October 20, 2019 by readlisaread
I was at a funeral today. It was for a young man– a child, really, to me. The beloved son of colleagues, I had taught his sister, worked with his dad, who had taught my kids. His exit was, I thought, a mystery. A tragic, unexplained mystery.
Turns out, is was pretty easy to understand.
I was sitting near the back of the packed, all-chairs-filled, three rows of standing-room-only- standees hall. I was prepared to be sad. I was prepared for a remembrance that would have a few gentle chuckles, probably, and a lot of moments of grief.
I was not prepared for the MC to open the afternoon with the words “…was a victim of sexual abuse, and later diagnosed with PTSD. He became exhausted with the effort of trying to conceal his pain.”
I am a person of, I think, extraordinary empathy and compassion. I can get my head around almost any struggle another person is having. Except this. I can’t understand how adults can abuse children, and I do not understand how outsiders can expect abused children to get over it.
The fact that this family chose to reveal their son’s trauma tells me that he was supported, believed, uplifted in every way they knew how. And this is a family with tools and skills. And they loved fiercely. And even with all of that, they could not save him from the demons that haunted him..
I remember having a conversation once with someone who said “I don’t really have a lot of sympathy for the suicide thing”. That person was, obviously, lucky enough to never have suffered severe trauma. They would, perhaps, disagree with me, that their life had as many highs and lows as anyone else’s, but I think there is one pivotal point here.
Childhood trauma leaves scars that may appear to heal on the surface, but leave record of the damage. It makes me think of a tree that’s been scarred somehow, wounded, and how, while it still grows, it’s growth rings are warped and pulled in an unnatural way, showing the history of that trauma, that abuse, hidden beneath the rough exterior.
Referring to oneself as a Survivor means something, especially when you say it to other survivors. But maybe that term is misleading in its sense of completeness or finality. For you are only a survivor until you’re not.
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