amber rahim

Chronic illness: the parts we don't talk about

Tragedy separates, talking connects


When I started this blog I had intended to write about living with my daughter’s and my own chronic illnesses but something happened recently that is so enormously sad that I have been flitting between desperate, immense sorrow and numbness.  It’s been 6 weeks and I have moved out of that now to a more dull place, where feelings are not so sharp.

When I got the news I pulled back from life, sank into myself.  I was with my children all day but I could barely acknowledge their existence.  It hurt to look at them so I didn’t.

Now I can look at my children again and it is with a bitter sweetness that I count my blessings.

Although it is still too raw for me to share in my blog I find I cannot stop thinking about the impact of tragedy, so I will write about mine.  Time does heal and this healing in me makes writing this post possible.

In tragedy, in losing one person, it hurts so much that it is easy to lose the people around you too.

Our daughter almost died at birth and fought for her life for 5 weeks.  For the next two years a cold would lead to a trip to the hospital and random life threatening fevers plagued our winters.  We did not lose her but there is a lot of grief from this incredibly bumpy ride of “will she, wont she (die)?” and tragedy exists.

We each deal with our grief in our own way, often alone, and the distance between us grows.

Before you know it, years have gone by and you look at your husband and think “who are you?”

You see that they have the same look in their eyes.  Two strangers who have shared so much, but not together.

Each walking their path alone, side by side, only looking inwards, never at each other because it hurts too much.

How do you find your way to each other again?

For us we followed the usual routine: spend some time together.  We went out to dinner.  We went for walks through Amsterdam, exploring new neighbourhoods and chatting.  We had a nice time, we rested and it helped us get energy to face the next day with a smile but it didn’t really bring us closer together.

The real connecting happened when we talked about our experiences of our tragedy.

For example, my husband’s experience of the birth was very different to mine (apart from the obvious “he was not giving birth” one).

He was standing up watching a bunch of people cut me open.

I was lying on the table calmly, not feeling anything.

Oh yes, important detail: it was a cesarean, not just random butchery.

I had a wonderful view of the ceiling lights and was sheltered from the horror movie blood and guts (or should I say blood and uterus) by a green curtain.  They don’t let you see your own cesarean and I’m really glad! It’s definitely not something I ever want to see.

So he told me what it was like for him to watch his wife and child in danger, not knowing what was going to happen.

We told each other our thoughts, hopes and fears.  Each different, each equally real.

Something lit up between us.  It’s like there is a thread holding us together which had become very fine and barely visible, fragile.

As we shared, the thread grew thicker, stronger.  It started to glow as if sunshine and warmth were pulsing through it.  I felt a warmth, connection, love that I had not felt for a long time.

Through sharing our tragedy with each other, through putting our experiences into words for the purpose of explaining to the other:

“this is what is was like for me”.

We connected again.  No longer shift workers but friends, partners, husband and wife.

2 thoughts on “Tragedy separates, talking connects

  1. Thinking of you honey. Always have been. This is so amazingly written
    Massive hugs to you!!

  2. Spot on again. A gift with words MashAllah, may it always heal. Mala

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