One of the scary side effects of PTSD is having these “trigger moments” that will destroy your day, week, month.
Last night’s trigger moment: Watching Interstellar. I’m not going to spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it, but if you’ve lost a child, proceed with caution. There are black holes, wormholes and a whole host of other stuff that can be a little too much to take if you’ve spent time missing a child and hoping to turn back time.
Absolutely none of this movie has anything to do with my life, but it gets the wheels turning. I think about dying, I think about my daughter dying. I think about how nothing can stop the dying process. I think about all the terrible things that happen in this world and that none of it is fair. It’s like a game of Chutes and Ladders: complete bullshit, and no amount of skill will help you win the game. It’s just luck, or lack thereof. The part that blows my mind is that everyone on this Earth knows this on some level. Your time is going to be up one of these days. It could be today, it could be tomorrow, it could be in 60 years. Nobody knows! And even though this is a known fact, everybody seems to be able to get up in the morning, get ready for work, have some coffee, play some Candy Crush and go on as if they’re going to live forever.
Most of my life is spent in that happy pocket of denial. I love being there. My mind is never far from Jay, but I can put it in a place in my mind that allows me to go about my day to day. I can still enjoy the luxury of focusing on minutia. I can use my grief as a tool to help me appreciate the special moments with my children on a level I don’t know that I could before. But there’s a line that’s crossed sometimes. You can appreciate those special moments so much that you become acutely aware of how fleeting it all is. That moment of appreciation can become so intense that you slip into the black hole. Once you’ve been sucked in, it can be tough to get out. The reason you find it hard to get out is because you know that everything you’re afraid of, your worst fear, is completely true: One day this will all end.
This thought is crippling for those who have lost a child because we’re unable to live in denial on the level that everybody else is on. We have already pulled back the covers and have seen life’s underbelly. We know what’s coming better than people who haven’t been through what we have. The droves of people who rely on statistics and try to remind us that the odds are in our favor for survival simply do not get it. They do it to make us, their loved ones, feel better. They do it because they believe that everything is going to be alright. We were robbed of that feeling when we experienced something that went all the way wrong on a level we had never seen before.
That experience will never go away, but how do we move through it? Can we ever get back on that level that other people are on? One piece that has helped me is to make myself accept the fact that the worst can happen and pretend that it’s not a big deal. It’s the old, “Yea, we can die any second, so just love every minute of your life and get on with it” philosophy. At the moment I’m too far gone to do that, though.
The thought of life ending is so sad that I’m unable to enjoy the life I love so much. That’s a shitty little bit of irony, isn’t it?
I’m so angry that this happens to me. Life is hard enough without having to trudge through an overwhelming fear of death and future imagined trauma. I’ve already lost a son; can’t I just enjoy the life I have left without having to fuck it all up with the fear of something that hasn’t even happened yet?
I guess that’s something to hang onto: this happens to everybody. It’s easy to feel singled out when you’ve lost a child. It’s easy to feel like a sad statistic, especially when some well-meaning-but-completely-unhelpful person says “We’re never supposed to bury our own children,” indicating that what happened to us is an anomaly, making an already isolating experience even more so. But we all die. The only unknown is when. Some of us live long, healthy lives, some of us die before our children have had a chance to grow up. What is the use of hoping and praying that you’re the former?
All I want to do in life is to be there for my children and have some fun in the process. That’s it. Have a good time and be there for the kids. I want my daughter to grow up having some hope. If I die, her level of hope will be decreasing for the third time after losing her brother and then her grandmother. That’s really where my fear lies. I am terrified to my core over her emotional well-being.
How can I harness that fear? I can be there for her, everyday. I can be a role model for strength and survival. I can teach her to enjoy the small things. I can teach her to hope, even when all seems lost. I can teach her how to move through difficult times. I can remind myself that if I freak out too much, she’s going to pick up on it. If I’m not OK, she’s not going to be OK. And when bad things happen, as they do in life, I can do my best to give her the tools to deal with it. My job as a parent isn’t to remove all bad things from my children’s lives, because I can’t. It’s to teach them what to do when those bad things happen.
One thing I try to do before I publish a post is to wrap it up. What did I learn about life with the experience I shared? How have I furthered my understanding of grief and trauma? I don’t have a neat little bow on this one. I’ve been sucked into the black hole for the time being, and so far, am still trying to dig my way out.