Relief and pain and family trauma

There are no words sufficient to the task. My child is alive. Fear has eaten this week. Fear and rage and a dense, deep, bitterest despair that drums in your ears and throat; that burdens every breath.

He is alive. When we thought he had died. Thought he still would die.

This is how it happens. How quiet ordinary lives cross over on an early sleepy Sunday morning. How a thudding door opens to policemen with words of pain and darkness that sleep’s confusion cannot process to meaning. How a car journey to Accident and Emergency passes without memory of road or place – but only of how I cannot get wheels to turn fast enough. Of the ashen aged look of my husband’s face. Of the fear in us. Bleak and black. How the ticking clock thrums and how every passing minute where there is no news from the ambulance or paramedics or the nurses or doctors is filled with the fear of loss. Unspeakable hideous incomprehensible loss.

And then of my beautiful gentle son gradually returning to himself and us. Broken. But here. Blown pupils a black pool of intoxication and of relief and remorse and dark sorrow.

We have all suffered. His brothers and sisters. His grandparents. The traumatised friends who witnessed his descent into hell and who stopped his fall with brutal restraint and emergency calls.

But yesterday, into that space, bleak, numbing relief had squatted, there was, too, a deepening realisation of our inter-dependency; of love; of the reasons we have to give thanks and to be grateful. And – from all of us – this desire to be close together – to hug one another tight.

There are painful words to be spoken in the days ahead. Tears are only now beginning to flow.

For me – I remain filled with fear – of what the ringing phone will bring; of Lewis’ speeding car on dangerous roads; of Megan walking alone at night in the city; of Jamie late home from a friends; of Ana running and playing along the river. This reminder of what can happen – of what does happen – to ordinary families and ordinary mothers and fathers – it has punched a deep hole in the taken-for-granted everydayness that sanity and equilibrium rely upon.

But this too shall pass.

19 thoughts on “Relief and pain and family trauma

  1. Your child is alive.

    I can't remember the name of the critic but, he was writing about fairy tales and explained that something like rivers running with wine was a reminder to adults that they ran with life sustaining water. Golden Apples, etc…a reminder not to take for granted the seemingly mundane forces necessary for our existence.

    Your child is alive. That's the main thing.

    The rest is the pain and fear that we live with on a certain level everyday. It's the price of Love in this existence….or in the Human World as my Boy calls it.

  2. You are right e.f. It is the price of love. I thought I wasn't someone who took things for granted. But I was. I thought I wasn't someone who judged. But I was. I was convinced I lived by: 'there but for the grace of God go I'. But I didn't really. I paid lip service to that.
    There's a huge lot to be thankful for in this Human World. Life – living – it is all a gift.
    And my boy is alive and today he laughed. This will all pass – and we'll be stronger for it. Though I would still rather none of it had happened.

  3. Your child is alive, that is the main thing…but the underlying anxiety that I thinks lives in all parents came like a roaring beast to the surface and will take a long time to calm again.

    I've watched my husband in a coma too often to be rid of the fear that at some point he will not emerge from it….and at those moments the love and strength of his Belgian family, of friends, have been all that kept up hope.

    Best wishes for a good recovery…for your child from injury and for you and your family, from fear.

  4. That's what is left of any worth, Helen, when we stand so close to the edge of things – hope and love.
    We have had a hideous week. But we've come through it.
    Nothing else really matters but that he's alive. The rest we can deal with. x

  5. As a Christian I try to remain thankful for daily blessings and take them as expressions of the ultimate provision but, I think it would be impossible to operate without, in a sense, taking a great deal for granted.

    You don't want to hyperventilate over worry for your next breath.

    Reading your blog over the years, you strike me as having a genuine appreciation for the things that matter in your life…your family is all over this thing.

  6. Thanks e.f. They are what matters to me. Ultimately they are the reason I get up in the morning and keep going.
    This week has been a madness. When the veil is ripped away and you see into the heart of things. You can't live with that level of naked exposure every minute of every day – it'd fry you. But in trying to make sense of what happened we all seem to have reached an understanding that it has shown this whole family what matters to us.
    The kindness of strangers (police, medics, nurses, teachers, colleagues) has also overwhelmed us. And then there has been the concern, support and unconditional love of our friends.
    You know what? People are good. If given the chance they will hold out their hands and help. That's humbling in its own wonderful way.

  7. You still have him, Yvonne and that is what truly matters. The first pain of almost losing him will pass, but the fear will take much longer. Every post you write shows what strong bonds of love tie your family together and they will help you come through this into a new understanding and appreciation of each other. You will all be in my prayers.

  8. What a nightmare – it's what every parent fears. No matter what age they are, we never stop worrying.
    So glad to hear he is alive and still with you.

  9. Dear Perpetua – thank you for this kindness.
    It all feels raw and painful just now. And there are still ugly things to be got over. But he is here, surrounded by love and that is what matters. I heard Jamie teasing him this morning – which is a good sign of sorts as it means normal service is beginning to assert itself…

  10. Thanks Mairead. No, you never do stop worrying.
    It has been a terrible time. Robert and I are just exhausted. But managed to sleep last night.
    I just need to wait a bit for my 'worrying bone' to recalibrate a bit… but it will.

  11. So glad all is well. Hope you are all recovering from the experience. It takes time.
    Had an A&E wait last year while badly injured husband was being cut of his car. Weird feeling of detachment as if I was watching someone else being me. And then elation when I found out he was going to be OK.
    Afterwards it took a bit of time to adjust. Take care and look after yourself.

  12. That's exactly how it was for us. There was the dreadful fear on Sunday – but it was later replaced by this strange automaton version of ourselves… Yesterday was bad – today has been grim. I keep wondering why on earth I feel almost more anxious than I did on Monday. It has been such a dreadful shock. I can only imagine that – like you – it will take some time to adjust again.
    Thanks for your kindness Doris. Yx

  13. Thanks Dot.
    Evan went back to school today – a bit weak but it was what he wanted. First thing he did (and this wasn't even contemplated by us) is seek out the teachers and the Headteacher (a colleague of my husband's as it happens) who had all been so upset and concerned and had offered so much support – and thank them.
    I think he'll be fine. He can certainly do 'retrieval from the brink'…
    We all f* up from time to time. He's a giant – so maybe his f* ups are necessarily bigger… (and that's as flippant as I can manage 8 days on from the bad day…).

  14. So sorry. I have only just seen this.

    Thank goodness your son survived. Thank goodness you are re-building.

    My older sister lost her only son five years ago. It caused an earthquake in our family. It made me very fearful about my daughter in the way you describe, understanding the fragility of life.

    We are still recovering from it but it pulled us all closer together as a family.

    Sending love to you.

  15. Thanks Chloe…

    Your poor sister. Your poor family. Suffering such a loss.
    There's an abyss of grief and pain there.

    My lad is recovered. Though changed by it. We all are.

    As for me – I returned to work and just felt awful – I've succumbed to horrible flu symptoms and a cold sore and aches and pains. All minor. Probably the physical manifestation of too much stress.

  16. Yes Glen – back to 'normal'… My son has recovered well from the medical trauma and the psychological effects. He's dealt with things in such a mature way – and is now just getting on with studying and progressing his applications for University. I've been a bit slower to shake the anxiety that has come in floods since the whole episode. But that will pass… I've a lot of work on at the moment – and the cases I'm dealing with are intense and complex so I've been absorbed by that activity which is maybe a good thing. I've been neglecting blogging though – and want to get back to it. Hope all is well for you and yours… Yx

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