Trauma Comes in All Sizes and Shapes

This is another real story submitted to us anonymously.

I have always considered myself a fortunate person throughout my life. I had great friends, my dream job, and a beautiful family. Life was fantastic, and it never dawned on me that it could all disappear in an instant.

Sometimes trauma can be the direct result of an action, loss or even both. This was the case for me, several years ago.

The Day My Life Ended

I had a beautiful wife and two twin boys ten years of age. We were on a road trip to see my parents, singing and laughing. All of a sudden, we were struck by a semi-truck and rolled off the highway. I don’t remember anything else after that except what I was told when I came to the hospital.

My sons were killed instantly in the wreck, quick and painlessly. My wife was thrown from the car and died before help could arrive. I had also been thrown from the car and was the only survivor of the wreck.

Survivor’s Guilt

I spent over a year in the hospital, the first several months in a coma due to my broken spine. I would never walk again, and my family was gone. I first met my psychologist in the hospital. She had kind eyes and was very patient with me. At first, I refused to speak because then it would be real. She would just sit with me, and write down notes. A commercial came on one day, a movie trailer about a man like me, and I broke down. Once I recovered, she explained to me about survivor’s guilt, and that it was completely normal given the circumstances.

Learning to Live Again

Even after learning survivor’s guilt is why I felt guilty for being alive while my family was gone, I still had the added burden of trying to recover and live life as a hemiplegic. I could no longer use my legs; I would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of my life. That made dealing with the loss and trauma even more difficult. Working with the psychologist, I also learned how the accident had been a trauma for me and worked on recognizing triggers. The sessions with her were just as exhausting as my physical therapy was.

Learning to Overcome Trauma

After the accident, I could not bear to be in or near a car of any kind. Semi trucks were even worse for me because it resembled what had killed my family. My psychologist took small figurative steps with me and helped me ease in overcoming my fear of cars.

With the help of the hospital staff, a fantastic psychologist in addition to the support of my friends and family, I was able to overcome my trauma and take a simple car ride to the cemetery where my family was buried. I have many years to go, and the loss or trauma will always be there. At least now I can start to heal.