Sandy spent the last three nights in the ancient high back armchair next to her mother’s bed. Sandy’s vigil was taking a significant toll on her on many levels. I met her on the morning of the fourth day. It looked like Sandy was holding her breath in-between inhalations. Sandy’s furrowed brow, rigid posture and the bloodshot sorrow in her eyes told her story.
It was clear to me that this was her mother’s last day of life. When I told Sandy this, tears poured down her face as she chewed off the last bit of her fingernails on her right hand. She hopelessly sobbed, “My mother is my best friend, what will I do without her? She is the person who helps me through difficult times in my life. I have nobody to turn to.”
In that moment, it would have been pointless to offer suggestions on how to find meaning in her life after her mother died.
My response was, “Tell me about your mother.” As her sweet stories unfolded I saw Sandy’s shoulders relax, her breathing changed and the furrow of her brow unraveled a little. Then it was my mission to make Sandy chuckle. We both laughed at how Sandy and her mother would tape paper plates to the bottoms of their feet and play “ice skater” in their kitchen.
Storytelling is powerful medicine for grief.