In my line of work, we have been trained to manage difficult emotions, to put some distance between ourselves and what we hear from clients no matter how awful.
If we did not find a way to negotiate this balance we simply would not be able to perform the task at hand. To be honest, from my personal experience of over two decades in this field, this strategy generally works.
However, I also know that every so often there will be someone who comes through your consulting door or a letter lands on your desk and for whatever reason all those skills and strategies seem to go out of the window and you become vulnerable and are flooded with all the emotions known to man.
All the trainings you have honed over the years do not seem to be effective and you are challenged on every level. When this first happened to me I felt scared and worried that I would not be able to be effective or help my client. However, over the years, I have come to understand that this is because I am able to feel such profound empathy for my clients that I am most effective.
I have seen many clients over the years and received lots of mail that have left me feeling various levels of emotion. This letter was one of them. It is a letter that I was deeply moved by and had all the ingredients of a Greek tragedy, a love story.
It showcased the exquisite nature, power and resilience of the human spirit. It contains love, pain, passion, anger, hope, fear, determination, faith, denial, broken dreams, resilience, courage, empathy, compassion, fight, betrayal, acceptance, reparation and I am sure many more emotions I cannot think of.
At the end of reading the letter, it did make me think of relationships/marriages today and if they could ever survive anything on this scale with the lack of tolerance and the self interest a lot of couples have today.
If nothing else, I hope at the end of reading this letter in some small way it will make you look at your partner with greater affection. And also make you appreciate the fact that you have the time you have together today in the knowledge that none of us is promised tomorrow!
Thank you for your column and the great topics you tackle. I am an avid reader. In particular your articles on bereavement and domestic violence have been very helpful to me.
I lost my wife recently and have been going through the grieving process. My wife was diagnosed with HIV before our marriage however due to the compassion and love I felt for her, I still went ahead with the wedding even though I did not tell any family members.
After several years of marriage I went for an HIV test and it was negative and we went on to have two healthy kids free from the scourge. We felt completely blessed. God’s mercies were great on us. As they say though, joy has a slender body and my wife became weakened by the disease. She was strong but the signs were showing strongly. It was a period of crisis for me, especially since even though my wife saw signs of the illness she refused to go for treatment.
I wanted to help her but what could I do if she decided not to go to counselling centres or government hospital for HIV/AIDS, AVR treatment. I had watched the illness overpower her and I had no choice but to break my vow to her that I would not tell her mother. I did that with the hope that she would listen to her and go for treatment.
My wife did not budge. Maybe it was due to fear of stigmatisation. She also believed it was a spiritual attack. She argued that if it was AIDS why had it not affected me? To me it made sense. At times it was just stubborn madness. I wondered what would make a woman you love who saw death not try to grab at any last straw. I chose not to divorce her. God gave us two healthy children and to this day I cannot understand why she took the dangerous decision not to get help.
My wife and I had several arguments about her not attending the health centres. She even threatened to kill herself if I brought the topic up again.
I have to be sincere, this issue made us so sad and unhappy. I felt better at times and other times I felt she was being selfish. I thought if I could sacrifice my life for her then why could not she just go for counselling. This melodrama continued for so long until she had no choice but to expose it to our church pastors without my knowledge. It certainly was a trying moment.
It was a trying time especially for someone you love. I am not saying that she chose to die, because I know she loved me and the children greatly. However, the fear of stigma and ostracising affected her. I was all she trusted and she never forgave me for telling her mother.
My wife later developed more physiological and psychological issues possibly due to the illness. She could not coordinate her muscles and her limbs were weakening and she had paralysis and strokes. It was at this point she decided to seek and accept medical help. But sadly, it was too late. I watched her in the hospital and in our home gradually dying. My world came crashing down.
I felt pains, grief and anger. I was there alone in the hospital watching my beloved wife becoming a vegetable. Hospitals were rejecting her due to her HIV status. My wife was aware of this rejection and knew people would react worse if they knew.
My wife died a heroine; she gave me two great gifts free of HIV. It is still a miracle to me how I was free of the illness despite being sexually involved with her without any protection. I sat back and flashed back my mind about the pain, challenges, quarrels and the misunderstandings we had on these issues. Most times, I blame myself and sometimes, I give God the glory.
I am happy I married my wife despite her HIV status. Love truly conquers all. My wife is dead but her love for me and the kids is not dead and vice versa. The world may stigmatise us but few will ever see the true love we shared.
I chose to send this letter to you to state that you are doing a wonderful work, dealing with real issues that affect ordinary people every day. Please keep writing and let the world know that the most beautiful thing, no matter how short, is the love between husband and wife.
My wife’s short stay on earth was fulfilling. I thank God for her and wished she had been reading your column before her death. She would have been smiling on her eternal journey.
You can publish this letter but let it be anonymous.
Name and address withheld
What life has taught me
Never to forget a kindness shown to me.
I’m a work in progress and I can always improve on me. The end product only comes when I cease to exist.
People are bigger and better than their worse act.
Happiness is a choice; we can request our brains to be happy. It will respond to our commands. We are in control.