The Voice of Experience: Regardless of life lessons, no one can control emotional pain

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I’ve always known that there is much more to learn in life. Well, a valuable lesson, a reminder of something I already know, hit me recently.

Back in February, our dear four-footed buddy left us for his long sleep. After sharing his loving, gentle presence for 12 years, the emptiness was quite intense, and I often found myself letting the tears flow while holding his spirit close.

In mid-May, for the first tie in year, I got sick — really sick — spending one night in the emergency room here in the Creston hospital. Those ER beds are not meant for a long stay, so sleep simply didn’t happen. However, while sitting there, staring at the wall about 4 a.m., a sudden flash of insight came.

In grief counselling, we learn that the third month after the death of a loved one can be quite challenging. The immune system essentially says, “OK, I’ve kept things going for two months, and now I’m taking a break.” So colds, the flu and more often set in. it’s something I’ve known for years. But when emotions are in upheaval, memory and common sense don’t always kick in.

That night in the ER, I consciously let our old buddy go. He still comes for a quick visit now and then, but he’s free to carry on with whatever his mission may be. And so am I.

I guess the message from this little story is to remember that, regardless of our training and regardless of all our life lessons, when emotional pain hits us, we are as helpless, as vulnerable, as non compos mentis as everyone else — even though we think we are in control!

Mary Underhill is a stress therapist and grief counsellor. The Voice of Experience is a column co-ordinated by the Therapeutic Activation Program for Seniors.