My heart was instantly constricted, like being squeezed in a vise. I saw in my rearview mirror an ambulance coming up behind me. Tears started to form in my eyes. This was not a normal response for me, but after Matt passed the sight and sound of an ambulance instantly causes me immense pain. I was thrust back to the day he died.
I see the face of the paramedic as he told me they tried everything they could but there wasn’t much they could do save him. Hearing those words sent me into a spiral of disbelief and shock.
I kept telling them no, searching for my breath in-between my pleas for them to keep trying. I could see the lights of the ambulance in the background flashing, highlighting the faces of the people who surrounded me, comforting me. The paramedic walked me over to back of the ambulance to see if I needed them to take me to the hospital so they could keep an eye on me. In other words, they wanted to sedate me in hopes I would get some sleep and let the initial shock wear off.
I declined their offer. I didn’t want to sleep in a hospital, in a room that felt even more empty and alone than the hotel room I shared with Matt and our kids. How could I leave our kids!? My friends stayed with me and tried to calm me and help me rest. Even through their best attempts, it failed, and I didn’t sleep for the next 2 days.
I have never admitted to anyone, the reaction I get when I see an ambulance. It seemed pathetic to admit. I thought maybe the fear would pass, that it was a temporary response. But I am still disabled by the sight. One day, I am sure the traumatic response will fade and my heart won’t constrict and my eyes will stay dry and unaffected. That one day was not today.
While I am on the path of admitting aftermath effects from Matt’s death…
In the weeks that followed Matt’s death, I wanted so badly to feel physical pain. I hoped it would replace the emotional pain I felt inside. I would eye the skin on my inner forearm and drag my nails down the soft, sensitive skin in hopes I could find a distraction. For once I thought I understood why some people resorted to cutting themselves. I wanted relief from the turmoil that was tearing apart my heart and mind. Knowing I would never walk the path of self-harm in a misguided appeal for help, I decided to [finally] get a tattoo. It was a way could honour my late husband with a simple memorial to our love and bond. One that would be etched in me forever.
The day arrived and one of my best girlfriends and I ventured down to the tattoo shop. Feeling the urge to go first, I sat in the chair and the artist got to work. Due to the location on my body, the tattoo’s pain was minimal and bearable. I felt cheated and laughed. So much anticipation to fulfil my wish to be distracted by physical pain was all for not. Thankfully, after the disappointment I survived my first tattoo with not so much as a wince of pain, the desire to feel flesh pain subsided. Although, the saying about tattoos being addicting is completely true. Yes, the act of getting a tattoo is still a form of pain but for me, it is no longer about trying to erase inner pain with outer pain.
The need to feel bodily pain was a coping mechanism. One that wasn’t effective for me. That was when I turned to writing to express myself in a safe and therapeutic way. It started with journal writing and soon it transformed into my blog.
I hope that admitting to these inner conflicts I have experienced and still experience will allow a different look into my journey. I actually feel lighter in my heart. Seeing the ambulance this evening, having the pain come to the forefront, I think was my hearts way of asking me to release the negativity I have held inside. Sometimes it is hard to know what pain is still lingering in our hearts and it takes a single moment to bring it all back. Confronting the grief and seeing it for what it truly is-a chance to learn from it, then release the sorrow to make room for more strength and love.