Life can change instantaneously, and the ripples created can spread as far as the eye can see. One second I have a car and a dog, and the next I have neither. That day was terrifying, excruciating, and life-changing, and recovery over the last 10 months has been difficult. But I have recovered.
Shortly after the accident I knew I had to do something, so I took some important steps that have helped me immensely over the long term; maybe you or someone you know has experienced something similar and this will help you figure out where to start.
- I went to counselling. I cannot stress enough the advantages of talking to an objective third party in all of this. I quickly realized after the accident was that no one around me could possibly understand the feelings I was experiencing, so while some tried their best to be supportive, I still felt incredibly isolated. Talking to a stranger allowed me to get straightforward and honest opinions and advice, uncoloured by preconceived notions.
- I kept driving. Within weeks of the accident, I had to drive to another city for work, so I basically didn’t have a choice. That was a hard day, but I was more worried that if I stopped driving, I would make a mountain out of a mole hill that could be insurmountable later. Now, I’ve changed some of my driving habits so that I feel more confident, and I remind myself what’s at stake every time I drive. I am considering taking a refresher driving course as well.
- I went to physiotherapy. I decided to go originally not because I thought I needed it, but because I was told that my insurance would pay for it. I wasn’t hurt much other than some stiffness and bruises, after all, and at the time I was eager to pretend it never happened. But the people there warned me that some symptoms don’t even show up in the first couple weeks after, due to the body still being in shock. Learning information like that, along with some exercises to help my body heal were both good reasons to go, regardless of cost.
- We buried Jade’s ashes. I’ve only ever been to one funeral where I had to watch as the casket was lowered into the ground, and that experience still haunts me. By the end of last summer though I worked up the courage to lay her ashes to rest, and one weekend we went out to my in-laws’ farm and we found a bright sun-lit spot encircled by tall trees on the edge of their property. We dug a hole, put her ashes at the bottom, and planted a tree on top. The process was incredibly therapeutic and lovely.
- We sorted Jade’s things. After the accident we put all of her toys away and hid her bed and food in the spare bedroom. Neither of us wanted to deal with any of it at the time. Then a few months ago we finally pitched the old food (because ew) and threw out all of her ratty toys. We kept her bed, kennel, and her good toys for the benefit of future pooches in our lives.
- I made a memorial. In the days immediately following, with all of the emotional turmoil, I desperately needed to focus my energy into something slightly mindless, so I turned to cross stitching and Gilmore Girls. I decided to make something in Jade’s honour, and frame it with a few photos. The process took me a while to complete because I got hung up on making it “perfect,” but I finally completed a letter “J” with some flowers around it a couple weeks ago, and together with some photos, hung it on our wall.
- I forgave myself. One of the things the counsellor talked about was the fact that we cannot change the past, and thus we need to learn from our experiences as a way to move on from these sorts of life-changing events. She said that if we are convinced that we have taken the necessary steps to heal and grow, then we’ll be able to shut down any future feelings of guilt. Guilt is a problematic emotion for me, but this wisdom helped me logically work through the healing processes above. I still regret what happened, but I now forgive myself for my role in those events.
Life can change instantaneously, and not always for the better. But we have to strive to find the good, no matter how small, because that is how we heal, we better ourselves, and we move on from the pain. I am alive, I am healthy, and I got to be Jade’s human for a time. I am lucky, indeed.