I’ve heard it said that …
“Grief never gets any lighter; we just learn to carry the weight.”
But what if the weight is so great that it remains heavy for the rest of our lives? How do we walk with the daily load? I have asked myself these questions for eight years now, and probably for eighteen years as Robert’s last ten years pointed our family into a direction that I knew would be very heavy.
I have also contemplated that the exact spot where I first saw Robert seizing in my car was a spot I would never forget. That entire place remains vivid in my mind’s eye, and it affects me every time I pass by it. Even if I do not voice it to the friends in my car now or whisper his name as I pass by the spot when I am alone, I know and recognize it so well. That spot has almost become a friend to me now, reminding me of the beginning of my journey as Robert’s caregiver and the realization that his diagnosis and medical complexities helped make me who I am today. Good or bad, realized or not, I have marked that spot.
I have tried to write this challenging blog post since early 2022, but I always have gotten “stuck” before finishing it. Let me share with you how I have described it in an upcoming book we are writing.
At age two, our twins, Victoria and Robert, were basically on the same developmental level until one day we realized Robert was not speaking as well. So into our lives came Easter Seals and speech therapy. This seemed to be just a delayed speech issue until at age two and a half, Robert suffered a generalized (grand mal) seizure in the back seat as I was driving on the highway. I heard Victoria make an alarming sound, and in my rearview window I saw something that looked like a robot in perfectly synchronized rhythm controlling my son's body. I will never forget the way his eyes blinked in perfect time as if set by a metronome.
I quickly pulled the car onto the shoulder. That spot marked in my mind for eternity the exact place where our lives changed. I did not have a car phone so I hysterically waved every car over I could to help us. By the time a man stopped to help, the prolonged seizure was over, and Robert was hot, sweating and limp. Having never seen a seizure in my life, I truly thought he had died. Victoria watched silently from her matching car seat as her little world and her baby brother began to fall apart.
I do not remember the exact words I cried out to the heavens on the side of the highway, but I do remember now that they were very intense declarations mixed with screaming prayers that no one was going to have him. I am sure the cars filled with strangers that stopped to help me thought I had lost my mind. And, in that moment, I had indeed. No education or experience had prepared me for this. No warning or encouragement had foretold of this moment.
I marked that spot of Highway 281 South in San Antonio, Texas as that spot, and that particular area of the road continues to serve as a marker in my heart. I recently read an article addressing particular areas of trauma, and I was intrigued by the thought that that spot would be classified as a place of trauma for me. I know the room where Robert passed away in my arms is still a room of significant memories and emotions, but that first place of sheer brokenness I had not identified. (Insert … this woman needs therapy … yes!) This article discusses a few key thoughts that I have been considering for many years. Perhaps it can shed some light on your journey, too.
Traumas can be brought on by any emotionally disturbing or distressing event, and each person recovers uniquely because they process the event through their own lens of personal experiences. For some, returning to a space where trauma occurred can evoke intense emotional and physiological reactions, so avoiding it may seem like an intuitive safeguard from further harm.
"People avoid other people, places or things that remind them of trauma, which is a result of feeling powerlessness, hopelessness and terror," said Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis, an ordained minister, the 2023 president of the American Psychological Association, and tenured faculty member with the OnlinePsychology@Pepperdine program.
However, avoiding those spaces may not be healthy in the long term, especially for those who are obligated to visit these places regularly—like a workplace or a campus—because it inhibits survivors from leading a full life. Working with a mental health professional to renter physical spaces associated with trauma can be an important part of healing from the experience.
May I suggest that we all consider the spots that have significantly impacted our lives and changed our course of direction? I know many of you have already taken this step. I included the link from this online article for us all. You may have your own articles and therapists that have guided you. I have more work to do in this space, so I do not pretend to have it all together. But perhaps, like you, I am just making my journey alongside anyone who would like to join me.
I have marked the spot, and I will continue to breathe deeply into my journey.
Listening Library: Why God (Austin French)
“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4 NIV)
Why God Do people have to die? A daughter or a son Sudden and so young Long before their time?
Why God Do people fall apart? A promise and a ring Becomes a broken thing A road that got too hard?
I don't understand But I understand
Why God, I need You It's, why God, I run to Your arms Over and over again It's, why God, I cling to Your love And hold on for dear life And I find, You are right by my side
Why God Do we feel so alone? Every single day Fighting through the pain Hoping there is hope?
I don't understand But I understand
Why God, I need You It's, why God, I run to Your arms Over and over again It's why God, I cling to Your love And hold on for dear life And I find, You are right by my side, ooh...
Give me a faith stronger than I have I need to know when it hurts this bad That You hold my heart when it breaks And I'm not alone in this place
That's why God, I need You Why God, I run to Your arms Over and over again It's, why God, I cling to Your love And hold on for dear life And I find, You are right by my side Always right by my side Even here in the why... God
Songwriters: Mia Fieldes / Jeff Pardo / Austin French / Jacob Harrison
Why God lyrics © Be Essential Songs