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The Power Of Words

As someone who has always loved to read and write, I have always believed in the immense power of words.  Words create beauty, evoke feeling, tell the stories that tie us to our lives and our experiences and ultimately to each other.  Yet the power of words took on an entirely different dimension when I became a psychiatrist.

Often, my patients will use certain words that seem to flow straight from their heart to mine, bypassing the logic and reasoning of the brain.  Those words stay with me, and become a direct window into the non-verbal, the realm of feeling and shared humanity and connection.

Several months ago, I had a patient who was working through the unexpected death of someone very dear to her.  As she processed her intense grief and sadness, she used specific, powerful words that I won’t soon forget.  I am honored to share a poem with you that I wrote about one such session with her.


“The grief comes like acid rain,” she said, looking away as the steady drip-drip-drip of tears streamed down her cheeks. I saw a single teardrop, linger, and then fall from her face, land with a soft silence, a dark stain on her pant leg that wouldn’t disappear. It was 7:47 pm, almost the end of our time. Night. The lights of the city blinking on, shining in through the seventh floor window, this warmly lit office, holding space for the both of us to explore the jagged terrain of pain, of loss, together. And I felt my own tears, hot, a clenched fist, grasping my heart in my chest, a sudden loss of breath. Feeling her own heart struggling to beat. Is it okay to cry? my spiral thoughts wondered, knowing that I was crying for her, but also for all of us, and for me too. Yes, for me too. Which was all I needed to know as I pushed tears back into the raw, soft places where they are born and live and die, only to pour again one day from torn skies just like acid rain.

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