Warning: This may be difficult for some of you to read, since in this post I recall a traumatic experience. I discuss loss, grief and witnessing a horrific accident in which someone lost his life.
I really didn’t want to talk or think about what happened and the low point where I found myself. I wanted to move on. The last thing I wanted to do was write about it. So I felt conflicted when someone I trusted asked,
“What if your experience can help someone else?”
I felt the push and pull of this question. On the one hand, I just wanted to run away rather than recount my experience, but on the other hand, I wanted to reach out and share in the hopes that it might be useful to someone else. Perhaps it would make someone else feel less alone.
Connection? When I’m at my lowest, I don’t want to connect. I want to retreat.
I’ve been in a really good place lately, focused, energetic, positive, grateful and consistent with my self care routine. But I recently had a series of emotional sucker punches that brought me down.
A coworker and then a friend passed away, both suddenly, within a short period of time.
I was riding the wave of grief and the uncertainty of life in the best way I could and felt connected to myself, my coworkers, my family and friends. Although I knew the next few days would be sad and difficult, I knew I needed to connect with others in this “collective pain.”
In an excerpt from “Braving The Wilderness,” Brené Brown writes,
“Funerals, in fact, are one of the most powerful examples of collective pain. They feature in a surprising finding from my research on trust. When I asked participants to identify three to five specific behaviors that their friends, family, and colleagues do that raise their level of trust with them, funerals always emerged in the top three responses. Funerals matter. Showing up to them matters. And funerals matter not just to the people grieving, but to everyone who is there. The collective pain (and sometimes joy) we experience when gathering in any way to celebrate the end of a life is perhaps one of the most powerful experiences of inextricable connection. Death, loss, and grief are the great equalizers.”
Connection. At times, so difficult yet incredibly healing. Showing up matters.
I felt grateful that I followed Brene’s advice.
I had no idea what would happen in just a few days.
What seemed like an ordinary Tuesday morning drive to work turned out to be an even bigger test of my humanity and willingness to connect regardless of what I was feeling.
I witnessed an extremely violent, one vehicle accident just two cars ahead of me on a steep, hilly road. My husband stopped our car and we both got out to assess the scene while I called for help. It was difficult to take in what we were seeing.
It was as if a bomb went off. There were parts of the vehicle and its contents, a dump truck with a full load of soil, strewn across front yards and down the hill. The sound of the accident must have been incredibly loud, but we didn’t hear a thing. I guess our brains can only take in so much trauma at once.
When I was able to process the scene once again, I heard the sound of rushing liquid. My eyes quickly focused on the diesel fuel pouring of the truck. A fire extinguisher quickly emerged with a homeowner from his house and the 911 operator instructed us to keep it nearby. Help was on the way.
When I focused on the driver, I noticed he was pinned in his truck surrounded by the crushed cab and another bystander was kneeling beside him applying pressure to his injuries.
My emotions changed from sheer panic and fear to compassion the instant I heard the driver’s voice.
He was alive and talking. The humanity of the situation overwhelmed me and I found myself struggling with how I was going to help, not whether or not I would. It felt like it was taking forever for help to arrive.
I stepped into the mud that surrounded the truck and to where the driver could hear me. I told him that help was on the way, that he was doing a great job of continuing to breathe, and that we were with him.
Connection. It’s what makes us human, gives us hope and makes us feel alive.
The emergency personnel finally arrived. They took our names and asked us to leave.
Although the driver didn’t make it, I hope he felt a sense of hope and connection in that moment. I hope it brought a sense of peace to his sister when I shared with her that her brother did not die alone.
The details of the accident were like a movie replaying in my mind over and over again, even one week later, when my husband and I were going away for a prearranged overnight stay at a local state park. I really didn’t want to go. I wasn’t in the mood, I just wanted to disconnect, from everyone and everything.
But I chose to connect.
I connected to my husband and shared how I was feeling with him (and warned him that he was in for a “treat” because I wasn’t in a very good mood). It took me by surprise when he later told me that he thought that that was actually considerate of me.
Connection is love.
I connected to the love that my son and his fiancé shared in giving us the overnight accommodations for a very thoughtful Christmas gift. They know we value experiences over things. Of course we weren’t going to stay home!
The weather was dreary and cold, but my husband and I made the best of our overnight visit to the park. We walked around the zoo when we arrived, ate dinner in bed while watching TV and hiked the next morning, since it was the better of the two days, weather wise.
I felt better. The fresh air and exercise were just what I needed! Connecting to nature really reestablishes our place in this world. The trip reminded me that we are all interconnected to something larger than ourselves.
We are all part of a common humanity.
I wonder if my son and his fiancé know just what a special gift that was!
Up until posting, I had reservations about sharing. My negative self talk voice was particularly dominant:
“There are many, many people who have gone through way worse losses than me, so why would what I have to say be meaningful?”
“Who do I think I am?”
“People may think I’m being overly dramatic, attention seeking, etc.”
“Reading my post might actually trigger someone into having a negative reaction (the opposite of my intention).”
“My loved ones may worry about me and feel burdened by my sharing.”
I decided to share because the louder voice in me, the one that drowns out fear, is one of love, connection and courage!
“There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers than those of us who are willing to fall because we have learned how to rise.”
Thanks for reading. I know it can be difficult to connect when we want to retreat. Take a break when you need one and connect when you can. There are many opportunities to connect in many different situations.
I think that leaning on each other can make us stronger!
Please feel free to share and comment.
Here are some links to things that I’ve found helpful in the last few weeks, a video, a podcast and all things Brené:
Meditation for Mental Balance and Grounding, Yoga with Adriene
Fighting Depression with Social Connection, Johann Hari
Johann talks about the importance of having a tribe and the positive mental health effects of the social connection.
All things Brené!
She has been my biggest cheerleader. Her research and personal anecdotes are encouraging and will give you the strength and the tools to be courageous. Check out her website below and her new Netflix special!