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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The walking wounded.

In first aid and triage, the walking wounded are injured persons who are of a relatively low priority. These patients are conscious and breathing and usually have only relatively minor injuries; thus they are capable of walking. Depending on the resources available, and the abilities of the injured persons, these people may sometimes be used to assist treatment of more seriously injured patients, or assist with other tasks. - Wikipedia

I was reading a review about a new movie coming out about a family grieving over loosing their husband and father to 9/11. The review referred to the boy in the story as the Walking Wounded.

Walking wounded.

Such a perfectly simple description of those who have endured loss, pain, and grief.

So I googled it.

...conscious and breathing...capable of walking...

I write a lot about intentionally seeking out joy and happiness and it really being a choice in life. In our lives we've made a conscious effort to do this for our sanity and the happiness and survival of our family.

When the accident first happened with Christian, I mistakenly thought things would gradually just get better and better. I had sad days, but I was certain that eventually they'd go away.

I'd have rough days, very emotional weeks, and then I'd be over it. Happy again. Rough days were behind me and I was forward, full steam ahead.

Then out of nowhere, I was sad again. It would be set off by a picture I had never seen of Christian as a baby, happy and wide eyed. It could be for no reason at all and I was right back where I was in the beginning - broken hearted and just...well, broken.

It's called grief. And if I take myself and my emotions out of the equation, it is quite fascinating how this little bastard works.

It weaves itself in and out of our lives, piercing everything it touches. It makes us feel awful, it makes us feel validated, it makes us feel cleansed. It wraps itself around our old family photos, and sits heavy on our hearts when it is quiet and we're alone.

This kind of grieving - the grieving of a special needs parent - it comes in what I can only describe as levels.

When we left the hospital, as I said, I thought things would just continue to improve and improve and improve. Maybe Christian would be slightly delayed. But he'd catch up, right?


I've learned from other parents. I've seen their grief. And it, too, is in levels. Half way between life and death.

...He's not smiling...She doesn't even move...He has a trache...He has pneumonia and he's in the hospital again?...He won't stop crying...She won't sleep...She throws fits...He has neurostorms...She has seizures...medications aren't working...We have to meet with the palliative care team...we have to keep him comfortable until the end...He doesn't like to be touched...He can't see...She doesn't talk, just screams...Does he even know who I am?...God, just let him make it through the night...Why are other children doing better than my child?...We need miracles...

Levels of grief.

Level 1 - We think there may be seizures. Level 2 - Medications aren't working. Level 3 - Seizures are intractable.

Level 1 - He probably won't walk. Level 2 - Not enough weight baring. Level 3 - Bone quality is deteriorating. Level 4 - Hairline fractures. Level 5 - Dislocated hips. Level 6 - Painful surgery.

Each level is a new found pile of grief to step in.

And they come in little droplets or they come in waves. Grief hides in things like cartoon characters you're child should be obsessed with. It's waiting in thoughts of grandchildren that will never be. It's all over your spouse's face when he talks about playing catch someday with his son, or his dreams of it, anyway. It's there. And really never, ever goes away.

When I hear the stories of mothers and fathers of children who've passed, I feel their grief. It goes beyond the polite, "I can't even imagine..." Because I can, and I do, and I can feel it. It's a heightened perception of pain that I now possess and part of me is thankful for that. The other part of me wants to give it back.

Luckily, grief doesn't stick around for too long these days. But all too often I meet or hear about families who are just at Level 1. And I'm sad for them and their long journey ahead.

The movie review called the little boy the Walking Wounded. But the most important part was when he said, "...But he is still walking."

We're still walking.


Deana said...

Sometimes the grief we feel for ourselves, and our friends, and strangers alike just gets so heavy. I was feeling it this week, and when I read your post the floodgates opened up and the healing tears helped get the grief out for now. Thank you for putting words to my feelings.

Colton's Journey said...

so well said! I read a post the other day that brought memories i had long forgotten about...or pushed deep down! Grief is a roller coaster that just when you think your going to be ok...the loop-de-loops get you.

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