You’re too Young to Understand

When the patient says “you are too young to understand.”

I saw a patient the other day coming in for physical therapy for ongoing knee pain, who I normally don’t see.  I asked her what aggravates her knee pain, and she simple stated – Grief. She had lost her husband around the same time when her knee discomfort began to get aggravated.

I told her that I am truly sorry to hear the loss, and sensed that she wanted to talk more than get started with her PT session. Then she went on to tell me, “ You are too young to understand – Ok, but I’ll tell you anyways. It really hurts. I think my grief just wanted to be heard, and took advantage of my knee that was weak to begin with”

There was a moment of silence between the two us, and I was startled by her comment of my youth to understand loss and grief. I quietly asked her, if losing a father 10 years ago would count. “No, well it’s not the same”.

That day, I left the clinic emotionally distraught, tired and somehow defeated.  Being a young physical therapist only a year out of school, I am aware of perhaps the challenge of breaking the ice to connect with patients as we are still at such as early phase of our training and skill sets. However, I was totally not ready for this moment when my youth had created a wall between my patient and I around the topic of grief.

I could have been mad at my patient that day, for somehow making me feel as if the loss of my father did not matter as much as her husband, but I remembered the raw feelings of my grief 10 years ago.  I was not myself, I was in a lot of pain and everyday was a survival. I realized that she is right – she is in a lot more acute pain than I am today. I have learned over the past 10 years to live with grief, but she is just beginning to somehow survive through this.  The next time I saw the patient, I was able to work with her with all the intensions to understand her grief and pain.


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