The human spirit is incredibly powerful.
But the ways in which we behave can test that spirit beyond belief.
If you've read my last blog Life Sentence, you'll know that when I was 18 I was in car accident that left my best friend dead, and my boyfriend in a coma. And you'll have read that I made a choice to break up with my boyfriend because his family had made it very clear that they didn't want me around while he was still so fragile.
But a friend asked me this week; "Why would anyone ostracise the girlfriend of their son when they would have known she (me) was obviously grieving?"
Well, there's a whole bunch of reasons why, and I'm about to tell you what they could have been.
Now, obviously I don't have access to another person's mind, so what I'm about to tell you is simply speculation. I've had a long time to think about all the why's and what for's of the accident and I have spent a lot of time doing just that.
So when it comes to understanding what his parents were going through, even though there's no way I could possibly know for sure, the one thing that makes me feel authorised to share what I'm about to say is that I have no bad feelings towards them whatsoever.
But of course, that wasn't always the case…
As I drove away from Steve's house after breaking up with him, I cried a river. But like I said in my last blog, I also felt relieved. Somehow I had just set us both free. Well, maybe not him in the immediate sense because he would now probably go through a grieving period of not having a girlfriend, but looking at it through a big picture lens, his family would now be able to parent him in the way they saw best.
When I got home that night I stumbled through the door into the hallway of my parents' house and immediately broke down. Remember, I had already been signed off work for having a nervous breakdown and I was still a complete and utter mess. My parents were distraught at how upset I was. I told them I just had broken up with S because his parents were treating me so badly and I couldn't take it anymore.
Prior to the accident it wouldn't have been very often that even my parents would have seen me cry, so having them witness me in floods of tears must have twisted their hearts like a knife.
They knew how much I was hurting from losing my friend and from essentially losing my boyfriend. And even though we never talked about the accident (my family don't necessarily speak their love, they show it in other ways), they could see how broken I was.
It was too much.
As the three of us (my mum, my dad and I) stood in the hallway, with me still sobbing uncontrollably, my dad picked up the phone and called S's parents. The poor man was torn apart seeing me so heartbroken and he very lovingly tried to relay his thoughts over the phone. I remember him telling them that every night he saw me coming home and bursting into tears. That whatever it was they were saying or doing to me was not on. He wasn't yelling or shouting, but he was firmly telling them that he wasn't happy with the way they had been treating me.
Thank you Dad.
I don't know what was said on the other end of the line and I don't recall much more than what I've just told you, but the phone conversation ended and I felt loved and supported by my parents. My dad had just said what I wasn't able to say and I was glad that he had been able to articulate some of my pain to them.
I hated them.
But that's still telling my side of the story, and it's not explaining why they would have been so "mean" to me.
It took me a long time, but once I had processed most of my own grief and had managed to move from victim to warrior, I began to imagine what it must have been like from their perspective.
I considered: what must it feel like to be the parent of an 19-year-old son who was driving a car with two passengers, one of whom is no longer alive?
That's pretty full on, I thought.
That would be terrifying, I thought.
Especially when you consider Maybe your son was the cause of that accident? Maybe he did something that caused those two vehicles to wind up in a head on collision? And maybe he will be charged with manslaughter or whatever legal term there is for causing the death of another person because you misjudged a situation while in control of a car?
Hmm, things started to look a little different…
The more I thought about it, the more their situation became "clear" to me. I use inverted commas here because like I said, this is still only my version of how it could have been for them.
But the fact is: they have a son in a coma. The fact is that a passenger of his vehicle is dead. The fact is they are legally not allowed to contact the parents of Dawn until the inquest, which at this point hasn't had a date set. The fact is, they are not even allowed to attend Dawn's funeral.
They didn't know Dawn or her parents, but put yourself in their place: I imagine they would have wanted to show their respects. I imagine they were terrified that their son might be charged with the death of my friend. And I can only imagine how utterly distressing all of that must have been, especially when they are having to visit their son – who's in a coma – and that they have no way of knowing whether he'll ever come good again.
When I started to look at it like that, it became somewhat easier to understand where they might have been coming from when (once Steve had come out of his coma) they told me they didn't want their son to know what had happened. And that I was under no circumstances to mention the accident to him.
I'm guessing they didn't want me to influence their son's thoughts about what had happened. And I'm guessing that at that point, I was the biggest threat to that situation. What if I told him something that he then repeated that would incriminate him? Having me around must have felt quite dangerous to them.
They wanted to protect their son (what parent wouldn't?), and if I were to say something to him that might make him remember the accident, or believe that he was responsible for the death of Dawn, then there was a chance that by the time the date was set for the inquest, their son might be charged with manslaughter.
I don't think you need me to point anything out here, right?
So, all that aside, yes, they were pretty mean to me, and at the time I thought they were horrible for doing what they did and was glad I never had to see them again. I wasn't glad I would never get to see S again, but I had made that choice and it felt right.
But today, 25 years later, I have nothing but compassion for those people. I have completely turned around any venomous thoughts I had for them, and can see that all they were doing was protecting their son the best way they knew how.
Granted, it wasn't particularly sophisticated or compassionate (towards me), but I think it's fair to say they were in an extremely stressful situation. And when any of us are under stress, particularly as immense as this would have been, we tend to make "interesting" decisions.
When your entire world has just turned upside down and the outcome is at best unclear, and at worst could be called your greatest nightmare (your son, who comes out of a coma gets locked up for causing death by driving), well, it's a lot easier to accept that being less-than-kind to your son's girlfriend isn't necessarily top of your priority list.
Really, I get it.
I mean, I don't know the real story here. So like I keep saying, this is pure speculation on my part. But it kinda adds up doesn't it? Whether the details of what I've surmised about what they were thinking are true, and even if they had always hated me and just wanted me out of the picture (which is another possibility), I can totally see that what they were doing came from a love for their son. And I'm confident that in the cold light of day, once their own grief and stress about the situation had diminished, that they would never choose to be unkind to me.
They were simply human beings dealing with an horrendously difficult situation.
And I am totally OK with that.
Because I make mistakes too.
And, I don't know how I would have responded under their circumstance.
Of course, there is still so much more to this story. Like, what happened at the inquest? What was the outcome? Did Steve get charged? Was it his fault?
I'm ready to tell the whole story and I will do that. But for now, I just wanted to get clear on the fact that I hold no hard feelings toward S or his family. And that's why I can comfortably write this blog.
I have nothing to hide.
Forgiveness has provided me with an incredible freedom to tell this story. A story that is etched deep into my cells. And a story that I hope will help other people see that even when life seems hard, unfair or downright f*cked, that if you find the right lens, it's always possible to see some light. That underneath even the darkest, most traumatic experiences of our lives, there is always a star shining a beam of love.
And if you keep searching, I promise you, you'll find it.
Choose love x