- When Time Stoppedby William Stephenson1
This work has reached the exceptional level
When a sudden loss occurs
When Time Stopped by William Stephenson1
Trauma contest entry

 It was late and the storm was relentless, even for the Pacific Northwest. As I turned in to go to bed, I was thinking of how relieved I felt that I didn’t have to be anywhere that night. Just as I crawled into bed, I heard someone pounding over and over again on my front door and the person seem to be calling out my name. I was alone in my Seattle home and all the lights were out.

 I got up, put on my bathrobe and went to the door. I turned on the porch light and yelled through the front door, “Who is it? Who’s out there?”

A moaning, sobbing voice responded as the person continued pounding on the door. “Please, please let me in. I can’t live like this any longer! Please!”

I opened the door and in fell this elderly woman, soaked from the rain, her hair was disheveled and dripping from the storm. She was shivering from the cold, wet, sobbing through it all and unable to make any sense of her situation. She introduced herself at Marion Truxton.

I turned on the heat and lights, lit a fire and started the coffee. I sensed that this was going to be a long night. I suggested she go in and shower and change into some dry clothes I had selected I thought she could wear.

I said, “Mrs. Truxton, I insist that you do these few things or I won’t be able to help you. But if you shower and change, this will give you a few moments to breathe and calm yourself so that we can talk this through. Otherwise, I need to call 911.”

Thirty minutes later, she came back into the living room, sat down and just stared at the floor. There was little improvement of her state of mind. “Why did you come here, Mrs. Truxton, and how did you find   me?”

She said, “I heard you give a lecture about your work with the terminally ill and with those in significant grief.  And, you’re in the phone book.   I need your help. Ever since my husband died, I haven’t been able to function. I can’t live like this any longer. You’ve got to take my case. You’ve got to!”

I never see clients in my home and rarely see adults without children in a life threatening crisis, but saying no to someone in distress at midnight didn’t seem like a good idea. “Mrs. Truxton, tell me your story.”

“Just before my husband died, we had a terrible argument. Before we went to bed, I screamed at him, ‘I wish you were dead!’ The next morning, I woke up and next to me was my husband and he was dead!”

She said, “I am responsible for my husband’s death. It’s my fault. I have been burdened by this guilt. I was too distraught to go to the funeral. I often never get out of bed. I don’t know how to live alone. I cry constantly. I rarely venture out of the house. I’ve stopped seeing my friends or going to my church because I just keep crying. Even my children have grown weary of me and they don’t want the grandchildren around me. My world has come to an end and all I want to do is die.”

As the hour of counseling came to a close, I decided to extend it to two. Both of us exhausted, we set up a schedule of times we would meet, including the next day. I asked her if she thought she could drive home and she reassured me that she was very capable. The storm outside and the storm inside seemed to be abating.

“Mrs. Truxton, do you have feelings of wanting to kill yourself?”

“Not anymore. I feel like I have some hope that I haven’t had for a long time.”

“What does hope look like for you?”

“I have felt such shame. People who hear my story look at me with that ‘How could you?’ look. As if I should be ashamed of myself. I feel judged and at least partially at fault for his death. One woman said to me, ‘Someday, you will have to account for your words.’ But I don’t see that in your eyes. I feel safe with you and I haven’t felt that for a long time. That’s where I find hope.”

Just as she was leaving, I asked her, “By the way, Mrs. Truxton, I meant to ask you, how long ago did your husband die?”

She said, “It was eleven years ago yesterday. And it seems like it was only yesterday.”

It would take several months of therapy and medication management to resolve the issues in her life. But, grief is a strange animal and time doesn’t heal all wounds. In fact, for Mrs. Truxton, her watch had stopped.


Author Notes
Even the dictionary illustrates trauma with the sudden death of a loved one. Time does not heal all wounds


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