I still puzzle over the events of that afternoon, and the following days got even stranger. Our leadership left having things they needed to do. That left my husband, on his third day home after the crisis, managing the team again - a team heavily fractured after the crisis.
He spent his next days listening to people. One had a lot of fears since he and his wife had walked through something else like this before with a friend of theirs. These two became worried about the smallest details and began to spread the fear throughout the others.
One working closely with him picked up on the fear, and carried it to new heights. He began to accuse us of unbelievable things... of outright lying, of making up the whole story, of hiding things from him... We watched this man totally puzzled. He is our brother, one we were very close to, one we love. And overnight, he changed.
There was nothing my husband could do, but day after day listen to one and then the other, trying to let them talk, let them say what was on their minds, to listen. Day after day, he would come home broken, hurt, and sit. Then he had to be a happy daddy to four little kids who needed him. As soon as we had the kids in bed, we would crawl in bed ourselves, and lay just curled up next to each other hardly talking, but drawing comfort from each other.
There was an intense sense of sadness along with all the confusion and hurt. Sadness because this was supposed to be such a happy time. God had done the impossible, and we should all be rejoicing together, thankful. Instead we lay here in shock after yet another day of hearing absurd accusations against us.
We responded woodenly to people outside the team. Our friends and our churches would phone so happy with the news, eager to talk to us... and what could we say? Do we admit how we really felt - shamed and confused and struggling? They wanted to rejoice - God had done a great thing!
We talked late into the night after the first days. Do we stay with this group? Do we leave? Is this the final straw? But our hearts are with this work. And we love our team... people who have been closer than family to us for years. What is going on here? We had thankfully already decided not to make any decisions right then, so we didn't, but we talked. Those are decisions that will have to be made at some point, but not right now.
The blessing that came through this time, the only blessing, was that we began to share more deeply with each other - not so much about the crisis itself, but about our feelings. We began to exercise and practice that new trust in each other, and we found that we could lean on each other - even when there was no one else there to lean on.
And we cried together. Cried at the pain of what was being accused. We took walks. We didn't answer the phone at night. We ignored people. We visited a few we knew that we could count on. But mostly, we ate, curled up and cried and talked with each other, and slept.
Night after night, my sleep was still interrupted by nightmare after nightmare. Dreams of all types woke me with my heart pounding, and again my husband would reach for me and wrap his arms around me tight. Only up against his warm skin would I slowly relax and go back to sleep.. to be woken again in an hour or so with another.
We're still confused by all that happened. And there is a sense of mourning. Our normal has gone. They are back safe, but there is no getting back to normal since normal has disappeared. We find ourselves in a strange new world with little familiar. Still with no map.
For awhile, we sat paralyzed in shock. There is a part of us that still is stunned even now, but we realize that we need to learn to act instead of reacting. It was just that even thinking took a lot of work and we had little energy in those first weeks. A few hours of work would exhaust us.
But there is a loneliness in our lives now. Who do we trust? Who can we lean on? Is there any safe place? Most of the story and our feelings about it all still lay buried - we're too busy trying to heal our team to deal with what the crisis did to us. We're too nervous to share how we feel with others. And time is passing... people expect us to be normal now. We look normal. We sound normal. They've forgotten what an impact that had on us. So we go on.
And there are times we just stop and stare blankly for awhile. Then we shake ourselves and go on again.
A few things came after these events, but very little. We did have a time we bumped into our country director at an event and had a few minutes to talk. We received a letter from him a few days after the team meetings. He praised us for how well we had done in the crisis and stated that he knew it was difficult, but we did well. The first praise from anyone within our team that was not immediately followed by criticism. These things meant something to us.
We had a wooden apology from one person - the fruit of another telling him he had to apologize. Later, the men met with him and came away with a slightly better result than the last meetings.
We took a week off. The team slowly readjusted to just one family accusing us and the others either quietly backing us or silent. We took a week off, risking criticism again, but just needing to pull ourselves out of the situation hoping it would calm down while we were gone. We enjoyed our week, rested, were with people we knew and loved...
but no one asked to hear our hearts.
I think that is why I started blogging this story. The chance to say what happened and how I felt. Because I never got that. All that met us was pain and confusion.
Only one person has asked to hear my heart, and that is only much later. And I find myself unable to talk about it. As if it is awkward.... too much time has passed... I don't know if I really can open those boxes of packed up pain. I have never cried the bucket of unshed tears. I've cried out the pain of those first meetings with our team... but not yet even cried from the pain of those days of the crisis. I've unpacked the boxes enough now to sort out the events and some of the feelings... but then I stop. Is anyone even listening? It's been too long now. I shouldn't cry - it's been too long. So I am silent. It has become a habit.
But just the other day, I looked at one of my friends in the parking lot late at night after a meeting and said, "I'm struggling. I'm trying to pretend I'm normal and go on, but sometimes I just zone out and stare. I have trouble focusing. I'm just still struggling still."
I don't know where I will go from there. I am still on this journey without a map. And we're still puzzled by where the journey has led.