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  • Writer's pictureLiz Shemwell

Pain from Loss

Phantom limb pain is described as the pain that feels like it's coming from a body part that is no longer there. Grief-flu and broken heart syndrome, also physical manifestations of loss. Doctors once believed these were psychological problems, however experts now know they are actual physical reactions to grief and loss.

As we approach mid-September, I feel it coming. The nights become cooler, while the days are still hot. The anticipation of fall is in the air. Pumpkin flavors and scents fill our home. Football season begins. And though this has always been my favorite time of year, my heart begins to ache. My body knows that something isn’t right, it remembers the trauma it felt two years ago when our 4-year-old son died. My heart remembers the joy of the last few days we were together, a whole family of 4. And then it remembers being shattered into a million pieces when we heard those dreaded words – not survivable. My muscles remember giving out in that moment, at those words, as my body fell to the floor. My ears remember the sound of screaming as if coming from someone else, except they were my own. My mind remembers the days that followed in the hospital when we desperately clung to hope for a miracle. My feet remember slowly walking down a long hallway to say our final goodbye. I can feel his hand in mine as his body took its final breath and his heart stopped beating, just before his organs would be given to another family also desperately clinging to hope. The feeling of coming home without him, the house so large and empty. His funeral. His big brother trying to process his pain as only a 7-year-old could. My hair wet with both our tears as we held on to each other, sharing in our pain, wishing I could take his. All of these memories play over and over in my mind and body.

Two years ago we experienced the most unspeakable pain we could have never imagined. Getting closer to the day, I know it's coming because I can feel it. I feel it in my bones. I feel it in the depths of my soul. It hurts. It takes my breath. My heart aches. I’m tired. I feel pain from a part of me that is no longer here. Pain in my arms that should be holding him. Heat in my cheeks that should feel his pressed against them. Those small hands should be holding mine as we watch a movie on the couch. My legs should feel his weight as he crawls into my lap. I wonder how big he would be now. His brother should have him here to play with, instead of being sad because he feels like an only child. And my brain is overwhelmed in trying to process it all over again.

Perhaps you have felt the same way. Maybe you've experienced a loss so deep, so profound, so painful that it resonates in every part of your body. A moment in time that your life was changed forever. Your life now defined by the before and after of that horrible day.

It isn’t fair. It doesn’t seem real, but it is very real. My deepest pain comes from a part of me that is no longer here.


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