Trauma. I’ve always associated it with military veterans, citizens of war-torn countries, those living in high-crime area, abuse victims, and people who are around a lot of deaths like ER personnel. In my life, I always thought I couldn’t name this in me. I was a support staff person all my day job life, an at-home suburban mom without much violence around, and a writer who escapes into the pretend. Sure, I experienced anxiety and angst, but trauma? Nope…that was, until Peter died.
My trauma comes out at night when my vulnerability is at its peak, when all of my life’s angst and sorrows come out to dance. It doesn’t come out every night, nor even frequently. It only comes out occasionally and last night, it decided to show it macabre dance moves and I melted down. Try as I might, I couldn’t bat it away like a pesky fly. I had no choice but to be in its intensity. As I lied there with the song of my breathing lulling me asleep, flashes of Peter’s lifeless body in the hospital bed with tubes coming out of his mouth and a brace holding his broken neck steady popped up and any drifts toward slumber came to a sudden halt. I was taken back to the moment that day where my mind and heart could not convince my soul that Peter, the man I saw a few hours earlier alive and very well, was now this lifeless body lying in a bed. The images of him and my feelings of that night were on a constant loop in my brain, and I relieved all of it. My body shook, and my heart raced. I grappled for distractions – counting backwards, thinking about the book I am now writing, I even called Barkley onto the bed with me. Yet, my mind brought me back as if I needed to see it all again.
I don’t think my trauma is about refusal to accept Peter’s death. I am over the disbelief of his death as it pertains to my waking hours. I no longer go around saying “I can’t believe it”, or trying to convince myself it’s all a bad dream. As time has gone on and through therapy, I know Peter is forever gone, my status in life has forever changed and I have to carry on without him. All my recollections of Peter and our lives together are just that – memories of what once-was. I know there is no more nows or tomorrows together with him. Denial is now a stage I see in my life’s rear-view mirror as I keep on keeping on. I know all of this. I don’t always accept it, but I know this. Yet, trauma still comes to me and taunts me with vivid replaying of the daymare I lived over thirteen months before.
This may all seem like PTSD, but I don’t want to give it this label as I am not a mental health professional. It doesn’t even matter what its called. It’s probably to be expected, especially after an extremely sudden death, and Peter’s death was just that – extremely sudden. And, I know grief has its own fickle timetable with constant setbacks and pushes forward. There will be times where I fall in pain, push back what I need just to get through the day, go forward in victories, and grant myself permission to just be in whatever I am feeling – good or bad. Grief is exhausting with its changes. And through it all, I am proactive enough to be in therapy with a grief counselor and to have recently joined a local widow grieving group. So, I am logical about all of this. I am self-caring in all of this. I am conscious during all of this. Yet last night, and in the nights that went and the nights yet to come, I was handed a bout of insomnia with shakes of anxiety as I relived in the night of sudden change, loss and grief.
I don’t know exactly why trauma decided to play an ugly recap. All I know is my mind drifted back to the night, starting with the knock on the door from the police officer, to the shocking discovery of Peter’s vulnerable state, to learning I will never be with him again, and I am tired today. I will get through today, however exhausted, and I will tell my trauma it may have gotten to me last night, but I will not let it stay, in the light of this new day.