The first was a meeting we were in in July. A woman I had never even dreamed of running into was there. So fun to meet her and her husband! We talked later a little, the four of us. When our husband's left, she turned to me and said, "Sometimes I think it was harder for the family at home than it was for us there." I don't usually "burst into tears" unless I am angry or frustrated. I am more of a "slow leak" person :) but I began to cry. Slowly, tears fell one after the other, running quietly down my face while we both attempted to watch a movie that didn't make sense even if we were trying to follow it. We began to talk. She asked how our debriefing went, and I told her the truth - "They only debriefed the men. I have never been debriefed yet." She was stunned. Shocked. And sad. It was the beginning. The first person that told me I was allowed to hurt, that admitted that it had been hard for us. We cried together. We told each other our stories - not only of the traumas, but of the fun things in our lives... having never met but knowing of each other for years. Quickly filling in about ten year's gap. She left that next night, but it had been good.
She gave me permission to hurt.
The next steps began at our home town with just admitting it to a few people. "We're not all better yet." What a relief to be able to say that! We have been so busy dealing with other people's trauma that we just had to set our own struggles down, and time went by.... people assumed we were fine.
Telling out story. We had before once or twice. But usually my husband's story. His was the story, his was the events.... rarely people might ask me a question or two... but his story. Our home church listened better. A few times, I got to tell parts of my story. I think this summer, too, was the time my husband began to realize that I had a story and that I had never been debriefed. That fact went into our "next time" file.
I think one of the things that I scold myself the most for during the crisis and recovery is trusting this part to others. Everything else, I did myself. I did things well. Not to be proud, but I did. This one detail, I left to another person, and to this day, I wished I hadn't. It was poorly done. I didn't object because I had assumed the person doing it was smarter than me. I regret leaving that job in another's hands, and would not do it again.
Another thing that blessed me was a friend who watched our children this summer. When we came to pick them up, she said something to me. Something about how during all the events, she thought of me more, and the pain that would have been involved in being a mother during that time. We later went out for coffee and I told her the whole story - the trauma, and the traumatic "recovery" time.
Learning to talk about it. It began to help. But it also brought fresh tears. The stark pain of those meetings where people were angry with us when we were hurting. The things they said. The total lack of any care in the weeks afterward. Being placed in a position where we, as team leaders, had to comfort and care for others for the trauma that we went through. The complete silence of our mission as if nothing more had happened than we had gotten a common cold. It is in these events that the pain lies the deepest - not the trauma itself, but the "recovery" phase that went all so wrong. Therein lies the deepest wounds. Those wounds were not addressed by our home church listening to our story because we did not tell this story... how can you tell this? But still, it was a relief to have ears for the part of the story we had words for.
And my friend over a cup of coffee outside with sparrows chirping by our feet heard the whole story.
We came back better, but not good. Able to recognize that we were still healing, that we were struggling to overcome PTSD. It was a few small steps in the right direction.
But God had more in mind... gentle steps to address what went wrong. I still maintain that I could have survived the trauma with minimal assistance.... it was the botched recovery that was is so difficult to heal from. My husband thinks the same. We both still carry the wounds of those days.