What about the ones who were injured?
There is so much horror in the news. It’s always existed, but these past few weeks have been exhausting. The tragic shooting in Florida, bombings in Austin, deadly fires and landslides in California. The report always goes something like this: 7 dead 45 injured. 19 dead 26 injured. Our hearts immediately go out to those who died and their families–it’s only natural and completely justified. But lately, my mind also goes to the injured. Speaking for myself I tend to think, Injured? Good. They didn’t die, they’ll be okay. Must have been a flesh wound. Grazed by a bullet. Broke an arm evacuating the area. Then I go deeper. Injured? That’s a large category. Maybe their injuries are so horrible they wish they had died. Maybe their injury caused blindness or they lived only after being unearthed from a mudslide and they’ll never be the same. Maybe they lived but suffer from chronic pain that will last a lifetime. They didn’t die. They were “injured.”
There’s always this kind of collateral damage–not the main hit, the center of the bullseye. They receive the damage that falls just outside of the bullseye. I realize that as Pete’s wife, I receive most of the focus. I got most of the sympathy cards and the flowers after he died, and when people look at me they likely think, “Oh, that’s Pete’s widow.” But there are a lot of people who are hurting just outside of that bullseye. They receive a little less sympathy–they don’t get as many cards, and people assume they have moved on.
My kids, Sean and James for example. I doubt that people look at them and pause, and immediately think of Pete. Regardless, they carry the weight of this loss. I think that they spent enough years with Pete to embrace him as a father figure and not just a “step-dad.” He taught them things and embraced what they were able to teach him. I know that they feel a hole in their lives where he took up space, but do they get the same focus that I receive?
Pete has two living siblings who loved him desperately and worked to keep him healthy throughout his childhood. They have known him much, much longer than I have, but they kindly stand off to the side when the spotlight shines on the grief stricken and allow me to take center stage. That is not lost on me. They too have huge holes in their lives.
And my family, that not only feels the loss of the gregarious, family-oriented, “let’s all get together over at the house,” Pete, but also feels the pain of watching their daughter and sister buried in grief.
These and so many more are the collateral damage of the loss of Pete. I’m in the bullseye, but they are just off-center. “The injured.” And they hurt, and they still feel the loss. They still need the support and comforting from those around them–the next circle removed from the center.