Triggered Grief

It’s pitch black and there are only a few cars on the road. Traveling east bound back home after a few hours out with the kids. I felt like they needed some fresh air and they requested to spend some of their holiday money.

Singing to some song I barely know the words to, in the distance ahead I see the lights of an ambulance waiting to merge onto the rural road. As I near the ambulance I see that they have made a complete stop and not actually attempting to pull onto the road from the residential driveway.

As a healthcare professional who has spent many years working in the hospital setting, mostly the emergency department, I said a silent prayer for the patient inside the ambulance as well as the family that is inside the home.

The closer we get to the ambulance, my heart begins to race and I just feel a sense of worry and anxiousness. I tried to shake this by turning up my radio and singing again. Suddenly I am just overwhelmed with these emotions to include sadness. A small voice tells me to look into my rear view mirror. I look up and I see that the ambulance is now a couple cars behind me with its lights on but far enough away that I don’t need to “make way”.

I continue to drive, still experiencing these intense emotions. While the marquee of a million thoughts and stories are scrolling through my mind, I’m startled by the blaring sound of a siren. I look up again in my rear view mirror to see the ambulance had not only turned on the sirens but has also picked up speed. I sped up a little as well and at the time I was unsure why. In hindsight 20/20, I was trying to get away from the ambulance. I was not even a mile from the road I needed to turn on to get home. I was racing to turn before the ambulance could reach me.

The children are asleep in the backseat and I am just a hot mess while driving. After assessing that I would not make it to the road before the ambulance approaches me, I decreased my speed and turned on my flashers. My plan was to pull off on the shoulder to allow the ambulance to pass me.

As I pulled off on the shoulder and come to a complete stop, the ambulance bolts pass me. Those intense feelings of worry, sadness and anxiousness get stronger and stronger. I look up to see the lights on in the back of the ambulance but nothing more as they were making their way to the emergency department.

As I sat on the shoulder with my flasher on, I recount the numerous occasions that I received calls about my Mom being rushed to the emergency department. My eyes began to fill with tears and they fell down my face. Soon I was ugly crying and I could not stop. I had to just sit and cry because I also couldn’t see well enough to drive. My eyes were burning, my nose was running and I was silently sobbing in the front seat trying not to awake my children. I wasn’t successful because my daughter awakes and asks if everything is ok. I lie and say yes. She can see the ambulance in the distance ahead. She asks again if everything is ok and I respond by saying I needed to pull over to let the ambulance pass. She understands and lays her head back down to sleep.

I never knew a place, a person, or a thing could trigger a grief response. (If that is even a thing) I was crying because I could not imagine how my Mom felt riding in the back of an ambulance with the sirens blaring and with emergency personnel all around her. She hated hospitals. Or should I say she was fearful. Strongest woman I know but she had her weaknesses. I begin to feel alone, sad and scared. At this point I just want to get home to my safe space.

I cried all the way home. And once I got home, I cried a little more. I miss her. And I realize that I will never stop missing her. I don’t see how this can or will ever get easier when reminiscing causes such intense and tearful moments. But for once I cried outside the tub (my safe space) and I allowed myself to feel every emotion. I didn’t try to bury it or dismiss it.

But the fact still remains that I miss her something terrible.