The extent of my experience with tragedy is slim to none. I have had a deep sadness for others in my life who have been through it, but it has been unchartered waters for me. And honestly, I didn’t think this experience would lend itself to anything different. But in the days following the attacks, a wide spectrum of emotion has taken residence in my heart, throwing me completely off balance.
I arrived home from Paris at 11:45pm on Saturday. My husband and I spoke briefly about what had happened, but I was exhausted and went to bed after about 20 minutes. The next day I could not talk about everything because my children were around. Instead, the feelings swarmed inside my mind and heart. I just kept replaying the events of the weekend over and over again, everything still fresh and within reach. That evening someone posted an insensitive comment on Facebook, and it completely threw me over the edge. I broke down in the middle of the kitchen with my husband standing there making pizza. He brought my wildness down to a logical place (he does this quite well), but told me that it was okay–and necessary–to feel. The next four days were a big smudge of time. I tried to sort out the feelings I was having, but so many were unexpected, and I wasn’t really sure how to handle it all.
I felt angry because people seemed to just go on living their day-to-day lives without a second thought, even though I would’ve been doing the same thing had I not been in that situation. I didn’t care about what people were posting on Facebook. I didn’t care about what anyone was saying. It all didn’t mean anything because people had just been blown up and shot for no reason. People were in pain. Lives were shattered, and people were mad about profile pictures.
I felt hatred. I am still grappling with this. I remember coming back to the apartment Friday night, all of us overwhelmed and hyperemotional and collapsing on the floor and sobbing, while yelling out how much I hate these people (terrorists…I feel I should clarify). I hate them because they have caused so much pain. The things they do to people is so barbaric, that I don’t really think the people in the west truly have a grip on it because the acts are just so unimaginable. As if mass shootings and blowing themselves up is not enough, try repeatedly raping very young girls and boys, purposefully dunking children in boiling water, burning people alive…the list goes on and on. I hate them because of how they have put my husband and friends in danger. I hate them because they take away life just to take it away, without a second glance. But I am not alone; even my God hates this kind of evil:
“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” Psalm 6:16-19
But my father told me something that really stuck with me. He said, “the danger lies in loving the hate”, and I can see now just how easy it is to do that. I am trying to tame this wild to a point where I can handle it, but I am not yet there.
I felt scared. I remember how vulnerable all of us felt that night and into the next day. We just wanted to get out and there was only so far we could go. I remember the terrifying feeling of not knowing where things were going on or what exactly was happening. I remember going from total happiness to total fear in about two seconds. That I will never forget.
I felt anxious. For about four days I was on edge. I felt jittery, like I had drunk too many cups of coffee. I heard European police sirens in my head when I tried to go to sleep. Even seeing their bright blue lights flashing at night scares the shit out of me still. What has really surprised me, is even the ping of getting a text makes my heart skip because that night I just kept hearing that over and over again and every time it was more bad news.
I felt grief even though I did not know the victims. I remember my friends and I saying to each other that we felt we had lost a friend. But how was that possible? It still does not make sense to me.
I felt guilt because who am I to feel grief when I did not see anyone die or hear any gunshots or explosions? And how could I ever talk to my husband about grief when he has seen and felt so much worse than this? I felt that I did not deserve to feel that kind of grief, so I didn’t talk about it. And why had we been spared? All of these people are hurting and in pain because their family members were so tragically and senselessly killed and I am sitting here telling about it. My mind keeps going back to the fact that during all of these horrendous acts, my friends and I were sitting at a table laughing and drinking wine, totally oblivious. That is not our fault and it makes no sense, I know, but knowing what I know, it is devastating. I can’t tell you how many time I’ve gone back and timed out the events and where we were when they occurred. Out of everything, the guilt has surprised me the most.
I felt shame. The night everything happened I had had a very strong drink. I had never had one like it before and it hit me hard. So hard that my friends were trying to keep info from me so I didn’t completely lose it in the bar. Looking back I feel ashamed that they had to do that. I should’ve been in my right mind and able to help. And I know for a fact that having that drink made my emotions so much worse that night.
I felt love. I had 52 messages waiting for me when we got back to our apartment that Friday night. As soon as I opened Facebook I began crying. I didn’t respond to them all, but I noticed every single one. And the bond I felt with my friends…we will never be the same. The love in that tiny apartment is what we clung to that night. There is a reason God says love conquers all. It is stronger than hate, more powerful than evil. And it is amazing to me how, in the midst of all of the other feelings, love was still very much present.
The following four nights after returning home I stayed up until after midnight, unable to tear myself from the news. I had an obsession with everything that had happened. I watched every video, saw every picture. I was seeking out news, which did not help. My friends and I had and still have a constant message going between the five of us so we can talk about what happened. In the beginning we just kept posting news stories to each other. It got so bad that my husband finally told me that I needed to stop because it was making me all wild again. I wasn’t eating well because I just didn’t care. All I wanted to do was sit in my chair and curl up with everything that had happened. It was almost like I was desperately holding onto everything, like if I let go I would instantly forget it all.
It’s taken me a week to grapple with all of this, but I feel like I have now unwrapped myself from it and am in control. I cleaned the house yesterday and actually made dinner. I have gone out with people and even drew some. A peace has calmed the wild in me. The kind that passes all human understanding…the kind that only God himself can provide.