Wednesday, May 19, 2010

That Afternoon

I think this is by far the hardest blog post for me to write about the whole events.  I started a few times only to erase it.  But the story would not be complete without some explanation of the rest of that day.

We went on with the meetings after lunch and other people shared what they had gone through.  There were some strange inconsistencies that had me puzzled.... some gaps in information.  Of course, these colored how they saw events and affected their reactions.

One thing bothered me during the stories.  It was when one member who had a job to do said he was so tired one night that he took a sleeping pill, turned his computer off, and slept deeply for one night.  I just sat and looked at him.  Hmm.... there is perhaps the difference between a wife and a team member.  It was my husband.  It was another who I loved also.  I understand that we have to take care of ourselves and be ready for the long term in a such a crisis... but.... I struggled with that thought of him soundly sleeping with a pill that makes you unable to wake up and respond.  I had trusted him to be doing his job...

They complained that we worried them because the men said they would go to one place and then fly to another and they all waited and were worried when the men did not show up at the first place.  But in their mailbox was an e-mail sent hours before with the news that they would not stop in the one place but go straight on to the next.  I can't help it if they did not read their mail.  And I was on a plane at that time, but if they were worried, all they had to do was phone the other wife who would have told them exactly what was going on.  They didn't, so I didn't see how they could complain about being worried and blame us for that.

But the biggest problem in the afternoon came when we were soundly criticized for not coming straight home.  We replied that the two men wanted time together since they had not seen each other much and needed to see each other and process some of what had happened, and they wanted their wives with them.  All four of us needed to be together.  This met immediate and angry responses that they (our team here) are our family and deserved to see us right away.

I really struggled with that reason.  If they were our family and needed to see us right away, where were they during the crisis?  Where were they when I was all alone?  Why did I have to curl up on my kitchen floor late at night that first day trying to face the fear and panic with no one with me?

Why was I responsible in the immediate aftermath of comforting their fear and panic before I even had time to wrap my arms around my husband and cry?

We left that for the time being and went on into things that we can learn from this and changes that should be made.  Then we discussed lessons learned – so when we encounter a situation like this again, we will know how to act.  We discussed security, ways to behave, etc.  Then we talked about communication and recovery after such events.  At this point, I told them that it would be better to think about what people have gone through and give them some time in the beginning to be undisturbed and to rest and heal.

The effect was like lighting a match in a room filled with gas fumes.  An explosion. 

On one side, one member was telling us that we were so wrong not to take calls, no matter what the time because anyone serving in the forces would be required to do that before they spent time with family. 

Yes, but the men already had had extensive discussions with people in charge.  They had not left without the critical information being given.

On the other side, other team members were saying that we should have talked to them all right away because they hadn’t talked to us and didn’t we realize that they needed to talk to us right away because “we had only heard that he was out, but we hadn’t been able to ask him ourselves if he was injured or anything.”  

True, you hadn’t, but the leadership had and should have been able to communicate that to you.  And even if you had to be in suspense one more day about what, if any, injuries they had, was it more important than them and us who had not slept for five nights being able to curl up with each other and sleep?  How about our worries for each other - "Are you really ok?"  Wasn't it more important that we had time to ask and answer that to each other first - first, before answering that to others outside?

I do understand that they were frightened and worried by the events.  But I wondered if they understood that we were, and that we needed some time, just some time to sit quietly and let the fact that we were together sink in.

The room grew very loud and very angry with most of it aimed at me.  I was the one who said that in a future crisis, people need to give the people involved a little time to recover and sleep.  Person after person got upset at me and told me reason after reason why they all needed to talk to my husband that first night and how upset they were with me for not letting them.

Finally, my husband stepped in and said, “What I expect you all to understand is that that night, I needed my wife.  I needed to be with her, and I expected you all to understand that!  And we needed to sleep.”

The room grew a little calmer after that, but the discussion kept going.  There were the few on our team who, when they heard of how the first day went were horrified.  "You mean you wanted to talk to them right then??!!  What were you thinking?!"  Others sat quietly not wanting to get involved in the discussion.  Still others were angry and upset with us.  What was strange is during the whole time, our team leader just sat quietly working on his computer totally ignoring most of the conversation going on around him.  As if how we had felt and how we had hurt was totally unimportant to him.

All I wanted him to do was listen.  To hear.  To know what it meant.  To learn, so that another time, this would not happen.  Another time, someone going through it would be better protected, better cared for.

And he sat ignoring the whole conversation.  Only at one point when the room got very loud with his wife and a few others quite upset at us, he raised his head, sighed, and asked his wife, "Would it help if I apologized for that phone call?"

