The cabin doors shut. My two little ones were all buckled in their seats with in-flight entertainment activities at their fingertips. The flight captain had just made his announcement for the cabin crew and passengers to prepare for take-off. I could feel the wheels rumbling as we began to accelerate down the runway….and suddenly, I couldn’t breathe. The flashback hit me unannounced and I started to sweat. “Deep breaths,” I told myself as I closed my eyes, clutched the armrest and fought back tears. “Slow, deep breaths.”
It had only been two weeks since his memorial service and three weeks since our flight back, from the other side of the world, at the end of the most magical vacation. Three weeks since that fateful day. Yet there I was, on this flight, headed on a family vacation,and succumbed by what would be the first of many panic attacks.
Unknowingly, I had booked a family vacation for me and the boys months prior. I had to decide, “Do I still go or do I cancel?” In the end, I was unwilling to subject my children to a major disappointment in the midst of their own grief. Somehow I found the strength to pack us all up and get on that plane. The trip was a blur. Although I did my best to participate, my mind was submerged in grief and full of fear. I had lost the love of my life. How would I ever be able to get my life off the ground after this heartache and loss? The return flight ran the same course as the departure. The plane became a trigger for an emotional onslaught. I braced myself for what would come.
It is now four years later and we just returned from our family vacation. In between then and now, the take-offs were hard. This deep pool of emotions was constantly around me. As my life travels increased and time moved forward, my fears lessened and my strength grew. And I……I no longer have those painful moments filled with panic as we are about to take-off. I don’t miss him any less and I am not any less heartbroken. The difference is that I know I’ve got this. I am doing okay. We are okay.
If I could go back and tell myself advice during those early days of grief it might be,”You are stronger than you can imagine. It doesn’t seem possible now. Someday, the beautiful memories won’t be as devastating to recall. It will take lots and lots of time and the smallest steps forward, but you will fly again.”