Sunday, March 3, 2013

An Aunt's Perspective: Trauma

Earlier today my sister posted about how we lost our cousin in a motorcycle accident on Saturday.  All day long I have been thinking about this on and off.  Mostly I try to shut it out because the sheer weight of the emotional and physical exhaustion I have been going through is slowly devouring me.  When I do think about it, I am immensely sad over the loss of such a young life with so much ahead of him.  I also think about how I am tired of the universe playing Russian roulette with my family members.  But mostly it makes me think about the trauma I endured exactly 9 weeks ago, on the Sunday I found out my niece had left us before she was even born.

I hadn't really thought about that day as traumatic for myself.  Yes, my sister has written about how traumatic that day was for her and Nick, with good reason, but for me that day just felt incredibly sad and overwhelming, not traumatic.  Usually we attribute trauma to great physical injury or at least some sort of deeply psychologically scarring event.  I hadn't thought about it being traumatic until I relived those frightening moments of being told that someone had died today.

Like most bad news, today I was woken up by an early morning phone call (7am).  Nothing good ever comes from a phone call that wakes you up.  I knew immediately that someone had died or was in the hospital.  As my husband handed me his cell phone that was blinking my sister's husband's name, I had flashbacks to the night that Nora passed away and my brother-in-law had called to tell me the news.  (At least at that time I was excited, since I thought she was in labor.)  My heart began to pound and gravity felt like it was going to suck me through the floor.

When I answered, it was my sister's voice that greeted me.  She asked me if I had spoken to our mom, which I hadn't.  She then proceeded to tell me the bad news; however, in both our early morning fogginess and my impending anxiety, I did not hear her correctly the first time.  She had said, "Brian died" and continued to talk.  I wasn't listening because all I heard was, "Grandma died."  Hearing what I thought I heard, gravity began to succeed in crushing me through the floor and it started with my heart and stomach.  Everything stopped.  Then I heard something about "motorcycle" and "crash" and I was brought back to reality, realizing that we couldn't be talking about the same person.  I asked her, "Wait...who died?"  And she repeated with, "Cousin Brian."

That is when I lost it.  A confusing mass of emotions: relief that it wasn't grandma, sadness that it was my young cousin, plus a mad case of PTSD began to wash over me and I threw the phone at my husband, sobbing that I couldn't take phone calls from her or Nick anymore, and that my cousin had died.  (He was still sitting there wondering what the hell had happened and unfortunately for him I didn't specify which cousin.)  I ran out of the room into our guest bedroom and stood in the doorway sobbing and shaking.  The frightening familiarity of the phone call was consuming me.  Everything about the phone call had struck the same chord like the night Nick called to tell us that Nora had died.  I was reliving my worst nightmare and my body was reacting to it without my mind realizing it.

Yet, it wasn't until I was in the doorway, sobbing, shaking, attempting to put my thoughts together that I realized how traumatized I was by the initial phone call those many Sundays ago.  There is no doubt that that phone call is imprinted in my mind and that I will be able to recall it with perfect clarity forever, but I never attributed it as traumatizing.  My response today solidifies the notion that I am traumatized by that phone call, that day, and everything else that I have endured in the last two months.

Eventually I composed myself and came back into the bedroom.  Zach (my husband) was now fully aware of the situation, and now I had to call my mother.  I was greeted with the same PTSD moment when I heard her on the other end of the phone line (because why not, universe), but I was able to control it better.  Again I was back to that Sunday, talking to mom on the phone, hearing her fall apart which made me fall apart.  It sucked.

After getting the full story from mom, my husband and I continued to lay in bed, knowing we couldn't fall back asleep, but not really wanting to get up to another horrible Sunday.  We both recalled the familiarity of the phone call and I explained to him that he was no longer allowed to hand me the phone.  I cannot be the receiver of bad news for at least a few years.  That can be his job.

I realize that possibly some of this is hard to understand since I have not written about Nora's day from my perspective yet.  There are two main reasons for me not doing this so far.  The first is that it will be extremely emotionally draining to sit down and write down my memories from that day (like I said, the phone call, I realize now, was clearly traumatic to me).  The second reason is because keeping her story, as seen through my eyes, also keeps a little part of her with me that is just mine.  Part of me feels that sharing her story will be me giving that part of her away to all of you who read this, and I don't think I'm ready for that yet.  I do want to share her story through my eyes, but it will take time.

Coming back to my point, today proves that I am deeply, psychologically scarred from that phone call on Sunday, December 30, 2012.  It is a real nightmare that I relive over and over in my mind, and that unfortunately I relived today for real.

Rest in peace, dear cousin Brian.  And give Nora a kiss for me.

"Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy." --Eskimo Proverb

1 comment:

  1. Oh my dear Kristi, my heart aches for all that Lindsey and Nick, and you and Zach have been through. I feel bad about the burden that your Dad and I (mostly me) put upon you when you had to get to Lindsey and Nick in the hospital. It should have been your Dad and I--but instead we were so far away. I feel the same trauma that you feel when I am forced to relive those horrible phone call moments, which reading the blog forces me to do. Thank goodness that I didn't call you at 12:37 on March 2nd to wish you a happy birthday! Love you so much--Mom


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