened . . . happened to all those who were riding in the car with me. We were lucky that I did not lose control of the car . . . lucky I did not swerve the car into the lane of another approaching car . . . lucky I did not roll the car . . . lucky that I did not kill anyone except the deer--of which I do not think the deer thought it was so lucky.
To say the least, it still stings . . . it still bothers me. Makes me sad. Makes me mad. The car is sitting in the driveway--in its crumbled form, waiting to be taken to the auto repair shop. Every time I see it those feelings and emotions pop back up and it is as if I just hit the deer again. It is a visual clue that I have not really gotten over it. There is also the questions . . . always questions wanting to know what happen . . . by those who care and those who want to help. Questions that can only be answered by telling the story one more time . . . reliving the event one more time. Each time the story is responded to with words of support and empathy and care . . . but, I am the one reliving the story and the trauma one more time. It is difficult to move on when one is constantly reliving the experience over and over again. It is like being kicked and then kicked again. I know people are trying to be helpful . . . trying to make me feel better . . . trying to show that they care; but, it is just rubbing salt in the wound despite their best intentions. They don't mean to do it, it just happens.
I also witnessed this with my number three child who has Epilepsy after a recent trip to the emergency room. Having had a seizure and fallen, the number three child gashed his eye lid . . . blood everywhere! It was a nasty gash and one that required medical care. Since no one was with him, his mother and I asked the usual questions about what happened . . . to which he recounted the whole experience. In the emergency room both he and I got to retell and relive the story over for every medical person who saw him . . . in an hour we probably told the story over at least six times. Not a good practice when one is embarrassed over what happened . . . angry about what happened . . . and, when one gets sad and depressed because this sort of thing seems to happen to him all of the time. Plus, he also gets to retell the story of his battle with Epilepsy for the millionth time. Kick and re-kick even though everyone is trying to help.
What this seems to do is to add to the frustration of it all.
When I am working with others to help them be better helpers I share with them story of Job and his three best friends. Job's story is found in the Bible and is a favorite of many. Job is just the pawn in a bet between God and Satan . . . Satan bets God that given enough hardship in one's life even the most faithful of God's faithful will pull the plug and renounce God. God points out Job and tells Satan that the bet is on. Of course, Satan throws the kit and caboodle at Job to get him to renounce his faith . . . takes away all of his wealth, all of his family (except his wife, but I think that the writer of the story showed some comic genius in doing this as she becomes one of Job's primary antagonists) . . . takes away everything including his health. Yet, Job will not get mad at God and renounce his faith. Instead he crawls off to the town dump to mourn his loss.
This is where the friends come in. Job's friends were good people and even better friends. They come to Job in the dump and they sit with him as he mourns his loss and situation. They sit there for hours and days in silence . . . speaking no words . . . they are just with him . . . they are just being. This is good . . . this is what they should be doing . . . the best thing that they could be doing to help Job.
For most people, silence is torture . . . silence is uncomfortable . . . just being still makes people un-at-ease. After several days of sitting around, being quiet, and doing nothing, Job's friends had had enough. Inquiring minds had to know . . . What did you do, Job? What did you do to deserve such punishment from God? They started grilling Job . . . they wanted to know. Job's response was simple: "I did nothing." Which, of course, is not what the friends believed. Job had to be guilty of something to have been thrust into this situation. From the questioning they move into blame and wanting to fix. This was not what Job needed. The friends meant no harm, they honestly thought that they were helping their friend. This was the wrong thing to do. This only compounded the trauma. Here the friends kick and kick again the one who has fallen.
This biblical story is one that should be shared in all of the helping professions because it shows what to do and what not to do. It is one that I like to read and reread because it serves as a wonderful reminder of how people can help other people . . . and, about how easy it is to forget what true presence is in times of trauma and how easy it is to re-injury another in their time of need without even realizing it.
I believe that most people care and are actually attempting to help others in their time of crisis or trauma . . . I honestly think that they are trying to help; but, I also think that we forget. We forget how deep the wounds of life can be . . . forget how painful those wounds can be . . . and, forget that time heals all wounds, but scars always remind us. All of us have had trauma in our lives . . . all of us have been hurt. All of us have been kicked and kicked again when all we really wanted was someone to be with us until the pain goes away.
"Do no harm."
I realize that hitting a deer with my car is not a major trauma . . . that it nothing compared to a person being physically abused in a relationship . . . of a person suddenly divorcing another to run off with someone else . . . of finding out that one has an incurable illness . . . of losing someone who that was loved deeply. Those are experiences and stories that are hard to tell over and over again without having to experience and live them one more time . . . of feeling the pain one more time. There truly are no words that will ever help ease the pain . . . only presence.
As people who care we need to learn to be a presence in the lives of those we care about . . . of those we love. We need to learn to be with those who have been traumatized . . . in time they will let us know what we can do, but in the meantime . . . we are just to be with them. We are to stand by their side . . . we are to do no harm.