From the beginning of this injury, it was never just my journey I had to concentrate on. It was never just my grief, my trauma or my transition to a new life. My accident happened to my entire family. All five of us—myself, my husband and our three children—were there as our life took a sharp turn in an unexpected direction; we were the only ones there. Our daughter—too young to understand what was happening—has no memory of it. Our boys however, can vividly recall their versions of the story and it breaks my heart. No, it was never just my journey I was worried about.
With my willingness to share my story so publicly, I’m sure it doesn’t come as a surprise that, within our little family unit, we have discussed my accident and its aftermath in detail. No question is off limits when it comes to us processing this massive thing that happened to us. However, we also always try to bring a focus to all of the good things we still have and how lucky we still are. We make wheelchair jokes and can laugh together at some of the ridiculousness of it all. A few weeks ago, I started thinking that I may have missed a step. I’ve given myself permission to feel all the feelings but I wasn’t sure I ever told my children that it was ok to be sad about it. Well, that all changed the other night.
My son had been having a rough few days and we were laying down before bed trying to get to the bottom of it. I figured I would ask the question.
Are you sad about Mommy? Because it’s OK to be sad about what happened.
Over the next moments I realized the amount of trauma he has been carrying around with him. I’m not going to divulge what happened in those moments or the things weighing on him, because that is his story to share, not mine. But it hit me like a sucker punch to the gut. My child is hurting and I cannot fix it. What’s worse? It is because of me.
I have put in enough work to know that whatever trauma and grief my husband and children have experienced is not my fault. But it is at my expense. It all revolves around what they saw happen to me—what Ian saw happen to his wife and our boys saw happen to their mother. I wish the trauma was only mine. I wish the grief was only mine. I wish the memories and the triggers and complications of life because of a wheelchair, were only mine. But from the moment I fell and heard those sweet boys crying, I knew that would never be the case.
So now what? Now we keep going. Now we get more outside help. I remind myself that processing takes time and he will not feel better overnight. I also try to remember that I cannot fix it for him. One of the many things this injury has taught me is that our children are their own people—and they are incredibly capable. Our job is to give them the tools, provide the support and encourage them on their way. We have all worked together from day one, to move forward from this one tiny moment of chaos that inflicted so much pain and change. But my goodness, it’s not always easy. Getting five people through trauma and grief and change is the hardest thing we’ve ever done. But we will continue to do so for as long as it takes.