Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Post Traumatic Stress, A personal look: The eruptions of grief, by Robyn Bloem

This is just an internet photo depicting how we feel
with PTSD in the article featured here.

Lindsay’s birthday was December 31---our little new year’s baby.  She was born around 7 pm.  We always joked that I wanted her to be the first baby of the year and get balloons and a picture in the local newspaper.  Steve said we needed the tax deduction, so my claim was that being the submissive wife that I am, I went for the tax deduction.

I had made it a thrifty tradition to shop for her birthday between Christmas and New Year’s when all the sales were in full force. It turned out to be her last birthday, (her nineteenth) and she was living with her boyfriend. I went birthday shopping for her at her favorite store.  We had just celebrated a much nicer Christmas than I had anticipated because of the situation.  I invited her over for her birthday dinner; she always chose lasagna.  As I shopped that day with my heart broken and my feet very heavy, I saw a little girl crying in the middle of the store. She had gotten separated from her mother.  I approached her, squatted down  and asked her what wrong.  She said in tears, “I can’t find my mommy.”  I said, “Well, I’m sure your mommy is looking for you just as much as you are looking for her.  We’ll go over to the lady at the front and she can call your mommy over the loud speaker, okay?”  She nodded.  As I was walking her over, I asked her name.  “Lindsay” she answered. She didn’t understand the tears on my face as I said, “I have a little girl named Lindsay-- and she’s lost, too.”
Eruptions suppressed and emotions erupted

This kind of emotional break downs can be quiet tears or major eruptions among the grieving.  So many suppressed emotions unfortunately remain suppressed emotions. It reminds me of a house that looks completely normal from the front. A manicured lawn, fresh paint, porch swing, a bird bath all lend to beautiful curb appeal. Imagine going with a realtor to find a new home. As she drives you through the neighborhood to find the house you want to look at, you spot this house. "Wait! I like this one; can we see it?" The realtor has a story on this property. She says, "Well, let's drive around so you can see the back." As you turn the corner, there you see it.  The entire back of the house is blown off.  Burned curtains blow out of the gaping hole that was once the dining room.  Furniture is scorched and ruined. Water damage, fire , destruction is everywhere.   You now realize the house is anything but fine-or normal.
For the traumatized things will never be the same.
You learn that there was an explosion. That house will never be the same and everyone knows it. The family will collect their wits and go to work and live out of a rented motel until they can get their home restored or move to another. They will salvage what they can. Will they ever feel safe again? Will they forget the horrific fear they had that night; will  they return to life as if nothing had ever happened? What do you think?  Friends and family rally around them for a month. They are given boxes of food, meals, gift cards, love, hugs and prayers. It seems as if they will survive with God's grace and loving friends.

Pretty soon, everyone else seems to be over it. They're working, vacationing, meeting goals and laughing.  No one seems to remember anymore.  The family is still in the motel, their keepsakes are all still ruined, their innocence of safety and peace are still shattered. When the family sees a report of a tornado or some other disaster and the devastation left, they are traumatized and full of empathy.  They may even be the first to volunteer to help someone in distress, but then one day, they hear a popping noise, they smell gas, they see a fire, and they are right back where they started the fateful day of "the explosion." No one could ever guess the triggers or the brokenness they feel.  Otherwise normal occurrences for everyone else become a source of panic and  a sad sense of loneliness all at once for the traumatized, the grieving, the shocked and the disappointed who have experienced the unthinkable. 
Don't be fooled by what "our house" looks like.
Our “house” looks like that; nice and tidy and normal. We dress, we talk, we think, we laugh, we read, we work, we interact, we celebrate, we shop…but all the time, the remains of the explosion lurk within our hearts and minds. Sometimes one of those shards from that broken window in our house breaks off  and we are cut open all over again.  Sometimes someone notices we are bleeding and wants to help; sometimes, being uncomfortable, they keep going.  And sometimes we don't mind that we are alone with our sadness and questions. Why our house? Why did our family have to live through such an explosion? Why did I lose everything and why are my sons so changed by all of this? But there really is no answer. It could have been worse.  Yes, it could have been.  But it sure seems it could be better. 

 That is up to the God whose creation we are. He had a plan that included this explosion" when our daughter and granddaughter were killed in a car accident right in front of us. and we are better for having gone through it. We know that. But some time, I invite you to drive around the back of our house, step through the broken wall and over the piles of concrete and come in.  We are there, we are alive and we will offer you a cup of coffee, but just please remember that we may look okay from the front but we have lived though an explosion and we are changed.  Most of the debris has been moved and cleared away, but there are still gaping, unspoken, unexplainable holes where we used to live. 

 This blog is copyrighted, June, 2014 by Robyn Bloem
Did you know that Robyn and Steve have written a book which was published by Kregel Publications?  PTSD is one of the disorders they talk about. It is a personal, technical and biblical look at the Christian and mental illness.