At our wedding I remember speaking of how grateful we were for everyone’s support, how we knew we had chosen the right people to invite because of the way they reached out to us after Jason’s injury.
The truth is, some of the people at our wedding were cruel post TBI, and some of the kindest, loveliest, gentlest people post TBI hadn’t been invited. With 3 weeks between the injury and our wedding it was difficult to decide how to work the people piece. There were at least a couple of friends we honestly debated uninviting because of their harsh, mean words about Jason’s brain injury and our sadness. In an effort to keep the peace, we chose to not bring it up, and we have regretted having them there ever since. Likewise, looking back, there were a handful of people that showed their love for us so clearly in those days that I can’t believe we didn’t go out of our way to invite them to join us. It seems unreal that we let their kindness be ignored.
The boys that were with Jason that night walked away with barely a mark while our life was changed forever. Honestly, I felt so much love and gratitude for these boys that stayed with Jason in the hospital until I could get there with our parents that anger about this unfairness didn’t cross my mind until much later.
When Jason was home from the hospital and I asked the best man to show up and sit with him, to pick up his suit, to help us get the property ready….and he consistently replied with no. When he would reach out in front of others saying he’d be there for “anything we need” and then condescendingly tell me he “had a life too” when I asked for him to stop by. At the rehearsal dinner when he made a “joke” about everything being different if I had answered my phone that night, let them do the bachelor party a different weekend, not insisted on getting married…then there was anger. That’s right, the night before my wedding the best man told me my husband’s injuries were MY fault. Oh the shame, so much shame for this terrible life changing thing that was somehow my fault. But shame will be covered in another post.
I cried during the best man’s speech and I remember a friend pointing it out and saying I looked touched. I was angry to hear that because my face had betrayed me – I wasn’t touched, I was pissed. This man-boy stood up and talked about Jason being his brother, his best friend, and yet he had no actions to show this “love”. I remember clearly thinking, our wedding is a joke. Lies and fake faces and memories we would never cherish.
Anyway, Jason and I had been stumbling along in our going-to-another-wedding grief, still distracting ourselves with Facebook and podcasts and books and candy crush until we found out the best man from our wedding would be attending. Having to face him, to play nice again, just seemed overwhelmingly unfair. There was anger at the family for having inviting him, seemingly saying his behaviour and treatment of us, of Jason, was okay. And anger at him.
2 years into this life I can officially say I often seem more angry at the boys that were with Jason that night than I am at the boys that did this to him. The people that beat up Jason? I’m not itching to break bread with them. But since they remain nameless and story-less, I can imagine they had hard childhoods, were high, were drunk. I can pretend they had no idea what a beautiful man they were hurting. I can tell myself they’ve regretted it and spent every day since making amends.
The boys that were with Jason? They knew him. They loved him. They knew us. They knew how incredible Jason’s future looked and they turned away. That rejection piece? That does me in. Everytime. For a long time I thought, we (I?) just weren’t loved well enough for them to stick it out. The shame (there’s that word again) broke my heart. Occasionally I would reach out and ask them to visit but it never happened. By one year post injury I think only one of them was answering my messages at all. I can find compassion for the boys that hurt Jason, but I struggle a lot with not being angry at the boys that walked away from us when life got tough.
I know that a proper, emotionally intelligent person would look at how they might be dealing with survivor’s guilt or PTSD, how hard it would be to look into Jason’s eyes and not see a difference, or judgement. I KNOW I should keep that in mind, and in talking to people I usually do rattle it off like I can see their side. But honestly, I just wish they were better. I can finally say I don’t think it was that we weren’t loved enough, but I do wish they were braver.