by Suzanne Stambaugh, Psy.D., Impulse Staff Writer



Accidents happen. They happen suddenly and irrevocably. In an instant, the fragility of embodied existence looms like a nightmare monster from the shadows of thought. In such moments, we take measure of how we have dealt with themes of loss, mourning, and mortality in our own lives. Perhaps we have helped clients to circle around that deep well of emptiness at the center of every self, to face the dread of that darkness, to mourn the endless string of losses that compose a life and bravely face the uncertainties of the future. And yet, it is not until an accident, like a flash of lightning providing a glimpse into a stark existential mirror, that we can see our own dread, and the flimsy defenses we have erected against this knowledge of our own perpetual decay, and certain demise.


It might amuse you to know that these thoughts were inspired by frozen turkey burgers. More specifically, while trying to pry apart said burgers with a knife, I wound up with what seemed like a superficial cut. In fact, I had severed both tendons that allow me to move my pinky finger. With no health insurance, and a body part that no longer heeded my will, I was quite suddenly awash with an old, familiar feeling: that I was alone in the world, and broken.


It might comfort you to know that the story has a hopeful ending. A friend set up a fundraising account on a social networking site, and through the generosity of my extended community, I was able to raise the money for surgery. What really touched me was realizing that the times I sat and talked even when I wanted to be doing something else, or found the patience to work through a conflict, or fielded a late night phone call from someone in distress: these moments were meaningful to others. Because I had looked for no return from those transactions, the response of my community truly had the feeling of a blessing. And in reflecting on that, I felt (not just thought, but truly felt) that I was not alone after all, and that others would help to mend what had been broken. If isolation is an existential given, and if mourning is one of the tasks of therapy, then perhaps there is an intersection