When something dramatic, threatening, and life-altering happens, chaos frequently ensues among those affected. While individuals struggle to incorporate the trauma into their lives, the relationships among them are inevitably strained. At some point, a new pattern will emerge. In the adjustment phase, though, denial is frequently present in each of those affected.
In her nonfiction narrative “Of Birds and Mice” (Intima, Spring 2013), Nancy Stephan describes an encounter with her cousin Steve. Now adults, they discuss the life-changing circumstances of her mother’s sudden death almost forty years prior. At the time, Steve reacted by jumping from his bunk and yelling “Shut up!” Don’t tell me this awful story. Don’t make me feel vulnerable. Let life go on as before.
My story told in the Spring 2017 Intima, entitled “Soft Side of the Tiger” is a tale of unconscious denial. I can well identify with the urge to “shut up” the disturbing memories and moods leaking into my consciousness after sexual assault. Still, healing is about confronting the reality and integrating that reality into the fabric of life, while moving on. Nancy’s cousin is doing just that when he brings up the decades-old story surrounding Nancy’s mother’s death. Both Nancy and Steve are adults now. Sharing their tale of loss and reflecting on it from the vantage point of adulthood has brought them to a place of understanding in their lives.
Cheryl Shore, whose career has included teaching, research and practice, has taught nursing students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and has practiced as a nurse practitioner for more than 20 years. Shore has published multiple research articles pertaining to family coping with chronic illness, and has presented at conferences in the United States, Iceland, and Japan. She currently practices at a clinic for the underinsured in north central Indiana. In her free time, she writes novels and short stories in several genres. Shore lives in the greater Indianapolis area with her family. She plans to participate in a medical mission to Bolivia in the summer of 2017.
© 2017 Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine