Sunday, February 2, 2014

After-care in Trauma Centers

I’d like to relate to you one of my favorite stories from my first book, dealing with the death of two sons and how the parents coped.

Imagine losing two children within a year and a half of each other in two different types of accidents and being left childless. That is what happened to one couple. And their long road to recovery, grieving differently and how they were treated by the medical profession, ended up bringing them to a better place.

One son died in a car accident, the other son in an airplane accident. The hospital staff was very cold and indifferent both times when the parents were told of the deaths. The husband went back to work, as part of his way of coping, but it wasn’t easy. Many times he just broke down during the day and had to go home. He had a good friend take over for him. The wife, on the other hand, didn’t go back to nursing for three months. She said, “I didn’t trust myself to make decisions dealing with people. I felt like someone had taken razor blades to my insides. And my mind shut down, physically and emotionally.”
To make matters worse, at the funeral, the husband’s brother, at 37 years old, leaned over the casket, had a massive heart attack and died. “The pain of what happened was so awful, I can’t even describe it,” he said.

The wife was so angry at the situation. She began reading a lot about death and afterlife. She became very spiritual and it became an important part of her whole journey. The husband’s anger turned to rage and consumed him. It was all he thought about. I was out of control, cursing God for letting this happen to us. “I know now that left unchecked, anger and rage will undo you in every way. I struggled to get out of that mess, but it took a very long time.”

What finally helped this family were three things according to the husband: joining Compassionate Friends, where they found others in similar situations, then started their own group. It gave them something to focus on. Having close friends also helped. One friend convinced the father to seek professional help. “We connected and I saw him for two years. He helped me vent my anger.” Lastly, although it sounds corny, time going by was a big help. Time softens the hurt, but you never forget.

The wife, on the other hand, felt very different. She continued with Compassionate Friends, even after her husband stopped going. She said once, “You never think it’s going to happen to you. This kind of thing happens to others. When it does happen, you realize you’re not invincible and it could happen again as it did in this case.

When the second son died, she reacted differently than her husband. She felt it was right the two boys be together as they were in life. She didn’t feel the anger as her husband did. This is when her spirituality journey came about. She realizes there is a plan out there. Even at the worst times, all the love and support helped us. We wouldn’t have met all the wonderful people who changed our lives. We have come to accept what happened. That doesn’t mean they don’t miss the boys. They know they’ll never have grandchildren and that hurts. And there is no one to carry on the family name.

Through all this, the medical community didn’t have a clue as to how we, and all parents, feel when our children die. So they realized they had to educate people by helping with an after-care  program to recognize this was not how you treat people. The program has worked so well, it has been picked up by trauma centers around the country. A small group puts programs workshops together for professionals (teachers, nurses, policemen) and trains volunteers to help these families and make their journey easier. This family believes they are in the same place now and through it all always kept the communication lines open by talking about their sons.