Are you a survivor?

Here’s something we don’t talk about a lot. The unnamed survivors.

The best friends, or even just simply friends. The boyfriends/girlfriends. The siblings. We aren’t discussed much in the media. The parents seem to be mentioned often, and though their suffering is indeed great, some of us suffer in “silence.” In my experience, few ask about the sibling experience. Few want to know what it was like to see your sibling die. From what I’ve heard, few also talk about what it was like for a friend/best friend to die, or a boyfriend/girlfriend to die.

Even fewer talk about these experiences in relation to an experience like Newtown.

Part of why I publicized this blog was to bring together those of us who have experienced any of the following:

Being a sibling, friend/best friend, boyfriend/girlfriend of someone traumatically killed
Witnessing the murder or traumatic death of our sibling, friend/best friend, or boyfriend/girlfriend
Witnessing the traumatic murder or death of anyone in general, related or not

I’ve found that I have come across hardly anyone who has actually experienced this and wants to talk about it.

That’s why I’m asking you, if you have experienced any of this and want to talk about it, please, let’s talk. I know that I feel alone in my experience and I’m tired of it. I want to know that there are others out there who feel the same. If you do, and want to write about it, link up to this blog.

(This is my first time doing a link-up so if you are having issues, let me know)

In the spirit of coming out of silence, one thing I want to talk about today is how news of new shootings is always shocking. It’s like a time warp where I immediately flash in my mind to the worst moment of my life. I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach thinking that others have now had that experience.

Seeing news like what’s been coming out of Newtown also strengthens my personal resolve to be of help in times like these. Since watching my sisters die, I’ve had a very strong desire to help others like me. I’m pretty aware that I have to be ready to face that sort of thing, because obviously, even hearing news of a shooting is difficult. Thankfully I’ve had a lot of counseling and I feel much more able now to be there for people who have been traumatized. So now, hearing news about Sandy Hook or Portland this week makes me fiercely determined. For 4 years now I’ve been working on a degree in Psychology. After finishing my BA I intend to go for a Masters specifically pointed toward integrating counseling and international disaster/trauma work. Hearing this news makes me dig into my schoolwork and become even more determined to do something. I just can’t sit idly by and let my world continue to experience these horrific events. Something in me needs to be in the middle of them, doing something about it. And by doing something I don’t mean being Superman. I mean just sitting with people, listening to their stories, letting them cry or do whatever they need to do. That’s all. But I know how needed it is and honestly I know how few people did that for me – I can list them on one hand.

And of course, moments in which I see the terrorized faces from Sandy Hook (and I try not to look too much because I don’t want to be re-traumatized) bring me back to how I felt in that moment. The moment of knowing that my twin sister was dead in front of me, or seeing my younger sister gray on the pavement outside our minivan. It brings to mind a scene from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, when Sirius dies. The reaction that Harry has is one I viscerally feel deep in my gut. I feel it again when I see the faces in the media of the newly traumatized. I know, intensely, that moment when you see someone die. It is what I always feel in moments like this.

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Anniversary

Today is my 5 year anniversary of the ones I’ve lost. Considering the purpose of this blog, I felt it appropriate to write a post.

It’s been an interesting day. I feel the pressure of the world to move on.

5 years ago today, my sisters were gunned down in front of my eyes in a church parking lot.

Today, I sat in the same church and was struck by how much changes in 5 years.

I was struck by how much my sisters have changed me. I wouldn’t say that I’m carrying out their dreams for them. But I do carry a piece of them inside of me, and they inspire me every day. As I wrote about in my last post, my twin sister Stephanie inspires me to fight against racism. My sister Rachel inspires me to stand up for myself, that I’m worth it, that it’s okay to be me. I can’t help but feel grateful today that they were in my life. Even though I got them for only a short time (16 and 18 years), they taught me such a great deal.

Going through trauma has also taught me a great deal. Being traumatized pushed me towards becoming a trauma counselor. After having experienced something so profound, I knew I wanted to do something to be with others who have also experienced trauma.

I was also surprised by how out of place I’ve felt today. I no longer feel comfortable in the church I used to attend with my sisters. I don’t hate the church, at all. I just feel that I don’t fit in that mold. I’m an odd shaped puzzle piece that doesn’t fit in the picture. I’ve drawn such a different picture of myself especially in the last year. While I respect them and who they are, it isn’t my home anymore, and I felt so oddly detached from this place.

The last feeling I’ll mention, again, is that I felt the pressure to move on. Since my story was such a public one, it’s celebrated publicly. Now that we’ve made the 5 year mark, I feel this overwhelming sense of, “Okay, you’ve made it through the worst part of your life. Next story.” In my head today I’ve wondered whether my story is really all that important, now, after all.

What I remind myself is that I would rather live my story in full color, than tell it. Actions speak louder than words – such a cliche, but oh so true.

In a sense I’m relieved the eyes of the public are turning away. In another sense, I also wonder if there’s anyone else out there, like me, maybe even my age, who has seen what I have. That I can talk to. I still miss that rapport. I’m wracking my brain trying to decide if I’ve ever talked to someone outside my family who “gets” trauma and wants to talk about it.

The memory that hit me real hard today was the moment I had to tell my dad that my twin sister was dead. I did a lot of awful things on December 9, 2007, but that was really one of the worst. Saying those words made it so frightfully real. Maybe that’s why the memory is so painful.

I miss them. I miss my beautiful twin who gave the best hugs of anyone I know. I miss my odd little Rachel, my beautiful little sister who was so ridiculously smart for her age. I think it fucking sucks that I don’t get to spend the rest of my life with them here. So many days go by where I just want to hug them, one more time. So many days I hate that I saw them die in front of my eyes. My beautiful sisters. It’s a nightmare that I still want to wake up from.

Yet at the same time it’s also become a beautiful dream that I get to live.

Anniversaries – they bring up such dichotomies.