Up to now, the only ‘flashbacks’ I have experienced have been mainly based on the sphincter-clenching transgressions of youth; you know, being ushered off stage at a gig in the Student Union after drunkenly taking over the mike, or shouting ‘Eee, hiya Rodney!’ at Nicolas Lyndhurst as he came out of Pimlico Tube station during his serious acting phase.
This weekend, I experienced a flashback of the moment – the very moment – my husband died, and unlike a mere ‘memory’ of it, the flashback transported me to the bed in Mother’s house where He lay before me and I sat looking at Him wearing nothing but a cold shroud of disbelief.
The flashback accosted me on a single track country road in Shropshire of all places, where seconds earlier my only thoughts had been how glorious the weather was in this hitherto undiscovered county. Ergo, it had no place nor reason to suddenly confront me in the way it did. But it did, all the same.
I reacted the way I suppose most people who become reacquainted with a moment of extreme trauma do; by hyper-ventilating and threatening to be sick all over Shropshire’s ancient hedgerows.
Later, equilibrium restored, wine glass in hand, I found myself secretly frightened by the flashback. Unlike Rodney’s exit from the Tube, this was a genuine revival of the worst moment of my life, and it had the power to mentally and physically eviscerate me. And scarier still, it had come from nowhere.
Fortunately I had been in the company of a friend when it happened, but what if I had been alone, or worse, with my daughter?
Suddenly those transgressions of youth don’t seem so bad after all.
14 thoughts on “Sphincter-clenching transgressions of youth”
Oh, Lucie – how I feel for you. What a terrible moment to relive – thank god you were with someone.
I haven’t had the same experience (it has “only” been four months (actually today) that my husband died). However, for a very long time (and I still get it) whenever I thought of him, I would not see what he looked like for the 15 years we were together before he got sick, but the image of him when he died (as I was in the room with him when it happened, he passed away in his sleep). After a 13 month battle with a very aggressive type of stomach cancer, he was just skin and bones, and looked much older than his 40 years.
I guess from your experience, one can never tell when these moments will happen…Despite being in that “widow club” that noone really wants to be in, it is still good to be able to share and hear how others are feeling…
sending lots of positive thinking and energy your way…
Hi Trine and thanks for the supportive comment. That’s one of the bastards about this whole aftermath thing – you never know what’s going to hit you next. Must be dreadful to have the lasting image of your beloved as you describe, despite the years which preceded it. Widows club sucks. But I’m glad you’re all there…x
Oh Lucie, what a horrible thing to have happen. So glad you weren’t alone. I hate the unpredictability of this grief process. – the not knowing when something will hit you is the worst. It’s bad enough having to deal with it in the first place without the twists and turns of this damn grief roller coaster catching us unawares. Thinking of you my friend and sending much love xxx
Bleurrghh! Spot on Fi. Thank you my friend, as ever. X
Although I haven’t lived with it as long, I think I can relate. It’s an awful feeling to be hit with that image out of nowhere. Although I try to feel glad that Andrew’s last hours were spent surrounded by family and so much love, the fact remains that he didn’t look like himself at the end, and it hurts to remember him that way.
When Andrew died, he was suffering from a rare complication that left him in bad shape. Much of his skin had blistered, and although I won’t share the details, he did not look like the handsome, smiling man I had shared eight years of my life with. And he looked like he was in so much pain.
As I held his hand and kissed his face in those last moments, all I could think was that this was not how I wanted to remember him. It’s so awful to think that after spending years making wonderful, happy memories together, the one with the most power is the last one.
So far, when I think of him and talk to him (yes, like a crazy person I have started talking to him when I’m driving), I picture him as he was when he was healthy. But I am still often hit with the memory of those last moments, and it takes the wind out of me, and twists in my stomach. You’re so right that the power of it is scary.
I hope that these types of moments get fewer and fewer for you (and for all of us), and I am sending you much love and support across the interwebs tonight.
Your line about spending years building memories with a person, only to have them all top-trumped by the last, gut-wrenching one really resonated with me. That last one wields all the power, deciding when and where it is going to strike. I’m not sure how to take the power from it though. And I don’t think you’re crazy for talking to him whilst driving BTW. Seems perfectly normal to me. Much love to you over the airwaves too. X
I don’t know why I look for the answers to any of my questions other than on your blog. So sorry to hear about your flashback Lucie. I was just saying to my daughter yesterday. I sometimes am just getting on with trying to live my life not even thinkin of him although subconsciously I must be, when suddenly wham a vision of him pops into my head usually the one of the night he died which was horrific but sometimes it’s others, always when he was poorly. I’d just love a vision of happier times so my day isn’t spiralled into turmoil and grief. Upon reading other comments it’s perfectly normal for this to happen. Unfortunately we never can prepare ourselves for this as they are too random. Sending strength to all our widows. We are not alone. Keep talking and sharing xx
I think the instinct is to protect ourselves from these heinous images and emotions, therefore we do, as you say, try to get on and live life, pushing thoughts of our beloved ones away. But hell, when they get through they have the power to totally knock us off course. Good to know we’re in this together. Talk, share, as you say. X
Oh wow Lucie, I know exactly what you mean – I was walking to the bus stop yesterday morning, and suddenly the event of N’s death hit me – stopped me in my tracks and had me doubled over in floods of tears… I have no idea where it came from as I was walking & thinking about the journey to work and not him at that moment. Why oh Why does our minds play such awful tricks on us. I have to say it set me up for the most horrendous mood for what was to be come an awful day at work.
Web hugs coming your way
Sorry you had such an awful day Donna. That’s interesting what you say, as that has happened to me a lot: the reality of the death, I mean, THE REALITY, sometimes just hits you – not just an image, but a truth. I would agree, it stops you literally in your tracks. Urgh. Web hugs back at you love. x
Yes, been there too. You would think our minds would be on our side wouldn’t you, that they would help us out with some nice, calming images not the heart stopping memories. Yet I find that if my mind does allow me a sweet memory, it scares me, frightens me and churns my gut and heart. Funny how we carry on and then it hits out of the blue. I also was deep in concentration on my day at work today, then WHAM out of nowhere I got a vision in my mind, then remembered there would be no ‘where are you??’ text and no-one waiting back home. It sucks it really does. Jane x
Yes, yes, yes, the sweet memories do have the power to do that don’t they, scare and cause guts to churn, I totally get this. Almost like the moment before you’re due to go on stage or give apresentation, nervousness almost, butterflies. What the fuck is all that about? XX
oh, Lucie, I am so sorry for what you endured – so glad you were not alone – but still, you suffered being sucker-punched and right out of the blue. I just cannot understand why awful images of those we loved and lost suddenly appear. WTF is the point? it’s so unfair that I sometimes feel I am losing the memory of the sound of Hugh’s voice, his touch, the beautiful blue of his eyes; shouldn’t we be able to hang onto those things with comfort and ease instead of having flash backs to when I found him in our bed – dead, gone forever? how ironic and cruel that the desperate need to see and remember our love’s faces in all their glory is sometimes so hard to conjure up in our mind, but how the memories we so long to put away pop up, unbidden and so vivid and frightening and horrifying and traumatizing. I am so grateful that you wrote about this – at least I know it happens to you and others and we can comfort one another and know we are not alone.
much love and light to you, dear Lucie
Losing the memories is a big fear of mine too Karen. Sometimes one lurches into my head and I think, oh yeah! Where have you been?! I too am grateful not to be alone. Love to you lovely Karen. x