• author
    • Jesse Loren

      Columnist
    • May 13, 2015 in Columnists

    For me, loss is like gunshot to a veteran

    I watched West Wing, Season 2, Episode 10, on Netflix where Josh Lyman blows up at everyone because he relives the trauma of being shot. The trigger was the brass quintet that he “heard” as sirens. He even freaked out during the cello solo of Yo-Yo Ma.

    Art was imitating life here. It was so true to form, I nearly wept when he was angry and yelling at people and knew, deep inside, that when he went on yelling, that I had done that too.

    I admit my judgment has been off.

    Climbing unsafe ladders and reaching through electrical lines was obviously the precursor to judgment impairment. Then it turned inward.

    First, it started with a nasty migraine on one side of my head, then trouble thinking. At least that’s when I thought it started. I spent the morning flying off the cuff at my daughter for asking me the same question twice. I napped and didn’t want to get out of bed. My head continued to ache like something bad was happening inside.

    It was the day after Mother’s Day — a day that is full of emotion and love for family, while also being a sharp stick poked into the new wound of mother loss.

    We were unusually close. We had decades of Mother’s Days together.

    When my best bee-friend came over to see the weak hive I had risked my life to save, he reminded me that sometimes you can’t save them. You don’t know what traumas they’ve already experienced. You don’t know if they’ve been poisoned, sprayed, or have been split off from a larger bee ball. He reminded me… you have to look at the tiny fist of bees and know that the numbers are too small to even save. Even in early May, they are hard to save…

    There isn’t an ER unit yet for “premie” swarms. Not even close.

    Only days before, I climbed a 20-foot ladder to save a softball sized lump of bees that had likely been sprayed with pesticide… it was ridiculous to try, but I did.

    You have to wonder what deep loss a person has suffered when they must save everything. Save that little life. Save that tiny, translucent, hand… save, that tiny, closed fist of bees.

    Inside of me, a triage nurse cannot accept the loss of life.

    And there was Josh Lyman trying to un-explain why he yelled at the president. Why he relived his own trauma listening to the live performance of Yo-Yo Ma. And then there was me yelling and sobbing…

    I have known my bee friend since my youngest child was a year old. She is 20. I came unraveled. I couldn’t form a sentence. I couldn’t act to do the right thing when faced with a tiny swarm. He observed it all.

    He calmly said, “Call your doctor, this isn’t you.”

    And I did.

    Funny, but it seems that sort of floating out of your body and ranting helplessly is something people don’t know how to react to. But he is a beekeeper. Beekeepers, like surgeons of the heart, have to be tuned in and level. They must be patient. He stepped away for a moment then parsed no words.

    “This isn’t you. You need a doctor’s appointment. Your personal affect is way off.”

    Nobody told Josh Lyman his affective domain was off; they just called a trauma specialist. He had been shot, along with the president, and somehow survived his grave injuries. He stuffed his trauma down, deep down, and didn’t look at it again.

    When my doctor saw me today, he asked me about my migraine triggers. I evaded him as easily as a martial artist does a punch. But when I watched Lyman, I got it. Mother’s Day — no longer having my mom. All the dead bees from a sick swarm and a queen bee whose crew was all dead outside the box. These were triggers. Loss to me is like gunshot to a war veteran.

    For me, it was the guilt of going out of town for a writing conference… of all the fucking things to call me away.

    It was mom and her massive stroke in our bathtub.

    It was the MRI photograph of the massive bleed that continued in the ER.

    I couldn’t stop the brain bleed anymore than I could stop the bees from dying.

    In the end, Josh Lyman wanted help. He had to get his hand looked at after punching it through his window. Proudly, I have done no self-harm.

    My doctor kept asking me if anything precipitated the event of the migraine and the emotion. I didn’t know yet. But then I watched Josh Lyman and I get it now.

    You can be a caregiver and do everything right, and yet still need help accepting loss. It takes time. Apparently sometimes it takes time and television.



    • I know what you mean about loss. It can reopen old wounds and make new ones bleed all over again. When my dad died, I couldn’t bear to bring an unwanted bunny back to the person who gave it to my daughter. I started crying and took it back home. When the bunny died, on the same date my mother and, years later, my grandmother died – I came emotionally unglued… all the scars ripped off.
      Grieving, and recovering, is an ebb and flow… but over time you discover, there is more ebb than flow.



    • I remember the death or your dad and the death of your bunny. I remember that it was more than the loss of the bunny. I remember that the whole grieving ball of wax ignited. It was really sad. It happened like that for me with the bees. And I have this horrible migraine thing with it. I’d like some ebb right now.



    • I know this well as my Mom died just a year ago before last Mother’s Day. My mom and I had a very strained relationship for a lot of my life but the loss is still great. What made me feel the most was that I am the matriarch in my family now. It saddens me in that there is no one left older than I am in my family. I think it was wonderful for you to be so close to your Mom. You are one of the lucky ones.


      • Maya Spier Stiles North

      • May 13, 2015 at 7:38 pm
      • Reply

      Grief is cumulative. With each new loss, I grieve all the old ones all over again. The first one,, my brother, was a hammer blow, but then came the miscarriage. Then my mother 5 years later and my friend’s suicide 3 weeks later — added to the first two. Right now I’m dealing with 8 deaths in 6 months and I’m grieving for every freaking one of them, plus I’m grieving for the little girl who had a father out there who would have loved her dearly and instead was growing up with people who hurt her. And yes, I have PTSD — 40 years of it. It feels like a tornado of anguish. It feels like something I’m desperate to fix, that I’m going crazy trying to fix — but there’s no way to, and now I’m sinking in a mire of grasping agony that wants to drag me down and down and down. What I need to do is go somewhere and do the epic crying I need to and then feel the deep silence that leaves behind — but life grinds on regardless.

      We can’t know when things will happen. There was no way you knew your wonderful mama was going to suffer that massive stroke. It was pure gawdawful luck that it happened exactly then. Don’t for a moment think that she felt abandoned, or that she ever doubted that you love(d) her. We want our kids to go forth and have adventures — no way she blamed you for doing what was good for you. You gave her so much unconditional if occasionally exasperated love — she absolutely knew it.

      I keep being drawn back to that glorious photograph of your glorious mama crawling down the hall, grinning like a loon, after an uproariously giggling Franky. Your mom knew joy. I’m willing to bet she slid into the light with a hearty YEEEEEEEEEEEEEhaw, loving you with everything she was to her last breath…



    • Thank you. I think something weird happened with some wires in my head. I was dealing just find I thought. Then somehow this pile of dead bees freaked me out and I just couldn’t think my way through the easy steps of what to do with a small, but strong willed swarm. All the life/death stuff coalesced into a big “loss-curdle” and that threw me off my joy, love, center, self, everything. The loss curdle turned into a heavy weight, and I just sank into helpless sadness. It’s been sitting on my chest for a few days now, but this morning I feel a little lighter. I know there is no magical thinking connection I have to fix a stroke, but the feeling of helplessness associated with that still freaks me out.



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