I’ve seen many articles and entries on how to deal with various forms of property, power and safety issues in a TEOTWAWKI situation, as well as the proper means of dealing with disease and the disposal of bodies. But I have seen precious little on the psychology of being the survivor of those losses. The horrible events in the Philippines have led me to address this.
Let me state here and now that I do not have the type of education that would make me “qualified” to address this. Just experience. I must also state that I have never lost “everything” in the conventional sense of the word; as most people equate that to a house, a car etc.
Over the course of my life though I grew up poor I had a home and on most nights, food. As an adult I have all of the “things” I feel are necessary for a decent lifestyle. But those things are just things, and transient by their nature. I didn’t know what true happiness was until I became a father. That was when I learned what was truly important. Life was good.
I had seven years of true happiness before I learned what it meant to lose “everything”. One month after his birthday, my only child (at the time) suddenly died. One minute he was fine, the next I was performing CPR and praying with all I had to pray with that The Almighty take me in exchange. My prayers went unanswered and my efforts failed. My seven-year-old child died in my arms.
My world ended that night. My life… My reason for being… Gone in an instant. My late night promises to him when he woke up afraid… that while I lived no harm would come to him, were broken. I failed in every sense of the word.
In the months to follow I found that food was irrelevant, physical pain had no effect on me, people could come and go through my home unnoticed. My wife, my wonderful and patient wife, could do nothing to break me out of my self-imposed prison. A jail to which I was sentenced by the judge and jury in my soul where I was guilty of killing my son by way of failing to save him.
Then the drinking began.
Every time I closed my eyes I saw the change in his pupils at the moment where life left his body. I still see it sometimes. But at the time I wasn’t as strong as I am now, and so I turned to the vice of so many before me. I found sleep in a bottle and comfort in a glass. I never saw that I was in danger of losing my wife and friends.
My will to live was non-existent. Many times, during heavy storms I would take off my seatbelt and drive at high speeds along the freeway. Once I was in a grocery store that was being robbed and I tried everything I could to provoke the gunman so he might shoot me. He thought I was insane and fled. I look back and think of how many people I could have harmed through my selfishness and pray for forgiveness.
But that is what losing “everything” can do to a person. I was ill equipped to handle that kind of loss. Truth be told I don’t know that I can survive it again, heaven forbid. But the looming specter of such an event is always at my back. Prompting me to be in a constant state of alertness regarding my family. It’s the kind of pressure that will break a weaker man, as it had done to me.
I lived in a state of mere existence for a couple of years. Waking up with a headache and the ever-present physical sensation of hopelessness. Not caring enough to iron my clothes or even bathe most days, I’d go through the motions of living for eight hours plus commute, and then I’d return to my living death. It wasn’t until I tried to end my life that I was re-awakened. I won’t bore you with the details.
My return to humanity was difficult. I had developed the mentality of a prisoner in a death camp. I had accepted my defeat and done nothing to maintain my humanity. I had lost my pride, my will and my hope. I had even come to embrace my prison since it was a known and predictable situation. I assure you that until you have experienced a defeat of the soul, that you have not truly experienced defeat.
How did I snap back? What did I do that reversed my course?
Well… I must admit that Divine Intervention was likely the major reason. I couldn’t have gotten through those early years unscathed without the Lord’s hand. It was my wife that led me to that realization. She also led me back to the Lord, and to my salvation, in more ways than one.
I have learned a few things on my journey. I have learned that first and foremost, God is great. That statement confuses many people. They ask me, “How can you believe in God after your son died like that?” to which I reply “God didn’t kill my son, his illness did.”
I have also learned that you need to be open to healing. My pastor said just this past Sunday: “You know all of those people sitting in Church, trying to get a tan from the Light of The Lord? Well, God isn’t in church with them. He’s over there, in the darkness, trying help… because that’s where God does his best work…”
“In the blackest darkness, where even the smallest light can shine like a beacon… the light of the lord must be truly piercing. We just have to learn that when we’re down and in the fetal position with our arms wrapped around our head, and life is kicking the heck out of us… that we have to unclench our eyes and get up. We can’t see the light if we’re closed off in duck and cover mode.”
That last part is the message, I think. Get up and look into the eyes of your loss. Don’t let it throw you down and kick you into oblivion. People are depending on you. Even if they’re not nearby you will be needed. Have the tools at hand to fight the darkness off. I don’t know what tool I could have had to help me fight off my hopelessness at that time, but I know that there is little that can shake me now.
When I feel weak I whittle, I read, I do push-ups, I cook and to my wife’s severe dismay I even sing. All the while I take the problem before me and mentally spin it around so I can see it from many angles. I never, ever just “do something”. I’ve learned that sometimes doing nothing is the best thing to be done. Answers may become apparent as a situation plays out. Just be ready to provide solutions by maintain a variety of skills.
Mostly though, I learned to fight back. I think that applies in a very practical sense to the preparedness mentality. Not fighting in the physical life-or-death combat sense, but in combat of the spirit and soul. I started a non-profit to raise money for research into my son’s illness. I never feel as happy as when I am handing a check to the research team. It’s my way of saying to the murderer behind the microscope “I’m coming for you!”
I don’t know what, if anything, you may take from this. I felt compelled to write this because the loss of life in the Philippines has struck a chord in my heart. I remember all too well how some of those people are feeling. I understand hopelessness. But I look back at my path and I see a direct line to where I now stand, and in so seeing I urge you:
Never give up.
The greater defeat is in the surrender, not in the loss. I learned that the hard way.
Be vigilant, my friends.
Oh… I almost forgot: If you say the Lord’s Prayer, keep in mind that when you say, “Thy will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven.” You had better mean it. He’s taking you at your word.