Lately I have been thinking a lot about how the job affected me in addition to life experiences in general. I have never handled loss well, but then again I have been losing people I care about since a young age. I watched my grandfather die from metastatic cancer in my childhood home. I lost a good friend to a savage serial killer in my early teens. It just seems that my husband, our kids and myself have all lost so many people over the years. Even my kids are no stranger to such loss. Losing many of their friends in car accidents. Losing my mother unexpectedly and my father to suicide by gunshot. It was me who found him. In a sad twist of fate, I worked over 15 suicides in the year before and year after my dad’s suicide and most of them were of course by gunshot. The cases after my dad’s death often caused me flashbacks and made it very difficult for me to get/keep the image of my dad out of my head. It benefited the family members of the suicides to hear my story and that I had been through what they were now experiencing but it did not help me to keep retelling my story. So why did I? Because in my heart I had to do what was right and if my story and my pain could help these people, then I felt I needed to do it.
What I am going to say next will not make sense to some people, but losing my dogs over the years has been extremely traumatic to me as well. I have been there for each death, but one. I held them until they were gone so they did not have to go alone. The one I did not attend, my husband and oldest daughter did. I just couldn’t handle it at the time. Since that time, it has not gotten any easier. I came to depend on my dogs for emotional support. I have issues trusting people, because people let you down, they tell your secrets, they ridicule you when they do not understand you and dogs do not do any of those things. They just love you and appreciate every minute of attention you give back. When my Bailey began having seizures, and the medications stopped working, we knew we did not have a choice. Nothing could stop the seizures that day and when it was time to put her to sleep, I lay nose to nose with her. I sobbed uncontrollably for some time after that and wondered if I could love another dog. As I written about her before, next came my boy Bishop and now my baby girl Tessa. I admit I get extremely anxious when I am away from my dogs. As I type this now, Tessa is snuggled up to my side and snoring loudly. A sound I find comforting, just as I find my husband’s snoring comforting too. Earlier, I saw a dog video on Facebook about a dog and it made me cry and my boy Bishop heard me, came and put his paw on me and licked my tears. Dogs know. And they just want to make it better.
I have never dealt with loss well and I realize now the job did a number on me because I feel like all the kids and loved ones I had worked on and investigated became a part of me and at the same time took a piece of me. I now live in fear. Every minute of every day I fear someone I love will be taken from me. It creates an incredible anxiety, one I can’t put into words right now but it makes me panic, sometimes it makes it hard to breathe, I need to know my loved ones are ok. Sometimes in my anxiety I start physically/emotionally reliving the trauma of my past losses. I can’t remember where I put my car keys or what I went to the market for but I can remember clearly the moments of losing my loved ones. Sometimes in my nightmares I relive the moments. There have been times when I watch a really scary movie or read a book before bed hoping to dream about anything else, but it has always been this way. Nightmares every night. Some are as simple as just having a bad day but almost always there are the ones where I lose people. Watching the news before bed just makes it worse. I have tried journaling my nightmares but it is so hard to put them into words. It is not for lack of a large vocabulary, it is just that the words do not do justice to the feelings and even when I write the feelings they do not seem to go with the actions, but in my head they did. Some have suggested I have some traumatic head noise from the job. Yeah, I would think so. I can’t put into words what it does to the soul to do an autopsy on a child, or worse a baby. As a mother it was just awful to have to literally cut up someone’s baby. Then also to see what people do to each other. There is a sickness sweeping this nation, this world, where people are hurting each other, hurting children, elderly, animals and even themselves for no purpose and I do not understand. I know that if I had to fight someone for my life or theirs, I could do it. I could do it for someone I love too, but it is not something I would chose to do, the other person would have to leave me no choice but to fight to survive. Now I have to rebuild my trust in people but I don’t know how long or what that will take considering what I have seen and experienced.