"All to often you have to be at the end of your rope to be tempted to move through your fear, and to let go of the unfamiliar, the unknown, to change."
I remember when the Dr. told me that Aaron was paralyzed. The first words out of my mouth were, "I'm an Army wife. We'll get through this." I had no idea what the road ahead was going to be like. All I knew was that Aaron's legs didn't move anymore and there was a small chance that he could regain movement within one year. I clung to that. For that entire first year, I kept telling myself that he was going to walk again and then this nightmare would be over. Just like that...a bad dream.
Only that isn't what God had in mind for us. One day, I was chatting with an elderly neighbor and she asked how I was doing. First off, it was very rare than anyone would ask how I was doing. It was always, "How is Aaron? Is he walking yet?" How do you answer that over & over again with the same disheartening answer "no." Didn't people stop and think about what they were asking? Only this time someone was asking about me. I told her that I had it all under control, because that it what I do best. I try to control things. I don't like things to be messy, unorganized or inefficient. She told me that God is in control and this didn't sit well with me. At this time in my life, I had no religious affiliation and hadn't accepted God into my life.
When one year rolled around and I realized that Aaron's wasn't going to walk again, my world really fell apart. The denial had to end. All the control that I was hanging on to was out the door. I wasn't in control. I was angry, resentful, depressed, feeling sorry for myself, lashing out at the person that I cared most about and unfortunately not working through the grief process. My spouse was still here, so why would I be grieving?
How do you accept something that turns your life so upside-down that you basically have to start all over? When the dynamics between the person you have spent more than 15 years with change? When you don't even know if you want to stay in it anymore, because you don't think you're strong enough? Aaron referred to himself over and over again as "Broken" and it really bothered me. But wasn't that what we were? Broken? I know now that when you truly hit bottom and are truly broken is when you need to ask for help. Until then, I hadn't asked for help, because in my mind asking for help equated to weakness. Guess what? I couldn't have been more wrong. I had to learn how to accept our new life or come to terms with it. How do you do that?
Many of my friends, that are also wives of wounded soldiers, have spoke about this before Sometimes we refer to it as "letting go" or "coming to terms" or our "new normal." Some of us are 5 years out from our spouse's injury while some are less than 2 years out. What does it look like? How long does it take? Do you ever really accept your new life or do you just learn to cope better as time goes on?
In my opinion, reaching out to others and letting go of control was what I personally needed to heal. Until I was able to reach out to others and get help from a therapist, I wasn't healing. I hate to admit it, but up until Aaron's injury I had been very selfish and ego driven. I didn't want to be inconvenienced. Now when I'm in a situation that is not ideal I'm able to say, "Karen, it's not always about you!" This took a lot of growing up on my part and I wish I had learned this much earlier, but my Dad always said I had to learn things the hard way!!! I also had to learn to let go of control and worrying about everyone else's opinion. In the past, my house and yard was always "perfect." Ha Ha, not anymore! I learned how to be ok with mediocre and it's not so bad. Plus my stress level and blood pressure have gone down.
I guess the answer to my question is that I have come to terms with our new life. To me there is a difference between coming to terms and acceptance. I don't accept the lack of accountability by the surgeon, the lack of help from the Army, the lack of home health care after he was discharged by the VA, being denied TSGLI, and numerous other benefits that he should have been entitled to after 18 years of service. (See, there's that bit of anger in there) This lack of acceptance is what fuels me to change things for those that follow behind Aaron and I. I'm not one to be apathetic and just say, "Oh well."
I still get sad or even a little envious when I see a couple walking together and holding hands. I miss that and I always will, but I don't dwell on that anymore. They are fleeting moments that I allow myself to feel and then I move on. For me, this is our new life and even though I don't always like it I have to embrace it. If I don't then I can't move forward. It's only when we relinquish control that we begin to live.