Seeing trees felled breaks my heart. So does seeing their roots being torn out of the ground. It's like a sucker-punch to the gut. Every time.
Survivor's guilt is real. We were lucky, we only lost trees. There was no damage to the house. It hurts to see our neighbours hurt, to witness their losses and feel completely helpless. It wasn't our fault. It wasn't anybody's fault.
Though I knew it intellectually, it took a few validating conversations with professionals to convince me that even if our losses weren't as significant as others' we were still impacted by the tornado. Often when I mention that there was no damage to our house folks sigh a sigh of relief, say “Oh well at least you just lost trees, you must be grateful!” and then change the subject, giving me the sense that there is nothing more to say. I know they mean well and yes, I am VERY grateful. I know how lucky we are.
And I am sad. And angry. And tired.
I was told by medical and mental health professionals that these are normal, post-traumatic reactions. I cried as they gave me permission to feel what I was feeling.
I share this here should anyone need to hear it too.
There have been a lot of tears shed. Tears for the loss of majestic white pines that lined our streets. Tears for the seven trees we personally lost: four spruces, two birches and my beloved blossoming crab-apple tree. Tears for the loss of our neighbourhood woods and trails, where the twister first touched down.
Tears for lost roofs, windows and fences, for neighbours having to leave their homes. Tears at the sound of another f*cking chainsaw or at the sight of another logging truck loaded with tree trunks leaving the neighbourhood. Tears of relief. Tears of gratitude and surrender as I allowed myself to receive help, whether in the form of brown bag lunches distributed by strangers the day after the storm, a warm meal prepared by friends or financial aid from the Red Cross to help with cleanup expenses.
On some days the tears still come, but they come much less often than they did.