A Time to Mourn
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A Time to Mourn

Sitting on the floor

listening to the tiny voice

I wanted to sit on the floor. I’d read it was a custom in Jewish rites of mourning. I didn’t know how to bring it off. I’ve worked with my therapist for a long time, but it still felt awkward and humiliating to get down on the floor. She would be so big above me up there in her office chair, I would be so little down on the floor. I was afraid.

She moved her chair back, allowing space enough between us for me to slide down and sit in front of the couch. I couldn’t do it. I said no, not today.

Then came to mind something I’d learned long ago from a technique known as Voice Dialogue: The aspect of the self that wants to speak also knows where it wants to sit; moving into that new position facilitates access.

I mention this to my therapist. She asks if I am aware of the limited amount of time. Only 15 minutes remain of my session. Now I am in touch with somebody inside myself who knows what she wants. Yes, yes, yes.

I move into the corner between the two couches. I sit on the floor. I draw my knees up to my chest and put my face down. My therapist is far away. She sits quietly, waiting.

I say, “You might have to ask a question.”

“Thank you,” says her professional voice from above.

She softens her tone and asks a question. I worry it is not the right question, but that doesn’t seem to matter. A tiny little voice begins to speak. I do not remember the question or the answer. Later on I remember the tiny voice saying, “My Daddy would help me, BUT HE’S NOT HERE!” Then there was sobbing. Gasps of fear. More questions. More sobs. The tiny voice.

After what seemed like quite a while, my big self interrupted. “I want to stop now,” it said. “I don’t want to go right up to the end of the session this way. I need time to recover.” I came out of the corner. I moved back to the couch. There were tears on my cheeks. My legs were shaking.

As I was unlocking my front door at home it felt like I had not been gone long. It felt like I had had a very short session. I, big self, felt a little cheated. I was still shaky in the limbs, but I noticed my gut was calm. I noticed I did not feel anxious, for the first time in many days.

I did not do much for the rest of the afternoon. I ate a bowl of cereal for supper. In the evening I went to the first meeting of a short story class. The teacher asked us to write a scene from a childhood memory. My back yard came to mind. I could see it clearly, the grass, the garage, the picket fence, and a boy. We were instructed to use the scene to tell a story, not all of it true. I wrote a story about a boy called Timmy. No one else in the class was able to finish their story in the time given, but mine poured out easily. The story feels right, like my therapy session earlier in the day. I am satisfied.

I am on a mission to find a way to mourn, and, to finish mourning, to get back to normal life. Timmy was a boy I knew as a child. He didn’t have a chance. In my story he also represents my own exiled self, the one who experienced things nice people don’t talk about. I want to redeem and include that child. I like to think my Dad would have protected us both from our dragons if he could have, if he’d known how.

“I am following the river
Down the highway
Through the cradle of the civil war
I’m going to Graceland,”
wrote Paul Simon.

Yes, yes, I see how it is. You just have to follow the river.

“And my traveling companions
Are ghosts and empty sockets
I’m looking at ghosts and empties
But I’ve reason to believe
We all will be received
In Graceland.”

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what soap is for the body, tears are for the soul

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