There is pain after torture that hides in your joints. Sometimes it is a dull small pain, sometimes it goes away completely. Sometimes you avoid cooking for your children and bathing the young ones. There’s nothing you can do, the pain is too great. The pain takes your breath away. Even walking to the market becomes impossible. How will I care for my children? You’re a single mother in pain, a widow heading a household and struggling with how to provide for your family, isolated from your extended family and community. How? This question hides like a thorn in your heart.
On top of the pain comes the feeling of guilt for not being able to provide for your children. On top of the guilt is the stress caused by the financial, educational and health concerns of your family while facing an uncertain future. On top of the stress is the anger and the anger is as hot as the sun fueled by pride and a strong self-sufficiency. You don’t want to ask anybody for help, but you must. This makes being a mother very difficult, but what can you do? You know you are not the only one that is struggling. You must persist.
The children know that something is wrong. You do your best to hide it from them. You do your best to shelter them from the cruelties of the world. What horrors have their little eyes seen? What agonies have their little bodies endured? Maybe they act out in school or wet the bed or complain of stomach pains and headaches. Maybe they beat the wall with a stick that makes you cringe with every crack of the stick and you want to take that stick from your child and break it over your knee. Your anger will surprise you when your pain overwhelms you. Instead you tell them to go play in the other room. You say it in a way that scares your children and you can’t help it. When they are gone, this is when you cry.
If you are a parent and you are reading this, you know there is another side to this story. Your children will be the only thing that can bring you back from the darkness. You get out of bed wanting to help yourself for the sake of your children. This motivates you. The maturity they show when helping you cook and bathe their younger brothers and sisters gives you strength. The intuition they show sensing your sadness and anxiety will let you know that you are raising a caring kid. You will learn that focusing on providing for the needs of your children can be helpful and can give a sense of purpose to life. After what you and your family survived, purpose might not otherwise exist. This thought scares you and causes you to hold your children close.
You’ll meet other parents in CVT’s group counseling sessions. You’ll listen as they share their challenges at home openly and realize that you are not alone in your experiences. During the 10 weeks together group members really get to know each other, begin to trust again and for you it is the first time that you feel part of a new community. The pain in these moments seems absent. The thorns of stress, guilt, anger and shame in your heart will slowly dissolve. The memories of torture and warfare you fled to find a safe place for your children are fading, and as those memories fade they make room for new ones. You’ll join Whatsapp groups and make plans to meet outside of CVT to support each other. You will tell your counselor at CVT more about your children than you will about the pain caused by torture, and you’ll feel the pain in your body making more space for what has kept you alive this entire time: love.
By Ross Nervig, CVT marketing communications specialist Photo credit: Agnes Montanari