By P. Berman, A. Hosack, & K. Hecht
Claire was calm on the outside but feeling broken into a million pieces on the inside; would she shatter?
She was sitting in her regular place on the sofa next to Mr. Carson. She had just tucked in a tired but hyperactive, Davy into bed. He had managed to pull her shirt out of her pants and turn her hair into a bird’s nest. She didn’t know what the family meeting was for but was worried that Mrs. Carson had noticed something was wrong with her at the bus stop. Claire was so grateful for the care she received from the Carsons. She tried to show her gratitude by always putting up the front that she was happy and doing well- until the front cracked, like today at the bus stop.
Mrs. Carson looked concerned as she sat in her special easy chair across from Claire and Mr. Carson. Leaning towards her, Mrs. Carson asked, “why were you really crying at the bus stop?” Claire blinked and just sat immobile on the couch.
Should I tell them? Will they feel cracked if they know how much I hurt? She could tell. No, she couldn’t.
“I love you both so much but…” Claire looked back and forth between them and decided on a half-truth, “I am just so lonely. Please don’t be angry with me but I can’t make friends at school. It’s just too hard.” It was true that Claire was terribly lonely. Claire pushed the rest of her pain, her relationships with Larry and her real parents, back down deep inside her – unspoken.
Overwhelming pain sent her head down into her lap – her tears began to soak into her pants. She told herself that she was protecting, not betraying the Carsons, by not telling them everything.
Mr. and Mrs. Carson looked at each other. Claire had always vacillated between a smiling and happy face, and waves of tears; they had never known what to do besides listen. Mr. Carson moved over on the couch and stroked her hair. Mrs. Carson gently talked to her. “we aren’t angry Claire. A young woman like you needs friends to go out with and talk to. We want you to have friends” (Claire looked up and tried to smile). “We love you and we know you love us. We have worried a little that you might not have any friends because you never talk about anyone at school.” Claire started crying again. She felt so bad that she had not told them everything.
How could she tell them she was a waste of space? They would just tell her she wasn’t, that she was important. But, Claire knew it was just a miracle that the Carsons cared for her.
Looking down at a sobbing Claire, Mr. Carson remembered how Ms. Alexandra had warned them right from the beginning, that while a safe home was critical to Claire and Davy, they would need more. Claire had suffered extensive abuse. She might need to talk through her experiences with a therapist once she felt safe enough to examine her past.
“You will always be our precious Claire, no matter how old you get and what you do with your future with Davy; but, we are just plain old parents,” Mr. Carson said. “Let’s ask Ms. Alexandra to find a therapist for you to talk to. Someone who can understand why you have these terrible dreams.”
Suddenly Mrs. Carson started laughing. Claire and Mr. Carson looked up at her in surprise. “Why are we all sitting here stroking Claire’s hair when we could be talking about this over the chocolate fudge ice cream Claire bought!” Claire was laughing now and rushing past the Carsons into the kitchen to serve the ice cream. Serious again, Mr. Carson looked in Claire’s eyes and said, “What you went through is the kind of suffering we just don’t understand because we were lucky and had parents who knew how to care for us. “
“Fortunately, we have found common ground where we can understand each other,” Mrs. Carson said as she popped a spoon full of ice cream in her mouth, “we all really love chocolate fudge ice cream. This brand is great, thanks for choosing it Claire.”
Claire smiled as she tasted it. It was great ice cream…but she was exhausted. When the ice cream bowls were all washed and put away, Mrs. Carson took Claire’s hand and said, “how about a special good night tuck in?” Mrs. Carson tucked her in tight, the same way she tucked Davy in. She gave Claire a kiss on both cheeks and told her to have “sweet dreams and not to worry, she and Mr. Carson would make sure all the gremlins and trolls stayed out from under her bed.” Claire laughed and turned over in bed as she heard Mrs. Carson gently shut her door.
If you know someone who is looking for a counselor or therapist near them, there is a website that might help: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists . However, finding someone close by is just the first step. The second, is to use the fact sheet from the American Psychological Association to help decide if the therapist that was located is a good choice . https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/finding-good-therapist