The Walking Wounded

Several years back, my son was in a devastating accident and was not expected to survive. He had been struck by a vehicle estimated to have been going well over 50 MPH and he was thrown over 70 feet, skidding to a deadly halt. He was “dead” on the scene, but revived…four different times.

He had suffered several breaks, including an open skull fracture, organ damage and a traumatic brain injury. (Diffuse Axonal — the most lethal kind of TBI.) He was in a coma and even if he did survive, his quality of life was not expected to be great.

This kid beat all the odds and even though he’s had some struggles, he lived. And he lives normally, unassisted. #miracle

He had some terrible road rash, as one can imagine, and once it scabbed over properly, it had to be “scraped” daily, packed with some stellar silver-based medicine, and wrapped up until the next day when they would do more.

Even though he was still coming out of the coma at this time, and heavily sedated, I would hold his hand during this process and he would squeeze my hand and wince in pain as it was going on. It really did look as bad as it sounds and the only reason I was even able to endure watching, was because he was my first born, my baby boy (although he was 20 years old at the time) and I was determined to be as strong as he needed me to be.

I DO NOT like seeing people get hurt or having to deal with wounds. I can bandage my kids’ boo-boos, but only because they’re my kids. I could also take care of my late husband (poor guy was pretty accident prone) but again, only because we hate seeing those we love, in pain.

Seeing people wounded in real life, be it physical, emotional or both is very difficult for me, and it’s because of my “empathic” traits. (Which I have written about in some length, on other platforms, but that’s a story for another time and another place.) I can actually feel the pain, and believe me, it’s pretty uncomfortable. It gets overwhelming at times, in fact.

My son’s devastating road rash, that had to be scraped and treated daily, pretty much sums up how I felt for the days and weeks that followed my husband’s suicide. People, genuinely concerned, would ask me how I was feeling, and the best way I could describe it, was like having been in a terrible accident. I STILL feel like that, sometimes…

I could barely move, only hobble.

Everything hurt. Everything.

Even my skin was sensitive to the touch…I didn’t really want to be touched. Hugs only resulted in me breaking down crying anyway, so between physical and emotional pain, touch wasn’t the best thing for me at the time.

Everything was a foggy blur. My head and eyes ached. I was sensitive to light and sound.

It was just as I remembered how things were for my son in those early touch-and-go hours and the weeks that followed.

Only I was the patient this time around. But I hadn’t been in any accidents.

I actually felt envious that accident victims get to lie there in a hospital bed while someone comes in with a juice box and fluffs their pillows for them, while they recover. Then you get physical therapy and of course pharmaceutical assistance to knock your ass out when things get too painful. That’s exactly what I wanted and even NEEDED in the aftermath of Bret’s death. But we don’t get that kind of rehab. We have to pick up the pieces and keep going. Right away.

Of course I had people to help out. I don’t think, that even through this very day, I’ve spent one night alone since then. I’ve almost always had someone around and yes, I’ve had some wonderful assistance. (I didn’t drive for the first month, following.)

That being said, though, the trauma was severe enough that honestly, being shipped off to a hospital somewhere actually sounded kind of dreamy.

But you don’t get that as a widow. You just get a new life in the blink of an eye, and all the rehabbing is done outpatient style, and on your own time and own terms.

Own time, own terms, of course, is a good thing. But life moves fast and bill collectors don’t give a crap if you’ve just suffered a loss. The Show Must Go On, and you are the featured performer!

You don’t get a reprieve, honey. You just have to carry on like every thing is fifty shades of hunky dory. Who gives a crap if your body is falling apart in the process? Who cares? You just have to keep pressing on.

Once the dust has settled, and it has been determined that you need to start getting back to your regularly scheduled programming, there will be no one to bring you a juice box or fluff your pillows. And, worse yet, there will be no painkillers while you have to muster up the wherewithal to scrape your own wounds...

Following a traumatic event like the death of a spouse or a child, it is absolutely possible for your own health to take a dive. Our immune systems go to crap, leaving us open for every illness that passes through your neighborhood. Heart issues (Broken Heart Syndrome is a VERY real thing), as well as issues with one’s menstrual cycle and reproductive health are common!

You feel like you’re falling apart, and frankly, you are, to a degree.

Please don’t misunderstand. The prognosis does not have to be fatal! You CAN and most likely will be “cured” at some point! Of course, we never completely heal from this, but we can learn to live and fully function with our afflictions, kind of like my son has, following his accident.

This is just something that I think is SO important for people to know, though…that post-loss, you are essentially a victim of severe trauma and need to be afforded the time and space to heal from that trauma!

And we are never truly given that time and space…I mean, no sooner do they haul your loved one away to the funeral home, do you have to start planning a memorial service. And then you have to pay for it. And then there may be medical bills. And then the regular bills. And this and that and the next thing. And you might need to get a job or change careers or move to an entirely new place, all while dealing with your own injuries and emotional road rash.

These are the things that very few think about when they learn of someone newly widowed. (Or someone who has lost a child.)

We just don’t like to talk about these things in our culture because it makes people uncomfortable. Yet, it’s such an important topic, because death and trauma will touch ALL of us and some point. Sadly, though, most will never even have an inkling of what it’s like until it’s their turn.

Please, please. If you know of someone who is going through a situation like this, or has gone through this in the past, be a FRIEND and reach out, even if it’s just to say hello, or offer to bring a meal or run an errand. 
You’d visit them in the hospital, right? You might even be inclined to bring flowers or a favorite Starbuck’s beverage. Or just offer up company while The Price is Right plays in the background.

Well, this world IS our hospital. We’re on permanent outpatient status, but we’re still very much in healing mode.

Things might legitimately be going on with our health and we truly do feel as if we’ve been through the wringer. We have to learn to take steps all over again, and when the cold comes, some of our pains just might flare right back up.

Don’t treat us like pariahs — we are not contagious. We’ve just been hit with blunt force devastation, hurtled through the air and landed with a thud on our hearts.

But with your help, and with whatever spark that’s left behind in us by the person we lost, we will walk again.

It just takes time and a little patience.

A juice box every once in a while helps, too…

Widowhood is Ouchie.