In the immediate aftermath of a big event (or even a small one), we seldom have the time, energy or presence of mind to record our memories. Generally, we somehow get around to documenting the event itself, but we forget about telling the story of the aftermath. However, when you revisit the moments and days after something happened, poignant memory stories can result.
The Aftermath of Birth
For me these moments are like the old filmstrips—badly spliced and played on a jerky projector. Nevertheless, they are precious. I remember looking down at my son, marveling that the universe had allowed me to join the ranks of parents. The fear of messing it up. The fear of someone else messing it up. Rushes of love like I’d never known. Of course, there was also the absolute exhaustion and the closeness I felt with my husband.
Do you have memories like these? Do you remember who visited and who helped you out? Do you remember what you found difficult (besides sleeping)? Were you on leave from work? How did that affect your perspective of your time with the baby? What role did other siblings play in this aftermath? Were they helpful? Inquisitive? Jealous? Out of sorts?
The Aftermath of other Good News
Often after we get good news, we float on air. Days after an engagement, before Facebook, phone lines would be buzzing. Was there a time like this in your life? Who was the person you told first? How did they react?
In our younger days, it didn’t take much to make us float. Getting a phone call from “that boy,” acing a test, or scoring a touchdown would do it. Can you remember such joyful moments? How did it feel? Did you bask in the glory or take it all in stride.
The Aftermath of Traumatic Event or Tragedy
It’s hard to describe shock and numbness, but writing about tragedy can be healing. How did you cope? On whom did you lean? What gave you strength?
Particularly after traumatic events, so therapists believe that it is important to keep “telling your story.” (See Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing.)Repeating what happened somehow helps us accept the “new normal.” We also often have symptoms that we would have never expected of ourselves.
Until it happens to you, or to someone you love, it’s hard to grasp how terrifying even a small trauma can be. A friend of mine once intervened in a mugging and was beaten up for his trouble. The depth of the anger, fear, and victimization he felt caught him completely unaware. The intellectual part of his mind kept telling him to “get a grip,” but attempts to suppress his feelings left him panic attacks.
I hope you don’t have a story like this, but if you do, writing about it can give your readers (loved ones) great insight. It can help them understand what it might have been like to walk in your shoes.
Aftermath of Injury or Surgery
This comes to mind as my leg is in a huge cast resulting from the repair of a torn tendon. Fortunately this injury came on slowly. In previous soccer injuries, my teammates delivered me into the arms of my bewildered husband, leaving him to cope with a woman who couldn’t walk. In the immediate aftermath of a sudden injury, in addition to the pain, there’s the frustration and the infinite wondering of “how long?”
Surgery often goes hand-in-hand with getting a prognosis. In addition to the grogginess, pain, and bandages, there’s either relief or realization. The first days and hours are often blurred by meds, but perhaps you can remember who comforted you or celebrated with you. Did you have help at home? Did you have good resources to rely on?
Share your story of what happened right after something happened. How did the dust settle?
© Laura Hedgecock 2013