I had a conversation recently with someone who was doing her job while she talked to me and one statement she made rang out like a loud bell. “Well, you psychologists are trained not to feel grief like the rest of us.” Trained not to feel grief like the rest of you? Did she honestly think that anything in a psychologist’s training could remove the ability to respond like any other human being from any of us so that we’d be immune to feeling emotions like grief? How would they have done that? It certainly wasn’t part of any training I got.
Than I started thinking about the physicians I’ve known and how, when they’re being open and honest with you, they admit to the grief when a patient dies or when they can’t help them with an illness. Not all of them and that’s probably because some have formed a hard mental callus that seems to protect them, but I wonder. Some others see patients as walking, talking bits of anatomy, jobs to be performed, chests to be thumped and meetings to be placed on little white cards. Some are terribly naive about life because they’ve spent their early adulthood in laboratories or writing papers or trying to impress their professors or chiefs of service and missed out on living.
Those are the ones who stand at the doorway to patients’ rooms and announce loudly, “Oh, yes, the test results came back and you’ve got cancer,” and walk away. I’ve seen that happen.
Most of us feel grief and all the normal human emotions the rest of the world experiences. We cry and regret and love and that’s normal. As the famous newspaper letter of many years ago (circa 1897) indicated (I take a bit of license here), “Yes, Virginia, there is a feeling psychologist.”
Well, I should say there is more than one.