There we were – my son, my daughter, my friend, and her daughter – in our ski boots at night on the slope of a mountain searching for my phone. I had dropped it a few hours earlier while skiing. And now it was late, dark, and cold. We were talking to my husband on my friend’s phone who was directing us with the “find my phone” app based on where we were with my son’s now-dead-phone and where my phone was somewhere in the snow on the mountain.

“We’ll find your phone,” my friend said determinedly.

My heart melted. I was in need and this crew that included two teens and a tween was here with me. I wasn’t alone.

Just then, a teenager on skis came plowing through us. Someone yelled, “Slow down!” The five of us said to one another, “He could get hurt going like that.” And then all of a sudden, about 50 feet down from us, the boy lost control. We all gasped in horror as he flipped over and over again, and then crashed.

It was dark but we saw someone immediately go to him. My friend called the ski patrol. Her daughter rode down to help. Right then my daughter heard the ping of my phone. My son got on his hands and knees and started digging in the snow. They found my phone!

Quickly, we climbed into our skis and went down the mountain to see if the boy was alright. When I got to the scene, I quickly clicked out of my skis. Before I saw the boy, I heard him. He was wheezing and in pain. I got choked up. “That’s someone’s child making those sounds,” I said to myself. I knew he was badly hurt.

My crew clicked out of their gear and stood by patiently and quietly.

Instinctively, I went into “trauma therapist mode” and “mom mode.” I looked at the ski patrol and asked, “How can I help? I’m a trauma psychotherapist.”

“Oh I’m so glad!” She went on to tell me what she was assessing and what the best course of action could be. I said, “I’ll talk with him while you do what you need to do.”

As a somatic experiencing psychotherapist, I know how critical it is for a person in a traumatic situation to receive psychological first aid – warm, compassionate presence to physically and mentally stabilize a person to prevent a them from going into shock and to minimize their psychological distress – which all helps to prevent symptoms of PTSD developing in the future.

As a mom, I wasn’t going to let this boy be alone in his pain. The ski patrol was there to quickly assess his physical situation and get him to first aid. As a mom, I was there to quickly comfort him, soothe him, and reassure him that we were here with him and he wasn’t alone.

I drew closer to him so I could see his face. His eyes were bulging with terror. To see a child in pain – any child – makes any person wince. But this is what a mom does: in her very next breath, she pulls herself together and she goes “all in” to make sure that child is okay.

We are here with you. You are not alone.

“Hi,” I said in a calm, confident, loving voice like I would talk to my own son, “I’m Lisa. What’s your name, honey?”

He told me between wheezing and painful breaths.

“Hi………,” I continued in a gentle, calm tone. “We are going to help you. You are going to be okay. This patrol here is radioing in for help and they are going to get you safely down the mountain and get you to First Aid.”

We are here with you. You are not alone.

Another member of the ski patrol arrived quickly with a medic sled. I listened to what they needed from me and I explained it to the boy – continuing in a calm, reassuring way. I looked him in the eyes so he could see the kindness in my eyes.

He looked at me and said, “You never think something like this could happen.”

“I hear you,” I said empathizing with him, “It’s scary to suddenly fall. We are with you and these guys are going to help you get down the mountain soon and safely get you to a doctor.”

I knew from the assessment that his parents weren’t at the resort. As a mom myself, I would want to know immediately what was going on so that I could get on the road to be with my child. “Would you like me to call your mom or dad?” I asked him.

“Yes,” he said between gasps of air. He indicated to me that he had a phone in his pocket.

I gently found his phone. “I’m going to call her right now,” I told him.

I stepped away for a moment. I didn’t have the password to his phone so I just guessed that I could use Siri. “Call mom,” I commanded. And Siri called her!

How do you tell a mom that her son is badly hurt on the side of a mountain in the dark and cold? How do you tell a mom that you don’t know the extent of his injuries but that there are people here dedicated to making sure he is taken care of?

Calmly and truthfully. We are here with your son. He is not alone.

I called mom. No answer. But she immediately called back. I answered, told her who I was and what was going on. She told me that he was there with a school and she would find the chaperone. I explained that they would take him down to first aid and assess him from there. I said I would ski down with them and I would connect with the chaperone.

I went back to the boy. “I talked with your mom. She knows what’s going on and she will talk to the right people to be able to be with you soon.”

“Thank you,” the boy wheezed.

The ski patrol was ready to move him onto the sled ever so carefully. I helped as they needed me to. Once securely on the sled, they immediately took him down the mountain.

My son carried the boy’s skis as he snowboarded down the mountain. I carried the helmet. And our friend carried the polls. We all went down swiftly, following the patrol and the boy in the sled.

We quickly got to the bottom and we went over to help. Two of the boys’ classmates asked if that was their friend and I asked them to call the chaperone. And then the ski patrol whisked him off to First Aid.

We met the chaperone. I told him what happened, that I had called his mom, and I gave him the boy’s phone. Then they rushed off to First Aid.

They were with him. He was not alone.

