Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Both of us have had quite a few nightmares about it. We drive past a pool or see one on tv and she asks me if it's deep. Out of nowhere, she'll look me intently in the eyes and tell me she doesn't want to sink again.

It was traumatizing, for the both of us. I really haven't talked very much about the details because it's too hard. I already get the image of her under the water in my head enough, and I have to physically shake it out again. 

I know how close we came that day, closer than I ever want to come again, to losing her. If I hadn't looked back when I did, if we hadn't been just that week talking about holding her breath under water, if... what if...


I started going to therapy to help my PTSD about two years ago. Under the layers of grief and anger, triggers and flashbacks, we discovered the heavy burden I've been carrying of feeling responsible for Owen's death. And how my anxiety and fear, my panic attacks all trace back to the intense feeling of responsibility I feel to keep my children safe and alive. 

What maybe you don't understand about PTSD is that you have no control over it, really. But you can learn ways to cope and live with it.
I think an easy way to explain what it can feel like is to think of the last time you were reminded- out of nowhere- of your most embarrassing moment from your childhood- one that still (maybe after 20 years) makes you physically cringe. You can vividly remember what you were wearing, where you were and random details around you. Your heart still may beat faster, and you still might blush or get really uncomfortable thinking about it. 

This is how it goes with PTSD. 

When I get a trigger that reminds me of when Owen died- a smell, a sound, or just a thought that randomly pops up- I get a physical reaction to it. I feel sick to my stomach and I'm thrown right back to the days surrounding his death and birth. I can't control it. My brain is wired to respond. "Are we still in danger?" "Are we going to face loss again?" "What can I do to prevent it?" 
And a myriad of questions and plans and obsessive thoughts follow.

I feel responsible... I have to figure out how to prevent it- the worst- from happening again.

My PTSD flares whenever it feels like it, honestly. Pregnancy and doctor's offices bring it out pretty badly. Sometimes I don't even know why I get triggered, but when it comes, I have to face it because the alternative is not healthy or safe. I'm so thankful that the Lord put my therapist in my life when He did, so that I can have all the tools I have to cope with it. 


After our accident at the pool a couple of weeks ago... more specifically, later that night as I was lying in bed NOT sleeping next to my precious girl, I had a few panic attacks and my PTSD was triggered terribly. I was devastated that I hadn't stopped her falling into the pool in the first place, and I was terrified/horrified/guilt ridden that I almost didn't see her until it was too late.

But then... but then I thought about how I did see her, I did get her out safely, she did hold her breath until I was able to grab her, and she has suffered no physical repercussions from her near drowning.... and then I thought... none of that was because of me.

I did it all wrong. I messed up big time. All of my planning and thinking and worrying and googling (I can tend to have a terrible google habit) did her no good when it came down to it.

We had a 14 hour day in the car a few weeks ago and ended up listening to a few Tim Keller sermons. One specifically Chris wanted me to hear because it talks about God's sovereignty and our responsibility. I think the tag line (if sermons have tag lines) was "because God is sovereign, we are responsible."
God orders everything to be in line with his plan, and He really is before all things and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1). Every decision we make is not out of God's hands, but a part of God's design. If we believe we're in control then we feel paralyzed- this is often where I fall. And on the other side, if we're not responsible, then we feel complacent because it doesn't matter what we do or don't do. Both reactions are not in line with how our great God works.
It was a much more eloquent sermon than I could ever explain here. This is the link if you want to listen.

And so, I'm thankful for the gentleness with which the Lord deals with me. It is not harshness that I feel from Him at all, though I certainly could warrant a great deal of it... especially when I live out my days feeling and thinking that I am in control and it is my responsibility- my burden- to think of everything, to worry about everything, to try to control everything so that life will go as I desire (i.e. my big one- I want my children to be healthy and safe. I know what it feels like to be separated from a child, and it is a paralyzing fear sometimes).

I will probably always err on the more hyper-vigilant side of things when I parent, but what I've been so thankful to see recently is the Lord's sweet care of us. And I'm thankful that the burden that I've been so weighed down by has lessened some.
He was watching Hannah Mae when she slipped off the steps of the pool.
And He was paying attention when Owen's movements had changed and he silently slipped into Heaven.
It was not my responsibility to know what I couldn't have known... to control and stop his death. No amount of worrying or obsessing or researching will change the number of days our loving Father has given us. This should not discourage us, but encourage us that we are safe with him. This is a much harder reality to face and deal with when you've experienced the death of a loved one and now live with the reality of the separation, but we can rest in our Father's arms.

This is something I know I will struggle with until Jesus makes all the sad things untrue, but I am thankful for the glimpses we get... for the sweetness of freedom we can experience, for the rest that is found in Jesus. 

My sweet girls had a fancy morning one day last week.

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