"Pain needs a Witness"

My last post was about Wonder and Awe…what I didn’t think to mention…perhaps I just really didn’t want to think about it at all, is how fleeting they are.  Sigh…’Reader Beware’, I am in a dark mood today.  I once told my therapist that I have an bottomless well of pain.  No matter how much I try to ‘trust the process’, cry, release the pain…there is always more.  He said, “It’s because you cry alone.  Pain needs a witness.”

If you are in the mood for witnessing…read on.  If not. . .I don’t blame you, I would put a huge distance between me and this stuff if I could too.

When I first started writing about abuse, I called the after effects “the ashes of abuse”.  I think now I should have included “smoke” in there somewhere.  The pain from the abuse feels like smoke that floods into every room (read: every facet of your life), it lingers, it stinks.  One of the things I worry about the most is how the smoke will affect my family.  I’m not “Mommie Dearest” but I am no “June Cleaver” either. I am moody and distracted.  And so I worry.  My husband keeps reassuring me that he is only sorry that I am struggling, this mess is not a burden for him. “I love you and I always will,” he told me today.  He says the kids are fine, better than fine, “wonderful” he says.  But still I worry. 

I think that one of the things that is hardest for people who have not experienced trauma to understand is why it is still so difficult so many years later and why it takes so long to heal. There is not one answer for this but many.  I will try to summarize it though. If I were in a car accident (which lasts a couple moments at the most) would you be surprised if my injuries were serious and it took months or even years to heal?  I have a friend that still suffers from the effects of a car accident she was in 20 yrs ago.  Why do we expect healing from other kinds of trauma to be any different?

Why do I struggle now with something that happened so many years ago?  One day I asked my therapist why I have to be burdened with all this stuff twice…first as a child and now as an adult.  He said, “Because YOU didn’t experience it the first time.”  What he meant was that as a child, I couldn’t cope with it so I ‘dissociated’ it.  I put it away in my mind to deal with later…and now “later” is here.  That is a very primitive explanation of it, but it will do.  Basically, I am dealing with events from years ago, but I feel like they happened yesterday.

The other thing I want to touch on is how lonely this all is.  If I had a physical challenge like cancer, for example, people would rally around me with support.  I would have all kinds of offers for people to bring in meals, watch my kids, clean my house.  Lot’s of phone calls…etc.   I know because I have been the recipient of all that goodness in the past when I was ill.  My current difficulty is harder for people to understand.  In the beginning I tried to explain it to people, but quickly learned not to do that (except here on the blog) because it makes people uncomfortable.  If you tell people more than they are ready to hear and they will start avoiding you, or look at you like they feel sorry for you, but don’t know what to say.  I don’t know which is worse.  I don’t want meals brought in.  I don’t need help with the kids or the house.  What I really want is to feel understood…to not feel alone. 

That last part is where you come in.  When people tell me, “I read your blog”, my first thought is “I hope I didn’t write something stupid!” but the second is a huge sense of gratitude.  Reading a blog is a voluntary thing, you come and you read because you want to.  And THAT makes me feel supported and loved.  It may feel like a small thing to you, but it means the world to me because it tells me that you care and that…I am not alone.

Thank you for reading and being a “witness”.


  1. Pain absolutely needs a witness. When we are able to share our pain with someone who understands us, it helps blow the smoke out of our minds and lives. If we hold our pain deep inside as most of us do, it seems to divide and multiply, like little cells of despair. When we are able to share those feelings with another person, the cells start dissipating and disappearing. When I cry by myself, it never helps. I hate to cry at all, but if and when I do, either on the phone with someone or in person, their mere presence seems to help lift the burden. By myself, crying is just wearing and exhausting. We need one another, whether we are experiencing joy, wonder and awe or whether we are in the pits of depression and despair. Sharing of either good things or bad with someone else gives us hope.

  2. I am really enjoying your blog. I love reading blogs where people really share who they are and what is really going on with them. Thank you so much for sharing.

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