28 years yesterday. July 18, 1994 is frozen in time no matter how much time passes. It stays the same. Everything that I remember I remember in vivid technicolor. There are black gaps in time that I don’t remember anything. I only remember about five minutes of one of the interrogations, of which there were at least two that lasted many hours. I remember my routine. Go to Safeway in the Cranbrook mall as soon as I wake up and purchase any newspaper that had any information, walk to Ron and Paula’s house and stay in their basement as late as possible watching movies, then go home to put the Crow on repeat until I passed out on the couch. Sometimes I only watched it once, but usually I watched it twice. “It can’t rain all the time.”
I was prepared for yesterday to be a hard day. I only broke down and cried twice, so I was very impressed with myself. I forgot about today. Yesterday is technically the day they were taken from us, but 28 years ago today is the day I was woken up by a call from my dad to find out if I was alive, because there was a fire and they found a woman’s body where I lived and they could not identify it. It was either her or me. 28 years ago today is when we drove to the townhouse and I saw what remained. The day I was questioned by police for the first time by myself, at 16 years of age, and that small windowless room is where I learned that the people closest to me had been intentionally killed and not as a result of an accident, which is what I assumed. That is the only five minutes I remember from being questioned. I broke down so hard that the officer left the room with the stenographer and I was alone. Completely alone.
Gabor Mate is a trauma therapist. I resonate with his description of trauma and how it is not the event itself that is the most damaging and causes trauma, it is being alone in the event. This is why community matters. It is why we need each other. We will not heal, we will not be whole, we will not have a healthy society until we understand and live out community for every single person on this planet.
So, for those of us who have experienced trauma, we do our best to heal, to be healthy and live the best life we can with what we carry. There is no getting over it. I will NEVER get over it. I will carry it. My counselor said the phrase “normalize grief” and that was a balm to my soul. That’s exactly what my best friend and I were talking about yesterday. How we will always have this as a part of us. Those of us who have experienced trauma – especially multiple traumas – perhaps need to understand that it is normal for us to have these days, to have triggers, to have pain that resides within our soul. That’s ok as long as it is not dictating our lives. The loss was so great that it is impossible to live without the pain, but it is possible to live with the pain and still thrive. I carry all the good parts of them and all the good memories but I have to carry the pain as well. They are inseparable, and that’s ok. They are worth carrying both. I can not be healthy if I don’t carry both. You can not numb pain without numbing joy. You either feel, or your don’t.
There have been so many changes this last year and I am learning so much about myself. One very important lesson I have been learning and practicing is that I will make my decisions based on what I want (and what my values are) and not what is expected of me. I will decide for me, what is normal. Carrying grief is part of my normal. It’s ok that sometimes I’m not ok. In those moments I reach out for those that love me and are connected to me. Especially people who are connected to my pain, like Jonathan and Paula, Joyce Doug and Rick, who have all survived with me.
Survivors guilt is real but I survived for a reason. I may not know exactly that reason but in honor of Susan, Josiah and David, I will live my very best life. She loved me fiercely and she would be proud of me. Taking one day at a time and doing the best that is possible for me.