Sunday, 17 May 2009


There is nothing unusual about flashbacks after trauma. In the early days mine came thick and fast, several times every hour. Sometimes so frequently that they left me breathless.

Gradually, as the months have passed, the frequency has reduced, if not their power to take my breath away. Now they are familiar visitors, though. I know what to expect from them. Trying to stop them running their course doesn't work. They will have their way. I just close my eyes for a couple of seconds, brace my body as though for a physical impact and let it run.

Last night was different though.

R died for the first time in bed. It was 5.30 in the morning. He woke me to say that he couldn't find a pulse. Half asleep, I told him not to be stupid, and reached over to feel his wrist. I couldn't find one either, at which point I woke right up. I said something inane about making him go to the doctor when we came back from our weekend away, then suddenly his entire body broke out into a sweat.

His last words to me were "I'm going". Not very profound, but true nonetheless. Then he started gasping for air and turned blue, which finally galvanized me into action. I called 999, got him out of bed and onto the floor and started CPR. And continued for 35 minutes until the ambulance arrived - at which point the nightmare really began.

That's what goes through my head every time I have a flashback. I can hear the fear in his voice, the horrible rasping sound of a pair of healthy lungs trying to keep a body alive when the blood has stopped pumping round, and once again know the flaccid feel of a lifeless face and mouth that is nothing like the dummy used for CPR practice. It is a real treat for all the senses.

So why was last night so different?

Because I felt it was happening to me this time. And I knew that there was no one there to help, to call the ambulance, to let my family know.

And that scared me so much.


  1. Oh, dear. I do feel for you so much.
    I have my own un-breathing dreams.
    But to lose someone...

  2. CC: Yeah, life really sucks sometimes, but you have to keep moving forward. And throwing it all out to the world like this does bizarrely seem to help, even though my sensible prosaic self told me it wouldn't!

  3. I stumbled on your blog while looking for people who might like a free blog makeover. I run a scheme called Write From The Heart. The scheme was set up to encourage people living in difficult circumstances to blog about their life by providing customised blog makeovers. If you'd like one, then I'd be delighted to help. To find out more check out my scheme here

    I am really sorry for your loss and hope that writing about it helps to bring you some peace.

    Take care. Louise

  4. Gosh, that is an incredibly generous offer Louise, and thank you very much for making it. The thing is that I have no idea how long I will carry on with this blog. Right now, it helps me a lot to write down my thoughts, but that might change. I would hate to think that you might go to all that trouble only to find that I give up a couple of months down the line.
    Thank you once again for your kindness.

  5. J, how harrowing. I'm glad you shared it, though. I wish I could give you a hug in person. You know, I'm not terribly hippy-dippy so my hugs are okay.



  6. Hugs are good. I'll take them whenever they are offered!

  7. That's Trauma with a capital T.

    The truth is that the details of that last day go round and round in our heads, on and on and forever until ... well, until they are so deeply imprinted and burned into our souls that they don't need to replay any more.

    That's how it is. And I'm so sorry it was so horrible.

  8. Your closing comments are what really struck me. It is having to deal with the loss of a loved one and then going forward on one's own. For me, the feelings of being alone have sometimes been harder to face than the death of my husband. He is at least at peace - I'm the one left to face life by myself.

  9. Roads: I guessed that was how it must be. I keep hoping to find a specific trigger in a "know thy enemy" sense, but I suspect it doesn't really work like that.

    WitM: It is a double whammy, isn't it? There are times I get very cross with R for leaving me with everything to deal with, but I always feel bad for it afterwards - I know that he didn't choose to bail out like that.