Today, I was invited to a group on Facebook that had someone’s name in the title in such a way that it made my heart drop. Before I realized what it was (nothing bad, something lovely, actually) my heart dropped and I stopped breathing for a second. Please, no. No, don’t let this be another memorial page for someone I know and care about who was suddenly dead. That’s what I immediately thought. Dead. Someone’s dead. Someone else is dead, oh no, no, please not again.
This summer I lost people. I lost far too many people. One minute they were there, and the next they were gone. I cried too many tears, screamed into too many pillows, cursed and threw things and finally went numb. But when that FB notification popped up, everything came flooding back. Not. Again.
That jolt of terror is the same one that I get when the news breaks into regular programming or if I see a plane flying too low. It’s the same jolt I feel when a door slams or a car backfires. It’s classic PTSD, of course, but in the age of 24 hour media, when “RIP” suddenly pops up on your newsfeed without warning, or “This is a CBS Special Report” interrupts Judge Judy, even if it’s something as dumb as the stock market closing low, I feel like I’m going to throw up. This is the age we live in, and this is how we get our news. In 140 characters on Twitter. In a status update. In a special 24 hour news channel “this just in.” It’s instantaneous. Gone are the gentle phone call chains where the person on the other line tells you to sit down before they tell you what happened.
I was on the phone last night with a dear friend who lost a loved one this summer. When it happened, I told him that his stoic exterior would crack sometimes, and it would come out of nowhere. He told me that a song made him crack that day. And that was so normal, I told him. There was nothing wrong with that. And it wouldn’t be the last time that happened. And that it was okay.
I cracked too, when that FB message came up. I gathered myself very quickly, and again, it wasn’t a bad thing, not in the slightest, but after this summer, I’ve kept my loved ones closer than ever. I can’t tell you how many times a day I ask Holden if he’s okay. Because I need to know. How are you? How are you feeling? Do you have any pain? How are you mentally? Do you need any support? Are you okay?
Are you still alive?
That’s the big one. If I don’t see someone for a while that I’m used to seeing on social media, I hunt them down. I send search parties. I tell people they can always call me, always count on me, they can text me at 3 AM, just promise me you’ll stay alive. I’ll do anything if you just stay alive.
I was talking about this in group therapy a while ago and the moderator said “You must think you’re awfully all-powerful if you think you can keep everyone okay and alive all by yourself, huh? Who appointed you God?”
“I’m an atheist” I mumbled, my face growing hot with embarrassment. But I heard what she meant. I can’t keep people alive any more than anyone can keep me alive. That’s up to us. But damned if I’m going to sit by when someone seems to be in trouble and just let them go.
But that’s the kicker about death, eh? It happens, BLAM. And there’s nothing we can do about it once it happens. But in this age of 24/7 social media, we CAN do something while our loved ones are still here. We CAN reach out when we are able.
HOWEVER. We NEED to take care of ourselves first. You can’t run a car on two dead batteries, my friends. You know how you’re told to put your mask on first and then help the person next to you on the airplane if the cabin loses pressure? Apply that to your emotions too. You’ll just pass out from lack of oxygen if you don’t.
Hold on to each other.
Hold on to yourself.
I love you all.
And I ain’t goin’ anywhere.