When tragedies happen, people always say “nothing can prepare you for this”.  I don’t think they mean the actual tragic occurance however.  After all, there are fire drills, and earthquake drills, and books and courses on emergency preparedness.  So really, there doesn’t seem to be a lack of trying to prepare for every possible horror anyway.  I’m fairly certain I’ve even heard about books that will prepare you to handle a zombie attack.  So, can we honestly say, in the face of some traumatic event that “nothing” can prepare us for it?  No.  But I think I’ve figured out what people are truly saying in that phrase.  It’s not that we aren’t prepared, practically speaking.  It’s that we aren’t prepared emotionally.  Of course, dealing with the reality of a trauma, even one that you may have practiced for a dozen times, like say, a fire, is bound to be far far worse than any amount of planning  could have anticipated.  So while you may manage to escape the fire because you spent years rehearsing your exit route, you couldn’t possibly practice an exit from the emotional aftermath.

What about the smaller, quieter, more personal traumas though?  These you can’t  rehearse ahead of time, because you can’t even conceive of their possibility.  Loss.  Lonliness.  Depression.  No one anticipates these things occuring.  These are the fires and destruction that occur within.  Sure, there are books that can help you deal with it after the fact.  And at a certain point you may even see these things coming, so you might try to head them off somehow.  But when they hit you, it’s always far worse than you can imagine. 

My marriage is in trouble.  I could go buy every book in the self-help section, but my emotions have already overwhelmed me.  I feel hopelessly lost.  The person I wish to lean on most is turning a deaf ear.  I could scream (and I have) but that only gives me a sore throat.  There is neither death nor destruction around me.  Buildings have not crumbled.  Smoke is not rising (only figuratively).  I certainly cannot compare my pain to that of anyone experiencing the heart-wrenching tragedies of shared loss, like those poor souls in Japan.    I pray I never have to know what that sort of pain feels like.   Nevertheless, I’m suffering.  My marriage is my life’s anchor.  I won’t insert some lame Titanic methaphor here, but forgive me when I say, I have been watching a sinking ship for several months  now and I’m terrified. 

Nothing could have prepared me for this.

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