Aftermath Of Violence: Trauma Marks a Soul

The recent spate of apparent suicides connected to school shootings should be a wake up call.  

Not that everyone who survives trauma may follow suit.  

But every soul who survives trauma struggles-no matter what it looks like from the outside.  

I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975…That was a long time ago but it’s wrong what they say about the past….Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.  ~ Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

Witnessing or experiencing horror scars a heart.  And society rarely does a good job making room for the kind of work it takes for that heart to even begin to heal.

Feel-good news stories about activism, heroism and turning tragedy into triumph send a signal that if you can’t “get over it“, “overcome” or “become stronger” in the wake of the most awful day of your life, you aren’t trying hard enough.

But the truth is that most people DO try. 

They try and try and try but trying isn’t enough.  Tragedy and trauma change a person and no matter how much they may want to go back to the “old” them, they just can’t. 

And that is OK. 

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We must allow survivors to take as long as they take and to adjust their lives however they can.  We need to stop insisting that there’s a time limit on grief or that there is an absolute upward trajectory in recovery.

I don’t know what drove these individuals to die by suicide.  

But I do know that as a society we are not tolerant of people who don’t “deal” with their “issues” and live a life accepted as “normal”.

And that is not only unhelpful, it’s despicable.  

No one has the right to shut down another person’s voice or circumscribe another heart’s journey.  

We need to do better.  

We have to create safe spaces for people to admit they are fundamentally and permanently changed by a traumatic experience.  

We have got to make room for messy and unfinished stories.  

loving people with ptsd

 

Grief Triggers: Unanswered Phones

“After Florida shooting, phones rang unanswered where victims fell…”

That’s all it took to evoke wracking sobs.  

I already knew that seventeen lives had been lost in tragic violence but those words brought it home.

Because Dominic was killed in the wee hours of Saturday morning April 12, 2014 and had plans the next day with friends, his unanswered phone was the first clue for many of them that something was dreadfully wrong.

My poor surviving children were forced to field call after call, text after text:  “I was trying to reach Dom but he’s not answering his phone.  Is something wrong?”

Yes.

Yes. 

Something is most definitely, awfully, irrevocably wrong.

I still have that phone.  It’s still connected even though it’s laid silent for nearly four years.  

I can’t give it up.

I can’t bear the thought of someone else’s voice being on the other end of that number.  

It was probably the last thing he held in his hand.  

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Heart of Flesh

We see the news, we hear the numbers, we count the dead.  We thank God that it wasn’t our friend, our husband, our child.

But it is someone’s child…every person is someone’s child.

I knew when Dominic died I wasn’t the only mama who had to open the door to a police officer with the news every parent fears. Mamas around the world bury their children.   Many because of hunger, or for lack of clean water or the most basic healthcare.

Last night many died because of violence.

In our hyper-connected world, it is so easy to become numb, to become hard.  I can shut down and shut out the things I don’t want to hear, don’t want to think about.

But it doesn’t make them go away.  

So I ask for grace to care.  To love.  To pray–not only for the victims of the violence, but for the families of the perpetrators as well.

No one is so far away from God that His love and mercy can’t reach them still.  

“LORD, take my heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh.  Make me tender-help me mourn.  Stir me to prayer and action.  Give me hands that reach for those who hurt and feet that rush in when others run away.  Fill my lips with words of life so that those who have lost hope will know that You are God.”