Sometimes the act of sharing is the starting point to trauma recovery. In “Release” The Lovepost invites citizens from across the globe to submit their trauma experiences. These submissions are being published anonymously across our website and social platforms as they come in. We hope that the act of sharing these experiences can subside shame, dismantle unhelpful beliefs, lessen triggering and help survivors of trauma make sense of a completely senseless event or series of events.
The first thing my older brother said to me and my younger brother when we arrived at the nursing home was, “Remember, we have to look sad.”
His words played in my head on repeat, as my mom slowly walked us up the driveway and into the nursing house, all the way to my grandmother’s room. There were already a lot of people there, so I was only afforded one look at my grandmother’s face before I had to leave the room with my brothers. We were left to wait outside, while other people drifted back and forth between her room and standing with us. The entire time, I couldn’t help but feel like I wasn’t supposed to be there.
When I was younger, my grandmother had seemed like an unpredictable storm of gentle rain showers and loud thunder, disguised as an older lady who spent hours in her garden. There are some happy memories of my grandmother. Times when she’d lead me around the backyard, showing me her prized roses and the tangerine tree she planted with her kids. Times when she’d sneak me wafer cookies when my mom wasn’t there, or show me the hundreds of origami cranes she had folded from paper and candy wrappers. There were times where I was genuinely glad to be spending time with her, even though I never understood a word of what she was saying.
But there are a lot of bad memories of my grandmother too. Memories of her shouting at me in Vietnamese, yelling words I didn’t understand, but making me afraid of her all the same. Times when I would tiptoe around her, because I never knew what could set her off. Her memory and paranoia would get so bad that there were times I would wake up in the middle of the night, to hear her trying to force the door open to the room my family slept in. There were times I felt sick with anxiety about possibly encountering my grandmother in the hallway by myself.
To seven-year-old me, the day my grandmother was placed into a nursing facility had seemed like one of the happiest days of my life. I wasn’t just glad because I wouldn’t have to avoid her around the house any longer, but because she was getting the help she needed, too. As time went on—and her memory got worse—I managed to keep something close to a bond with her. My feelings towards her were conflicting most of the time. I could never forget the woman who gave me my love for sweets, or planted the dozens of rose bushes in our backyard. But I also could never forget who caused my anxiety towards loud voices, or the reason why none of the bedroom doors in my house lock and why some have holes in them.
Standing outside with my brothers as the sounds of sobbing and hushed whispers about funeral plans drifted through the front door, I had never felt more out of place in my life.