As I sit down to write this I feel at a loss for words to describe all the emotions I have today about the wonderful weekend retreat that Jeff and I just had with other terrorist attack survivors from all over the world. The title of this entry really sums up my feelings perfectly.
The retreat was planned by Strength to Strength, an organization that supports terrorist attack survivors, bereaved family members, and spouses. Strength to Strength, the baby and passion of the most amazing woman and survivor in the world, Sarri Singer, is nothing but the ultimate gift anyone who’s been in my shoes could ever receive. The entire weekend made me feel welcomed, treasured, loved, and all of this was wrapped in the warmth of each person there. As it was said many times by other survivors throughout the weekend; Strength to Strength is a club you never wanted to be a part of but now that you are, you can’t imagine your life without it. That sentiment resonates so deeply with me today as I feel sad to not be sitting in that room on the 10th floor of the Belleclaire Hotel with my new family.
I also feel joyful and happy to know that this is just the beginning of another beautiful journey before me that is punctuated by the relationships Jeff and I made. Each and every person there touched my heart, filled my soul, and tore off a piece of me and took it with them yesterday as they ventured home. These people are treasures. They are my inspiration. I can’t wait to hug each of them again and I hope it’s soon.
Our experience was powerful, raw, emotional, moving, full of laughter and tears, and I loved every minute. It was mentally and physically exhausting in the very best way. We each had the opportunity to share our stories and it was the first time in a while that I was completely overcome by emotions while sharing my story. I was uncomfortable initially by how my tears took over but it was so therapeutic and freeing that I knew those tears had to come out. Everyone there could relate – I wasn’t alone.
I was nervous last week before we left and I had tried to write about the emotions I was having and just couldn’t. It was making me so anxious. I am glad I didn’t publish what I wrote and just waited to write till I was home because my nervous feelings were completely unnecessary. From the moment Jeff and I boarded the plane to New York City till the time we came home it was as if God was showering me with His peace. I almost felt like He was saying, “I’ve got your back and so do all these people who are waiting to meet you.” Thank you for all those prayers you sent my way because they were felt by me and my kids are alive and happy and so I think they helped my dad get through the weekend as well.
There are too many takeaways from the weekend to share in just one blog entry and so I plan on writing a lot about what I learned over the next month, but one thing I can share with you now is that I learned that I can still live a beautiful and fulfilling life despite having PTSD. On Saturday night we went to Lucky Strike for some down time and seeing each of my new friends enjoying drinks, the loud music, and the overstimulating environment encouraged me in ways only they can understand. Each survivor there was living proof that I too will go on and be able to have a social life again. I needed to see that.
Jeff and I both learned that we need to take extra care of our marriage too as we navigate this world with my PTSD. We both felt our relationship was strengthened by this time we spent with other people who share our struggles.
I left New York with renewed hope and peace in my heart.
The souvenirs I brought home with me are stories that would bring any person to their knees and I will carry them gently with the utmost respect and love for those who shared them – and for those who didn’t make it to tell the stories as well.
I am so thankful, grateful to feel grateful again, and blessed beyond measure.