Loss, Grief, and the Longing for Human Connection

Couple walking on beach at sunset

Photo by RonAlmog

(This post originally appeared on Living Successfully With Aphasia)

About a month ago, driving in the early morning madness that is New Jersey traffic, I listened to this piece on NPR.  With the death of Osama Bin Laden has come a plethora of articles, photos, blogposts:  people’s emotional holding places have been disturbed, and everything is raw again.

This podcast was made by Beverly Eckert, who lost her husband, Sean on 911.  She recorded the podcast four years after his death, but the words sounded new and the feelings full as I drove the highway in muted sunlight.  Loss, grief, the longing for human connection.  These are what I heard, what I hear in the conversations I have with people living with aphasia.  And, like Beverly, the time that passes does not really soften the pain.

 Vision blurred, I pulled over to the side of the road, and wept.  It will not be the last time I am able to share in another’s longing for the return of what was.

Shirley Morganstein and Marilyn Certner Smith co-founded Speaking of Aphasia, a Life Participation practice in Montclair, NJ where people with aphasia instruct her daily in their journey. Recently, Shirley began a blog focused more on her personal thoughts about the people she has met and her own process as a therapist

The King’s Speech

(This post originally appeared on the Living Successfully With Aphasia blog)

You must see this film.

Period.

Years ago, I met Jung on lower Broadway in NYC. Not actually, of course. What I mean is that the concept of syncronicity rose up and hit me in the face that day. Details are not very important. What is important is that I had to acknowledge that things sometimes conspire to connect you to a larger truth, for which you may not even be aware you are searching.

Having seen The King’s Speech this week, I am struck by the relational and reflective aspect of the practice of speech therapy – the very thing we are now exploring in a deeper and more meaningful way. The character of Lionel Logue, played adeptly by Geoffrey Rush, succeeds with The King only because he establishes the relationship that forms a bond of trust and respect between them. And so it is in our therapy as well.

I am so happy to find a film like this that supports my own personal journey, and confirms what I know to be true.

Shirley Morganstein and Marilyn Certner Smith co-founded Speaking of Aphasia, a Life Participation practice in Montclair, NJ where people with aphasia instruct her daily in their journey. Recently, Shirley began a blog focused more on her personal thoughts about the people she has met and her own process as a therapist.

A Million Rubber Bands

(This post originally appeared on Living Successfully With Aphasia)

Alan K. Simpson, former senator from Wyoming, described resilience as being like “a million rubber bands.” People with aphasia are stretched there and back again as the weeks, months, and years slowly define who they are and will be. The aphasia literature of the fifties described people with aphasia as essentially unchanged in persona. I think not. This rubber band business moves people into and out of places they have never been, and changes do occur. What is obvious to me as I accompany them on part of this bouncing around, is that those who are resilient experience the lows and highs differently, constantly rededicating themselves to the next piece of what lies ahead. PBS hosted a wonderful series recently called, “This Emotional Life; ” one of the shows was dedicated to resilience.

“People who are resilient draw on strengths in themselves, their relationships, and their communities to help them overcome adversity. Resilient people often find meaning even in times of trouble and gain confidence from overcoming adversity. In this way, resilience can contribute to a deeply satisfying life.”

Some of you may remember Bob Shumaker, a former POW in Vietnam. In this video, he describes how he created a communication system: a tap code between prisoners that he believes permitted them all to survive three years in solitary confinement.

In a way, that is what people with aphasia do: create a new code for maintaining the connection between themselves and the world they inhabited before it, or laying down new pathways for the new life they are creating. And aphasia therapists? We are the interpreters, making a bridge between there and back again.

Shirley Morganstein and Marilyn Certner Smith co-founded Speaking of Aphasia, a Life Participation practice in Montclair, NJ where people with aphasia instruct her daily in their journey. Recently, Shirley began a blog focused more on her personal thoughts about the people she has met and her own process as a therapist