The problem of not knowing
People who live to tell the story of a traumatic event often describe a curious distortion of time. It is, they say, as if everything slows down, a bit like watching the scene of a car crash in slow motion, helpless to do anything about it.
Those who continue to suffer from flashbacks might talk of rewinding and replaying the course of events.
I can only imagine what this must be like as I’ve not experienced it directly. But I have come close – the trouble is, with Jenny’s traumatic death, I wasn’t there to witness what happened, or more to the point stop it. In fact, I was 200 miles away, dozing off to The Archers, when she died in that awful fire.
Like those people directly caught up in a trauma, I shared the sense of helplessness and bewilderment. But there was no memory to play back in my mind like a video clip. Instead, particularly in those early months of trying to make sense of it all, I found myself playing out various scenarios in my head.
And yet, I also got to know those seemingly innocuous triggers that raise a new ‘what if?’, setting off a painful scene in my mind.
Over the years, I’ve come to work out the most likely reconstruction of Jenny’s last evening. More than that, I’ve reflected on her death, her life and our relationship as twins. I’m not immune to an unexpected retriggering. But I’m no longer beholden to this ‘stop, rewind, replay’ cycle. And not knowing every detail for certain is no longer so disturbing. It does get better.