Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Morning After

When a traumatic event or illness occurs in your life, it doesn't happen just to you, but to the people who know and care about you as well. However, over the course of your survival, you will be faced with two distinct and definitive events involving others.

The first of these is the sometimes shocking revelation of who will stick by you and how. 

Often is it not who you expect and almost assuredly never how you expect. People have a surprising range of reactions. Some, who you were sure would stand strong with you, will just disappear entirely after the initial polite concern. Others, who you might have expected to hide or run, step up and unshakably sit vigil by your side. Still others, who can not handle what is happening to you, hover around the fringe, offering support, checking in, but keep their distance until they can be sure how it is all going to play out. 

In the middle of what is happening to you, this can be both uplifting and very painful. You will be torn between gratitude, clinginess, anger, confusion, guilt, and shame. (Often all at the same time.) There will be people who disappear and you never connect with again, as well as surprising sources of support which will forever bond you to others. In the midst of your struggle you have to try not to overthink this part of it. Embrace those who choose to share it with you, let go of those who don't, and forgive those who support from a distance out of their own fear of facing you during it.

The second event is much more painful and shocking when it occurs. 

The people who choose to move through it with you often will reach a point where they move on, either because they do not fully comprehend there are parts of you that will never completely move through it or because they can not handle the weight of it anymore. 

In the cases of comprehension, it is understandable that some people will assume that once the trauma is over and the wounds show scar tissue, it is all behind you and things can return to normal. it isn't easy for people not living it to realize that your normal may never again be the normal you once were. You must try to find a balance that allows you to be who you now are and allows them to slip back into their own life's routine.

In the cases of escaping the weight, it is an amazing thing to share the darkest of times with someone and doing so can create a level of intimacy which had previously been unimaginable. But it is also a very hard thing to endure for the duration. Often when you reach the point in your survival where you think you might be beginning to see the light again, the other person needs to move on to something that has only known light with no history of the dark you have just shared. It can be extremely harsh to realize that you went through the dark together only to have them move forward to share the light with someone else. Friendships, relationships and, often times, families can be destroyed by this. And, more likely then not, the survivor is racked by guilt and profoundly mourns the loss, at a time when they are the most vulnerable.

Surviving has the appearance of strength, but can be misleading in how strong you are at any given moment, because the struggle does wear you down and continues on longer then anyone could imagine. So, you will find yourself more easily wounded, especially if you have trusted and relied on another who suddenly grows distant. 

These are hard truths to come to terms with. They can make you spiral out of control and overthink even the softest kind words. They can leave you feeling worthless and lost at a time when you are fighting to find your footing again. You will know anger and hurt, you will level blame on yourself and others. It happens to the best of us.

But, you can not cling to the past with someone, even if that shared past was a safe place in a worsening storm. Even if your darkest place glowed with the softest light because of someone close. You can not demand someone who needs to escape it remain there with you just because of what you survived together. You have to be thankful for the comfort and company once shared. Hopeful for the future no matter what it may be. And, forgiving of the present, because it is what it is.

People survive shared trauma the best they can. But, their best may not be what you need, when you need it, for as long as you need it. The best any of us can do is try to prevent our traumas from causing more damage to the people brave enough to have shared them with us. Forgive what you can not forget.

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