Phantom pain

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“Phantom pain is pain that feels like it’s coming from a body part that’s no longer there.”

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Nights ago, a sudden movement caused from a dream I can no longer remember stirred me. My right hand hit the side of the sofa bed against the wall and I heard myself mutter in a groggy voice, “Oh, I’m sorry.”

I’d shed off enough slumber to realize that no, there was no one beside me and yes, I’d just given my bed an apology.

I sunk into a soft sadness.

It had been months, nearly a year since I’d shared my space with Craig. There were countless times an unintentional kick or quick flapping movement of the body had us whisper “sorries” in the night. It’s part of sharing a space, a bed, sleep. While sometimes irritating, there is something of a comfort in knowing that someone you love is to your right, curled on his side, breathing in rhythm. An added warmth on cold nights, there is an assurance that as your eyes weigh down in rest, they will lift to see that person, familiar and constant.

When gone, it is a strange sensation.

That morning as I stared at the ceiling, I felt like something was missing, a part of me, an appendage even. And it stung in pain. It hurt.

What do you do when eleven years of familiarity seem to disappear? How do you cope with such a shift in life? Where does that energy of work, hope, love go to?

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“For some people, phantom pain gets better over time without treatment.”

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There are a number of things people do to manage large life change. Dive into work. Exaggerate exercise. Dance. Meditate. Breathe. Engage socially. Challenge a fear. Anchor onto the words of sages. Over-indulge. Experiment with new surroundings.

Sleep.

Sob.

Scream.

Scribble feelings.

It’s all ok. No one has the right treatment. Nothing uniformly works…except maybe…time.

Because whether it’s the sting after ripping off a band-aid or the twinging pulsations felt in a new scar, the pain is there to inform us of this: that there was something big enough to feel, and as with all wounding things, time is really the ultimate healer.

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