Phantom Pain


“Sometimes it still hurts.

It’s a thing, you know”

This is what a guy I’ll call Joe said to me after I asked how he lost his foot. Joe lingers in the area where I work. Sometimes I share water or gloves or a few bucks. He told me “it wasn’t war” (even though he was a veteran).
He tells me he got sick.
After, he got sicker.
And even now it sometimes still hurts.
He spoke those words as if it still bewildered him that he could feel pain in a missing limb. They call it “phantom pain”. It really IS a thing.
So I’m wondering if there are words for the other unimaginable losses that rip at the tender parts. What are the words for what lives in the void after a senseless shooting ? Or the loss of a child ? Do we name the feelings we have when someone disappears into the darkness of dementia or mental illness ? And what about the deep sense of loss over the things we will never ‘have’ to lose ?
Pain and loss can be invisible. I suppose that’s the best argument there is for simply being kind. We are all having a different experience of this same life. I hope I remember Joe next time I’m impatient or thoughtless.
I’m going to try to think of something beautiful ♡

6 Comments on “Phantom Pain

  1. I’ve never lost a limb or a digit, but I believe in phantom pain, mourning loss long after the loss occurs. I was speaking with a friend recently who has a transgendered daughter. She loves her daughter with all her heart. But she also mourns the loss of her son every day. Maybe that’s a kind of phantom pain as well. And the answer is always: MORE LOVE.

    • Yes. I think that is exactly the kind of loss deserving of a word. Oh, and I always agree that MORE LOVE is our best choice in light of an inadequate language.

  2. Nicely written. I come from a family who never talked about their feelings for one another. I think that’s why my first reflex is try to make fun of the situation. Try to make the situation lite. The awkwardness of it all. My mother liked that about me. She used to say that I remind her of her late, favorite brother, “Wirt”. Apparently Wirt and I share the same sense of dark humor. Even on my mothers death bed I got her laughing. In this dichotomy I have a story. It’s not actually my story. It’s Jay Leno’s. I heard Jay Leno talk about his friendship with Rodney Dangerfield. Jay said that Rodney’s wife called Jay and said that Rodney was in the hospital and that Rodney is on his last moments on earth. So Jay went to the hospital and went to Rodney’s room. Mrs. Dangerfield said that Rodney could still squeeze peoples fingers as they talk to Rodney. So, Jay helped Rodney put his fingers around Jay’s finger. Rodney’s eyes were closed. So Jay got closer to Rodney and Jay whispered to Rodney, “hey Rodney. That wasn’t my finger.” Everyone laughed and Jay said that when he said that to Rodney, Rodneys whole body shook. Jay said he likes to think that Rodney really was conscious enough to hear him and appreciated the humor as Rodney exited. I like to think that too. I guess that some people can express themselves with beautifuly written words like poems, stories, paintings, and so on. And some people try to use humor in all its forms as well.

    • I love your wicked sense of humor too ! I also love the guy who has lived with pain, raised three kids and knows how to be serious when it matters. Thanks for the stories ♡

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