I looked at him again stunned by his complete lack of seeing.  Then told him, "No.  It is not that we are angry or holding a grudge that we want an apology for.  We have already forgiven you.  It is that we are trying to learn how to do things better next time.  All I want is for us to learn from our mistakes so we don't repeat this one again.  So that next time, we take better care of our wounded.  I just want to see us learn, and I don't see that there is any learning happening at all."

The conversation went on between others, and our team leader continued shuffling his papers and working on something else in the middle of the meeting.  Then after five more minutes, he got up and walked out of the room.

He didn't even try to understand, but walked away from our pain.

So then the attacks turned nasty and personal.  One woman there, the wife of the team leader told me that what the enemy could not do from outside, I am letting him do from the inside.  I am destroying the team from inside by saying that I was hurt and by refusing to just forgive and let it go.

I told her that I have no problem forgiving, but that we need to learn lessons.  So far I have only seen defense of what was done.  The point is to learn how to do better, and the only point I am trying to make is that we need to consider the needs of the families involved in a crisis and work to protect their time to heal.  If we don't learn that, what will happen next crisis?  Are they going to do the same to that person, too?  Because next crisis, you are going to find me camped out outside in order to protect and care for the people involved if that is what it takes!

At that point, I began to cry again, silent tears tracing a rapid path down my face.  I was hurting, wanting to he heard, and now I was being accused of doing what the enemy could not do through the crisis - bring down the team... at that point, I gave up and quit.

 But my husband stepped in.  He told the, "You know what?  That night, I needed my wife.  That was all.  I didn't need to talk to you all and I needed you to understand that."  They didn't.  They still don't.  Then they said we are letting the devil in to cause trouble.

It still hurts.  Welcome home.  Welcome back, injured and limping, to be thrown to the sharks.

You know what we needed?  We needed to be heard.  We needed to be hugged.  We needed to be prayed with.  We needed support.  We needed to hear other's stories - stories of how God worked, telling people to pray, encouraging others, working behind the scenes.  We did not need to be thrown to the sharks.  We did not need to be abandoned by our team leader to the frenzy of uninformed, stressed, and angry team members.  It was a time for clear leadership, for setting ground rules of debriefing - people are allowed to say how they felt and not be attacked.  It was not the time for one leader to walk out and leave the other poor one stunned by the shark frenzy and paralyzed.

Eventually, the country director pulled it together and stopped the tirades against us and suggested that we all saw things differently because we had different stories, and that why don't we just pray.

We did.  All of us stood to pray.  And after a few minutes, I walked out, again to a back room to dry my face and throw myself into the arms of the only One that I knew saw my heart right then.

I came back in before the prayers ended.  Our team leader was leaving, so everyone was saying goodbye to everyone.  Our team leader's wife came over to me and said this, "I know you probably don't want me to, but I am going to hug you" and proceeded to hug me goodbye.

I'm sorry.  If you know someone doesn't want you to do something, don't do it.

Especially if you know that person has a past of abuse, you just don't force a hug, an unwanted hug after you have degraded and hurt them publicly.

But I stood there and let her hug me.  What else could I do?  And then went back to my husband's arms, to safety.

I left that day numb.  Not even sure if I had any feelings left.  Blank and staring.  When we were hurting, we were attacked.  Then we were accused of letting the devil use us to destroy.  We went home and stared at the walls.  We went to bed that night and just held each other and cried.  Too ashamed even to think about asking for help.  We had asked for help, we had stated that we were hurting, and we were met with anger.  Where do we go for help if even our own attack us for feeling vulnerable and needy?  For asking for time to heal?  We did not sleep, but just lay in bed staring most of the night.  Too hurt even to cry.

We felt shamed.  Shamed publicly.  Accused.  Ashamed for being weak, for having needs, for putting our own needs above others.  Just shamed.  Abandoned and attacked by our own.  Healing wounds in my own heart ripped open that night.... am I not valuable enough to be cared for?  Not worth enough to be listened to?  He just walked out... he just walked out not even caring.  Accused again.  Hurt again, and then judged harshly on my reactions under unbelievable hurt and stress.  Left alone to deal with pain.

How would we go on from here?

That night, we lay awake and stared at the ceiling stunned.  Wounded and bleeding and pretty sure at that point that there would be no healing.  There sure wasn't going to be any trusting anyone with just how much we were struggling.  Not if this was the reaction we would face.

We were ready to quit.  To go home and quit.

And the next days did not get any easier...

No comments: