The Trauma of Losing a Loved One

Note to the reader – This post is extremely painful to write and even more distressing to read. If you are a family member, or particularly sensitive, please click on HOME and find a happier post to read.

A considerable amount of time has passed.

382 days in fact.

382 new days in this world, without my dad in it.

When his lungs stopped working, and turned to cement, when his heart stopped beating – I thought mine did too.

For weeks, I walked around feeling cold and numb, like all the warmth had been sucked out of me. For I had transformed into someone- or something else.

Then I was angry. Fiery, fierce, fury filled my senses. Angry at the unfairness. Angry at the mess left behind. Angry at the broken promises. Angry at feeling forsaken.

Then there came guilt. Remorse for feeling anger at things I can not, nor should not be able to control. Sorrow for not grieving correctly. For sharing too openly. For being too weak. For succumbing to depression and neglecting my physical needs to remain strong and healthy.

Then I felt lost. What now? Which way do I go? How am I supposed to fill this massive void in my life? What am I supposed to do with my days? Why is it that everything I used to do feels empty and shallow now?

Why is it that things I used to do for fun, now fail to excite me?

I am a new species. Evolved. Different, yet still the same in essence. How do I navigate life in a new way?

Sometimes, I felt manic happiness. On top of the world. Everything is great! Marvellous! Wonderful! Exciting! Hilarious!

I look back on happy memories with fondness and gratitude. Just so grateful to have those memories to hold onto.

So grateful for the love that I had.

And then I experienced all and none of the above at varying degrees and different times.

Grief does not follow a linear pattern of time. There are no steps. Do not underestimate the trauma of losing a loved one.

Heard of the 5 stages of grief? Have you read about all the different stages and wondered where you’re at?

Ever looked at it with confusion because you felt like you were on anger last Monday, but jumped to acceptance by Friday and now you’re back to bargaining? Wondering how that’s possible?

There’s no finish line.

You don’t just reach “Acceptance” and then live the rest of your life.

Grief is like PTSD. It’ll pop up and slam you down as quickly as a Venus fly trap catches its prey.

What comes with time is wisdom.

Wisdom to know what triggers an attack. Wisdom to understand why you’re suffering from panic when a moment ago you were laughing.

Wisdom to identify the steps you need to take to overcome the trauma of the memories when they show up in your minds eye.

Understanding that what you feel now, won’t last forever.

It will pass.

You’ll feel better soon.

Just hold on.

And breathe.

I have learned that one of my triggers is when I am unwell. So I’m in bed with a flu-type virus.

A few days ago, my fever spiked and I was trembling uncontrollably in bed while sweating all over. Flashes of memories crossed my mind of my dad, in hospital.

I sat with him as he shivered in the hospital bed. Clutching his blankets, his brow clammy with sweat. Gasping for air. A tiny nose piece provided him with oxygen.

The nurses opened the windows by his bed. The cold October air rushed into the ward and flooded the room in seconds. My dad shook all over, grimaced against the cold. Insisted he wasn’t hot. Yet his temperature said otherwise.

His chest heaved up and down rapidly.

I closed my eyes with tears and clutched blankets close to me as I prayed to Heavenly Father to wipe the images from my mind. “You’re dying,” a wicked voice said from somewhere in my head.

I gasped for air like a gawping fish out of water. My chest felt like it was being crushed. Such is the trauma of losing a loved one.

Another memory arrived;

This time, my dad is in the ICU, he is whiter that white. His skin so white I can see his veins. His collar bone is bulging out and his eyes were wide with shock. The ICU nurses had just inserted a central line and fitted a bag over my father’s head. It squeezed his neck and forced air into his lungs. Each breath was a battle. He wrote on a notepad to talk to me.

“I have to say to myself, ‘this is my friend, this is my friend’ otherwise I panic and then I will die.” He wrote.

I clutched his clammy, bony hand in mind and gave him a brave smile.

My body is on fire. Rage.

He fought. He battled. He did all the right things.

He never smoked. He didn’t drink. He ate healthily. He was fit.

A searing pain scours through my head as my fever peaks. “You couldn’t save him, you failed.” The wicked voice would say.

I want to scream. And cry. And throw stuff.

Then…slowly. It passes.

The meds kick in and lower the fever. I start to see sense again. I receive a blessing from Ross. A feeling of peace overcomes me.

“I am well,” I hear him say. “Put those thoughts out of your mind.”

I felt his hands on my head as my husband gave me a blessing.

I felt his hand resting on mine as I fell asleep.

I feel his presence even now, as I write these words and share these painful memories.

“It was just a blip. Just a tiny portion of a magnificent life,” I hear him say to me.

My dad would not want me to obsess over the way things ended. I know he wouldn’t, because he told me.

He wants me to remember the good times. The happy days. The jokes. The laughter. The joy.

So, I grow wiser. I know that next time I get a PTSD attack, I can hold onto my father’s promptings. I can counter-attack by counting my blessings.

I can overcome the trauma, by reliving the joyful moments, rather than dwelling in the hellish nightmares.

So how do you overcome the trauma of losing a loved one? Well, I don’t know. You just try to hold onto the beautiful memories and find ways to survive the bitter moments.

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