June 16, 2016
Dear Orlando Survivors
I know what it's like to be part of a national tragedy, and to feel like you're not what people are talking about. Survivors don't grieve like a normal person. I'm heartbroken over this senseless fucking tragedy, and I'm horrified that 49 people were shot and killed, but my grief is with the survivors. I know what they're about to face. I know there is going to be a song, or a cell phone ring, they can never hear again, a smell they can never smell again, and that they will never be able to drive past Pulse and not feel a surge of adrenaline, if they can even drive past it at all.
Years from now, there will be another national tragedy, and they'll use yours as a benchmark. The part of your brain that's broken will think you're in danger and will flood your body with fear. You won't recognize it and will wonder why you can't stop crying and why your reaction is so different than everyone else's. Your husband will ask you to call your therapist. Your therapist will ask you to check in with her every day, and to get acupuncture or a massage to release the fear your body is holding.
There is no support club for us. There's no club for people who didn't die in a national tragedy, but were there, saw it, heard it, and smelled it. There's no monthly meeting where we can meet other people like us and then go grab coffee. It is a lonely place.
Dear Orlando Survivors,
I am so sorry for what you saw. Your experience matters, even if no one is giving you space to know that. You'll feel guilty for grieving. Don't. You'll feel guilty for being alive. Don't. You'll feel like you don't deserve your grief. You do.
Surround yourself with people who have earned the right to hear your story and are capable of the compassion and empathy you'll need. Find a professional to help you with the heavy lifting. Know that you matter. Your story matters.
I'm sorry you were forced into this club. So was I. Lonely as you may feel, you are not alone. We don't speak up often, but we're here, and we're holding you up from afar.
Please make a donation if you can:
Pulse Victims Fund
P.S. More about my experience with trauma and PTSD.
P.P.S. How to cope.