The warm summer day started out just like any other. I was busy organizing the kids' activities, planning dinner, making a mental note to fill the car with gas and pick up a gallon of milk on my way home. Suddenly and without warning, I was engulfed by a raging fire. I suffered third degree burns over my entire body; not an inch of me was spared.
People rushed to my side to help, but there was nothing they could do to ease the excruciating pain. Medical resources were limited in the face of such devastation. Even their best medications did little to ease the agony. I wasn't sure I could survive such intense suffering. Worse, nobody could tell me how long the agony would last.
The medical community gently advised me that although my physical self would heal, the disfigurement is permanent and complete. My family, friends, and coworkers no longer recognized me. I no longer recognized myself. Mirrors were to be avoided at all costs.
At first, doing little things like sitting up in bed or standing was so excruciating, it took my breath away. The mere thought of eating, bathing, and dressing left me feeling nauseated, helpless and hopeless.
Pity and sadness were apparent in the eyes of everyone who came to visit. I understood the sadness, but I hated the pity. Why on God's green earth was I spared the peace of death?!
Learning to live with complete disfigurement and extreme pain is overwhelming. It is excruciating, slow, and exhausting. Years of great effort is spent trying to master even basic activities. Some days I hurt too bad to even try.
Other days, when out in public, I pretend to be normal so as to ease the discomfort readily apparent in the eyes of those who are brave enough to glance in my direction. Some avoid me altogether, adding further angst to my broken spirit. Pretending to be normal is exhausting, and quickly depletes all my reserves. By the time I finish errands and return home, I'm utterly spent.
And worst of all, there is absolutely nothing that I, nor anyone else, can do about it.
For you see, that complete disfigurement and intolerable pain described above is on the inside of my body. The pain is unchanged, the disfigurement is still complete and the scars are permanent. The new life that was thrust upon me that day when my child died caused a firestorm that engulfed every part of my life. The only differences between me and the patient who suffered third degree burns over her entire body is that I lived. And my pain is invisible to the world.
Welcome to the life of a grieving mother.