Monte, betrayed by Marla, https://shirahvollmermd.wordpress.com/2010/06/18/were-breaking-up/, Tom, my twenty-four year old patient betrayed by his mother https://shirahvollmermd.wordpress.com/2010/01/24/betrayal/, Christopher, betrayed by his boss, https://shirahvollmermd.wordpress.com/2010/03/07/unemployment-a-betrayal/, Teri betrayed by her psychiatrist, https://shirahvollmermd.wordpress.com/2010/02/11/youre-fired/, all came to mind as Al described his feelings about his children. Fifty-five years old, three grown children, married for thirty years, Al was relatively content with his life. His oldest son got married a year ago. He and his wife danced at the wedding; “the happiest they have ever been” he says. On Father’s Day, 2009, his wife announced she had a lover, she was leaving him, the kids have known this for the last eighteen months and “they agree it is a good idea” his wife tells him.
Al came to me with excruciating back pain which followed this news. He was seeing a wise psychologist who felt that since Al had body pain and mind pain, then he needed someone who could work with both. Sure enough, the pain of his separation from his wife exacerbated his underlying pain in his back. Sure enough, as we uncovered the psychological issues, his back pain improved, without medications. Together, Al and I came to understand that although he was upset that his wife left him for another man, the most wounding part was that his kids knew, but they did not tell him; they kept the secret. Al loves his children. He thought he had a great relationship with all of them, but this episode made him seriously question his beliefs. “Why did they not tell me?” He asked repeatedly. “Why do they not apologize?” He quickly says. The pain in these questions is intense.
Like Monte, Tom, Christopher and Teri, Al feels that the people he loved, the people he counted on to “watch his back” seriously let him down. An apology could mend the wound, but in all these cases, the apology does not capture the pain inflicted. In Al’s case, the pain was both physical and psychological. Many months later, Al’s kids came around. Each one asked for forgiveness. Al was living alone in the family home. He was working at his job, lonely at night, suffering with chronic back pain, yet these apologies brightened his mood considerably and diminished his backache. Al feels renewed. He is looking forward to the next chapter in his life. He looks back on his marriage and he now realizes that there was a lot missing. He accepts his divorce; he has understood that for a while. He could not accept his children’s behavior. Fortunately, he does not have to. Al is a new man; up from the despair that he felt when he thought he lost his whole family. Happy ending.