This morning, when I read the post “The Grief We Carry in Our Bodies” I was deeply moved. Earlier in the day, Sherod and I had had a conversation with a very perceptive, smart person who was probing my husband about his response to the Aurora killings. A combat veteran who flew helicopters during the Vietnam War, Sherod has always been very aware of PTSD. Our friend was asking about any PTSD responses all the news coverage might have triggered for him. He said no. But the minute she asked him that question, I realized that especially over the weekend, I had been dealing with some pretty serious flashbacks of those bleak, horrible last bits of my my mom’s life. I didn’t connect that conversation with the blog post and pictures of Dark Elegy. The woman who created this piece of artwork interviewed mothers of the victims of Lockerbie, asking them to remember how their bodies had responded to the news that their child had died. As I re-read that part, I found myself duplicating in my mind’s eye, how my body positioned itself in that hissingly quiet moment in my parent’s living room, when it was finally over, and the disfiguring suffering on my mother’s face had not yet smoothed out. My mind said, “she’s dead.” In response, I drew myself up as tall as I could and held myself as still as if I might shatter if I moved. The three of us who survived were still like that for several moments. Then all the planning and preparations we’d put ourselves through in the previous two weeks took over and each moved to carry out the duties we’d been assigned. I am stunned, even writing this, to remember (or at least believe that I remember) those moments in such detail.
This much I’m pretty sure of: my body understands when people talk about PTSD symptoms, though I would not be so presumptuous as to claim that I have been through anything like the trauma of Aurora or Vietnam, or Afghanistan. The sadness on Friday, crying into the ocean and holding on to my spouseman for dear life, the flashbacks, my visceral response to Dark Elegy. All of it leaves me pretty shaken and more aware than ever that our bodies really do carry the grief, and carry it for so much longer than I could have imagined. No matter how busy, how focused, how distracted I am by everyday claims on me, my body won’t lie and say everything is just peachy keen wonderful, like I’d like to will my life to be.