I recently read a chapter on secondary trauma. This occurs when professionals experience stress or symptoms of trauma when working with traumatized children and families. I experience this often as a therapist, and today I experienced it as a friend.
A very good friend of mine's family member is dying. She is currently at the same hospital that Daniel received his hernia surgery in. Today I sported Kentucky blue high heels instead of the black and white stripes that I wore the morning I was told my husband was dying. I passed the waiting room and ominously glanced toward the chair that I sat in that morning, slowly watching the clock continue to tick past the time I was promised he would be done. I rode in the large elevator silently upstairs to the fifth floor instead of the fourth. The fifth floor does in fact however mirror the fourth. I passed the chair in that lobby where I curled up and called his boss. Where I called my boss and struggled to get the words out.
The smells that assaulted my nostrils were the same. Nurses continuously went in and out to check the vitals and administer the medications, not allowing her to rest. This was the very same way we spent our night together on the fourth floor before being released into the next ten weeks of trauma. I offered a suggestion for hospice as the nurse for palliative care entered the room. I held my tears at bay knowing instinctively that tears would not help this situation, as they rarely do.
I left this afternoon holding onto every ounce of strength I possessed and walked past the very chairs where I sat with my friend who brought me dinner and clothes that first fateful night. I remember her questions. I remember her blank expression. I remember stating that things were "not good." What an understatement. Little did I know at the time, that evening would begin a tornado that I often still feel trapped inside of.
Secondary trauma shook my shoulders today. I teleported back to that life altering day and the weeks following. The emotions claimed my mood and my physical being. The same thing happened earlier this week as I met a new widow. Her husband died 30 years ago at the age of 26. I asked her if she remembered the details. She said of course, just like it was yesterday. She said she still feels the anger inside. Anger for herself and for her three children. We stared at each other longingly, not with pity but with awe. We were bonded together by our loss. Neither of us chose this.
Today was important for me on so many levels. It was about giving back. It was about being vulnerable. It was about sharing, connecting. It was about recognizing someone else's pain and suffering and acknowledging the continuation of my own. It was about telling myself it is ok to still feel sad. It is ok to still miss the father of my children. It is ok.
I was not asked to come to the hospital and honestly I don't think I spoke ten words while there. That shouldn't surprise most. Sometimes we have to do the uncomfortable. We support those around us because that's who we are. We do what we know is right. This will be a long road for this family, and their course will never be the same. My own personal feelings and emotions, a swirling mess inside me came back full force. But it is ok. We will all come together and lift each other up. That is simply what we do.
Meet the Author (me)
Driven by a need to help others. I have known from a young age that this is what I wanted to do. This is my very real, somewhat sarcastic, look into my newfound widowhood. I hope this site will help you as much as it helps me.