“My daughter is in so much pain. She seems so fragile, we don’t know how to get close to her.” (parents of Katalina, age 10)
Pain is defined as physical suffering or discomfort caused by illness or injury. Pain is also defined as careful effort, as in, ‘he took pains to see that all his passengers were safe.’ When working with patients with cancer and special needs, chronic pain is a predominant symptom and one I take great care to focus on and bring a change and ease to a child’s experience.
When I heard about Katalina’s body state and I watched the hesitations of those around her in touching, moving or even playing with her – I knew I had a different take on what could aide her. She immediately communicated to me that her discomfort and pain was “everywhere.” Her pain was so intense and I could see her whole body tighten up and her face grimace. I saw her parents pull further away in their space between her and them (fearful and driven to protect her from any other physical discomfort).
I had to trust my intuition and experiences with her. I asked her permission, to allow me to hold her (metaphorically) and that, she would be able to let go and not feel so tight and tense. Looking at her size and age, I knew this would feel less familiar than if she was a baby, toddler or younger child. I knew her family may resist.
But, as her father saw me take her hand in mine, gently sway, and hold her weighted/tensed arm until she let go and lay her arm relaxed on the bed…He softly moved forward and joined in. He took her other hand and started to hold it. Immediately, Katalina made a grimace and shriek sound, to which I narrated “this is a different feeling, your dad is holding you, your allowed to let go,” and she did.
I spoke to them about how he may have held her in the past. He communicated that he would wrap her whole body into his hands and she was so tiny in his arms that he was reminded of holding a stuffed animal or football, even. She smiled and he laughed out loud.
I asked him to do this holding now with her.
Immediately his body pulled backwards claiming he wouldn’t’t want to hurt her, and simultaneously she effort-fully moved over in her bed. She looked like she was moving bricks but she moved. He took his arms under her legs, and around her head while cuddling into the bed. I asked her to look at his eyes and to even smile when she was ready. As they gazed at each other, her body relaxed, she stopped tensing up and she began to breath with ease.
He hadn’t held her in years, and now this simple connection meant the world to both of them.
The movement and shaping of their bodies together allowed for ease and ‘careful effort’ during a seemingly unchangeable ‘pain.’
As tears dropped down my eyes witnessing the beauty of a parent and child holding together – I was reminded of the undeniable gift that movement and the body can offer for overall health and LOVE.
Everyday I work with children of all ages and their families to support their comfort, development, and connections! For more ways to learn how to embody parenting and support your child through life, Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (310) 966-0700 to schedule your time.
Please Note: These stories are based on real moments but all names, ages, and identifying information has been changed to ensure confidentiality and safety for all individuals involved. The events are a composite of related scenarios used to illustrate the work; bringing understanding to the benefits of supporting children through a mind/body connection.