I stood and watched them go. Even though I wanted to join them, I somehow knew that my part in this was done. And I knew that I’d probably never know what happened next.

I looked over at my crew standing at the bottom of the slope under the night sky and ski resort lights. These teens and tween had responded so well – quickly, calmly, and patiently.

They are with me. I am not alone.

I thought about how strange it was that I’m usually so conscious of my zipping up my coat pocket to protect my phone, but that night, I didn’t. I thought about how strange it was that I had tripped up on my skis doing a simple move (I was okay but slid down the mountain ten feet!) and that’s when I lost my phone. I thought about how we wouldn’t have been there on that mountain in that moment to help this boy had I not fallen and lost my phone.

I thought about how my friend, her daughter, and my two children all jumped in and rallied to help me find my phone buried in the snow.

We are here with you. You are not alone.

I thought about how we all could be trained to administer psychological first aid – how something so basic as a compassionate, calm, confident, reassuring presence can tremendously help a victim’s emotional and physical healing – starting in that moment with saying, “I am here with you. You are not alone.”

I thought about how we all have heard stories of complete strangers jumping in to help in times of crisis – a car accident, a house fire, an earthquake – and how we never know the moment someone may need us or when we may need others.

We are here to help one another. We are not alone.

I thought about how, if that was my son and he was alone and I wasn’t there, I would have wanted someone to look at him as a precious child, speak to him calmly, offer him comfort, and reassure him as a loving mother would.

I am here with you. You are not alone.

I thought about how different this world would be if we looked at the person in front of us – stranger, foe, or friend – as someone’s child…knowing that some mother or father’s whole world is standing in front of us.

I am here with you. You are not alone.

As a psychotherapist, I intimately know that one of the most painful things in our human experience is for someone to feel alone. Alone in their pain. Alone in their diagnosis. Alone in their grief. Alone in their shame. Alone in their climb out of addiction. Alone in their depression. Alone in their anxiety. In fact, today, loneliness is an epidemic.

As a psychotherapist, I sit with people every day and – hopefully – offer a warm presence so that my clients can feel like I am with them, they will get through this, and they are not alone.

As a mom, I walk with these two growing children every day – definitely not perfectly at all, but – hopefully – I offer them a compassionate presence so that they can feel like I am with them, they are loved as they are, and they are not alone.

As an author, I spend hours quietly writing a blog post, crafting social media post, and working on my new book with the hope that a reader might feel that someone “gets them,” they connect to something holy within them and around them, and they know that are not alone.

I believe that’s what we are called to do in this world – offer our unique presence, share our gifts, and shine our light into the dark places where people feel alone, unwanted, unloved, scared, like they don’t matter. And offer them comfort and hope.

Maybe we can’t mend their bones, take away their grief, or solve their problems. But we can show up and just be present – sometimes saying nothing at all. And maybe our loving presence and caring touch will be the warmth they need to feel like we are here with them and they are not alone.

But this requires that we look up from our devices and we look around.  It requires that we take “soul risks.”  It requires us to muster up the courage to notice and care.

The friend who pauses to just listen.
The parent who pauses to really look at their child and just spend time together.
The middle school student who pauses to notice that one of their friends might not feel included.
The coach who pauses to look a discouraged player in the eyes and say, “I believe in you.”
The teacher who pauses to notice the quiet student who often gets overlooked.
The coworker who pauses at the staff meeting and is the sole person who sticks up for a colleague.
The neighbor who pauses and talks to the people who live right around them.

In my work, I have heard countless stories of people being hurt, down, grieving, and alone. And over and over again, I hear how one person — one seemingly small gesture of noticing and kindness — was enough to plant a seed of hope and for them to feel like someone was with them and that they were not alone.

I’d like to leave you with this poem I wrote, Bath Time:

Bath Time

I am in the tub with my four-month old son
holding his plump, new body in my lap
enjoying our leisurely exchange of
smile and laughs
as I wash his back and under his chin
behind his ears and between his toes,

when suddenly
it hits me
someday, hopefully a long time from now,
I will be gone

and there will come a time
when my son will be an old man
too frail to bathe himself
and someone else will need to hold
his fragile, old body
wash his back and under his chin
behind his ears and between his toes
and I will not
be
there
to make sure they are kind to my son.

I am overcome with the primal panic
of a mother who cannot protect her child.
A grief I’ve never known before
grips my ribs and turns my stomach.
I am softly crying now – my tears mixing
with our warm bath water
as my son still smiles and giggles
and I continue to bathe him.

I breathe in deeply and then finally
let go
of that breath.
After a few moments I say to the grief,

“Yes, that is right, I will not
be
there.”

I send a out a prayer
to the nurse’s aid or hospice worker
my son’s wife or grown child
asking them to watch me now

as I gently rub a sweet lather
with a soft cloth and patient hands
over my son’s trusting, vulnerable body.

And I pray that they can sense
how this now old man
was once so lovingly bathed

and they will wash his back and under his chin
behind his ears and between his toes

with the tenderness of a new mother.

Lisa McCrohan, ©2010/2020

Blessings,
Lisa

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