Long time no write, am I right? Next week I will be back with life musings, June Lake pictures, and my realization that I’m dating freelance journalism but today, I needed to take a moment to talk about loss and trauma.
Last week, curled up on a cabin couch overlooking Gull Lake, I got an email stating my life mentor Zabie and her husband Garrett had lost their son Grayson, a stillborn Zabie delivered at just 25 weeks. The baby shower was cancelled. Upon finishing the email, I swear I saw the mountains around me shrug under the sadness.
I first met Zabie during my junior year at UC Irvine. She was the new Violence Prevention coordinator and instantly beloved by everyone. A year later, for my 15 page senior year journalism project, Zabie let me capture her story as a survivor of violence and over the years, I’ve continued to write about her life, most recently for NBC. We sat for hours in her air conditioning-less attic office and talked about her dream of developing a yoga program for survivors, and my dream of capturing their stories. And she did it. She founded Yoga as Healing and implemented programs at universities around the world. Yet, what I see as her biggest accomplishment is her unshakeable, nurturing, beloved relationship with her husband Garrett. I feel lucky to have watched the entire thing unfold. I remember her whispering about their first meeting, saw them fall in love, Garrett propose at Take Back the Night, and got to attend their wedding. Zabie’s text of her first sonogram left me crying on the corner of Chambers and West Broadway as Grayson’s grainy black and white image starred back at me. I knew in that moment there would be no child more widely loved than this one.
And this is still true. Even now following the outpouring of support and Zabie’s messages on social media remembering her little one, Grayson is so crazy loved. For the last six years, Zabie has been a light that constantly reminds me to do the right thing, to work hard at my dreams, to be brave enough to love. When stuck in a muddle, I frequently ask myself, “What would Zabie do?” and usually it gives me an answer. I am in awe of her courage, her enormous heart, and her resilience. It’s just like Zabie to take loss and use it to provide a space for others to share their stories. But mostly, it breaks my heart; for her, for Garrett, for her family, and it left me thinking a lot about loss.
There are two things I’ve learned about tragedy in my lifetime. The first: Trauma is like being broken into 10,000 puzzle pieces that are all the same color and someone asking you to put them back together. With no guide, you assemble yourself as best you can – usually slowly with a container of superglue handy for when a corner to entire half falls off. People will move on with their lives and while at times there will be a pressure to move faster, heal faster, please don’t. The secret is be exactly where you need to be for as long as you need to be. It’s painful and infinite but time is the only balm to mend your soul.
Finally, when the time comes, you will suddenly look back and see the only lesson trauma can positively provide: That Time is precious. Time with a capital T.
After losing my uncle, it took me years to rebuild my life. I attempted to ignore the trial and aftershocks of tragedy by overloading my plate with school and trying to be a “normal” college student. But the cracks were there and even now, after healing and having the trail behind me, I still feel waves of sadness and longing for a life that doesn’t involve a fear of strangers or sometimes being out at bars. But by sharing my story, by building my life dedication to violence prevention, I am putting one puzzle piece next to the other in a slightly different, yet still beautiful self portrait.
I’ve realized there is no way to prevent bad things from happen. Truth of the matter, everyone will experience something that will break them into 10,000 sky blue puzzle pieces but this fear can’t stop you from living. Make all those bucket list dreams a reality, apply to that crazy competitive job or ask that boy on a date. Tell people what they mean to you, spoil yourself, be brave and honest and adventurous. You deserve all these things. But mostly sweet reader, you owe yourself a truly lived life.
Zabie, you inspire me everyday, in all the ways. I love you always.