It Doesn’t Get Better, It Gets Different

I woke up on the morning of Tuesday, April 16th out of a deep sleep thinking, “you weren’t there, you don’t know what it was like”.

I pondered that for a moment and realized the thoughts were triggered by the Boston Marathon bombings; specifically the death of eight year old Martin Richard.  And I realized I was talking to my oldest brother, not that he was in the room.

My youngest brother, Howard was killed when he was nine and I was eleven.  It was a long time ago.

My oldest brother is twelve years older and away at university at the time of Howard’s death.  He had a different experience as he didn’t live in the aftermath at home.

My parents disappeared after Howard’s death.  They were physically present but they checked out for awhile.  I don’t blame them.  We had only recently moved to the town where Howard was killed and there were no supports there for any of us.

They managed to get back to some semblance of a life after about nine months but it had been a very difficult time and continued to be so.  We moved back to our old town and things started to change.

But it didn’t get better.  Time helps shift and refract situations but it doesn’t heal them.  I so dislike the word “heal” as applied to a violent event.  I can’t say it enough times, there is no healing.

The actor, Paul Newman said it best when asked about the death of his son, Scott. “It doesn’t get better, it gets different.”

When I heard Mr. Newman say that I thought, “someone finally understands”.  It was such a relief that someone else knew that the pain and anguish didn’t go away but are secreted in a part of your brain and heart, and rise unbidden at unexpected times.  It is an uncomfortable truth.

For those of you who haven’t lived through one of these excruciating events I understand that you think it is tidied up by a certain point and is “healed”.  Isn’t “healed” on the schedule somewhere?

As someone who has lived through one of these events I will state unequivocally that it isn’t, it doesn’t and it won’t.

There will be those among you who will wonder when the all families will be “over it”.  Please don’t ask that question you will just add to the pain.  Support them, love them, listen — though you’ve heard it a thousand times before, urge them to seek help from a therapist.

My condolences to the Richard family for all of their losses, to the friends and family of Sean Collier, Lu Lingzi, Krystal Campbell, and to everyone else who is affected by the bombings and who is now dwelling in the aftermath.