Inquiry: Estrangement I – Language & Pain


by Sue DeGregorio-Rosen, RN, CLNC, Assistant Editor

This series seeks to understand some of the differing faces of estrangement and the crossroads it approaches for good or ill.

Sipping some coffee at a table alone during a break I wonder how to get from one point to another.  One word to another. Language itself for me in my profession of nursing can get complicated. I say things with a smooth rote-like tone on some days, other days they are enunciated in a clear, yet  staccato-like fashion, and still on other days the needed words are hard to find, more so deep into a pandemic. I listen.

Estrangement? I look at the letter E, the fifth letter of the alphabet, sometimes it’s silent……….sometimes it’s at the end of a word

Strange, unusual or surprising in a way that is unsettling or hard to understand. 

Ment, a suffix of nouns, often concrete, denoting an action or resulting state 

Estrangement, this can’t be happening to me…another person dies…a friend, a mother, father, child or homeless stranger. I look into their eyes. I am now faced with the pain, that emotional mire of loss yet for the moment I still live on.  

I look around me, my friends and former, now polarized friends, and wonder what would have happened if I never said a word, if we did not argue among each other at this point. But that would not be me, even though that could be you, it is because of the roles we each play in this life. 

I talk to myself.  “I hope she loves you in a way you didn’t know love existed.  For you have only known love in shaky territories that shattered beneath your feet, and that love broke your heart. This is truly my hope for you. Sometimes I don’t want to think. My heart says otherwise. I get that your past was unfair and should not have happened to you. As difficult as it has been, I have not been able to reconcile how you could switch from kindness to coldness, so I had to push you even farther away.”

I take a last sip of coffee and look at my watch, get up from the table, put on my face mask and return to work.