A Vicarious Trauma

A Vicarious Trauma.

Veronica was distraught, unable to sleep through the night and having nightmares off-and-on for a couple of months. Her unsettling dreams were all about her dance teacher. Evie, a renowned choreographer, in her late 70s, was still sprightly and fit as a fiddle. She had been preparing a troupe of dancers in the preceding months for another series of performances that would run a couple of weeks at different locations. Veron had been attending these training classes and had known Evie and her husband for several years. The elderly couple treated her like a daughter. Evie’s husband, John, had passed on almost a year earlier, and there was a tussle for a property between his first wife and Evie that had been acrimonious, as his will had not been drawn up very clearly. Veron was one of the trustees of John’s estate and had been caught in between the parties. She had to be objective and seen not to be taking sides, and together with their respective legal advisors, the wrangling went on for several months. This had strained her relationship with Evie and her family.

With the division of John’s assets finally settled, Veron distanced herself from Evie’s family and ceased her dancing practices for a few months, to allow for tempers to cool. However, she kept in touch with several of the dancers who were her closest friends. They were the ones who initially alerted Veron to Evie’s health. They noticed that she had stopped taking her lunch with the group. In the past, she would bring her lunch box to the practice sessions. They noted that she wandered off during lunchtime without her lunch box. When they ventured to ask her about it, she just brushed their concerns aside. A few weeks later at a practice session, Evie fainted, and her students checked her immediately into a hospital’s emergency ward. She was dehydrated and malnourished. It was at the hospital that her pupils first met Evie’s grandchildren. Further clarification revealed that Evie’s only son had used a major portion of his mother’s inheritance from John, and gambled it away. Loan sharks were appearing regularly demanding repayment for the money that her son had borrowed from them. Unknown to them, Evie had been cutting back on her meals. One of Evie’s grandchildren decided to take charge of her finances, and to give Evie a weekly allowance.

After her discharge from hospital, the dance practices resumed a month later. At this point Veron rejoined the practice sessions. She noticed Evie’s lunch consisted of half a box of plain white rice with no meat, vegetables or other condiments. All of Evie’s pupils began pitching in, supplying a variety of side dishes for her at each lunch break. Six months later, Evie suffered a massive stroke and passed on. Veron subsequently discovered that Evie had skip her dinner, and had given her allowance to her son to pay his debts. On hindsight, Veron and her dancing colleagues did notice that Evie’s weight loss, but were reticent to intervene again after Evie chided them when they brought the issue up. They were heartbrokened and traumatised at Evie’s sad and seemingly preventable demise.