Healing through story

Every time we encounter a winding, country road, our family is transported back to the home we left. The land we loved. And the Tuesday morning when a driver fell asleep at the wheel, a mile from our house. And everything changed.

July 24, 2018.

Even now, three years later, when my daughter glimpses a emergency vehicle or when we pass by the scene of an accident, the memories arise – beginning with the gap between impact and awareness. Each time my daughter talks about the accident, she shares more details, and we shape the experience from traumatic fragments into a cohesive, coherent story. My husband is thankful to be alive, despite his permanent injuries. I’m grateful that my family made it home to me.   

The road where the accident occurred – a frequent bypass for speeding commuters who want to skip I-5

Sometimes, however, questions still circle in my mind:

What if my daughter didn’t have summer camp that morning? What if I’d driven my daughter, as we’d originally planned, instead of playing in my garden? What if my husband and daughter left just five minutes later? What if the young man coming off a graveyard shift had taken another route home – or better yet, a quick nap?

How would our lives be different, today?

What if’s can be a way to maneuver pain, to search for meaning or to recover a lost sense of control in a life that sometimes hurtles the unexpected around blind corners, when we’re least expecting it. We’ve all been there, at one time or another.

We’re all living through it, now.

Making sense of traumatic events can be a source of resilience. We develop a personal narrative that acknowledges the painfulness of what we’ve lived through, but also what went well – how we survived, what we’ve learned, and who or what has helped us.

When my daughter and I talk about the accident, we also name the helpers – the woman who arrived first on the scene and cared for my daughter. The EMTs and police officers and hospital staff who took care of my husband. The friends and family who stopped by with food, care, and well-wishes, during those long months of recovery.

Sometimes we can’t choose the road we’re traveling, or what happens along the way. But we can claim ownership over our own stories, and what they mean to us – and where we go with our lives, moving forward.   

Author’s note: This is my annual PSA about “drowsy driving.” According to the CDC:

Being awake for at least 18 hours is the same as someone having a blood content (BAC) of 0.05%.

Being awake for at least 24 hours is equal to having a blood alcohol content of 0.10%. This is higher than the legal limit (0.08% BAC) in all states.

Additionally, drowsiness increases the effect of even low amounts of alcohol.

Please don’t drive when sleep-deprived, and intervene when necessary with friends and family. Seriously, lives may be a stake.

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