Monday, December 17, 2012

Brain tricks

Some things are so bad that they don't seem real. We don't want them to, right? I think it's a defense mechanism. Rather than thinking about the horrible, our brain kind of puts a blanket around our shoulders and guides use to the back of the ambulance for the hot chocolate and Valium.

Example: September 11, 2001. I can still picture clearly, viscerally, seeing the smoking towers through an open door on my next-door dorm neighbor's tiny television perched atop her also diminutive fridge. I've been to New York City a couple of times since that date; the first trip was when they were doing that twin beams of light thing.

I still default to thinking that the towers are there. Eleven years on, and it's still a surprise. It just seemed so impossible.

I also did not personally lose anybody on September 11. Nobody in New York City, nobody in Washington, DC, nobody on a plane. It was a shared national tragedy, but it was not personally mine.

Example: Loved ones that you know have passed away are alive in your dreams. I don't mean "oh, do you remember when...?" alive, I mean alive. Actually there, so that when you wake up you think "I need to call so and so and tell them about...." or "I should email those pictures to..." and then the crestfallen pause. Those would be calls and letters to nowhere.

Example: School shootings. No school I've ever attended has had such an instance occur. I remember when Columbine happened; I remember the "disaster drills" that my school did, the way some rules changed about people visiting the school. I remember watching the loop on television of that police officer waving that fire truck through (or was it an ambulance?) over and over. I remember people blaming the trenchcoats, blaming the video games, blaming guns.

There's always the finger pointing, isn't there? Another defense mechanism, I think. "That would never have happened if....", "Somebody really should have.....", "Why didn't they ever...."   Questions unanswered.

These things have been going on for a very long time. They are not an American problem, they are not a video game problem, they are not a Dungeons and Dragons problem. I don't know what kind of a problem they are, just what they are not.


I will not be "lighting" any candles on the Internet. I will not be sharing Facebook photographs of the deceased. I will not presume what it was like to have been there and survived. I will not presume to know what the families of those who were there and did not survive feel.

Every grief is different. Every grief is personal.

I hear rumblings that in the DSM-V that's eventually coming out, "normal" grieving will be given a timeline, and then after that it's a diagnosable disorder. As a writer, words fail me when I try to articulate just how horrible this is. On the one hand, if an individual's bereavement is destroying their life, then yes, they should be able to get quantifiable help, and everybody knows that insurance companies need hard facts (or that's what the Internet tells me). But that isn't something you can put a timeline on. Everybody's "normal" is different.

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