Many days I wake up with a lot of anxiety. I keep re-living that day, the day I found him.

When we broke in, he was in bed. He lived in a studio apartment, so he only had to turn his head to see who was at the door. He saw me but turned around again. I didn’t know what was wrong, but I felt almost like I had bothered his sleep. I approached him anyway, asked him if he was okay. He tried to say something, but his lip wouldn’t move.

The paramedics rushed in and asked him if he had taken any drugs and he couldn’t talk back so I let them know that he wasn’t a user. I asked them to take him to Columbia Presbyterian, but they took him to the closest hospital near Bed Stuy.

When we got to the ER, patients were mainly homeless – prevalent in New York in the winter. Soon after they told us he had a stroke, and they didn’t have the proper equipment to run the necessary tests on him. They transferred him to Beth Israel. A friend of his and I followed the ambulance to Manhattan. While looking for parking, we got a call saying they couldn’t take him because all the doctors were busy. They transferred him, once again, to NYU Lutheran. Finally, they put him in the ICU.

I went to the hospital to visit him a couple of times. The stroke had left him with aphasia and half of his body was still paralyzed.

The last time I saw him, I told him,

‘I know this is scary and frustrating, but you’re doing great, you are.’

I leaned towards him and wrapped my arms around him. ‘I love you so much.’ I said. He couldn’t speak so. Instead, he held me very tightly with the one arm that he could use. He wouldn’t let go. We stayed like that for a moment and finally I felt the pressure of his arm letting go slowly. 

I left him, walked away from the ICU into the elevator to the street where I smoked a cigarette while I waited for my uber to take me home where I laid in bed restless. Soon after, just like any other Monday, the sun rose, people went to work, and he died. My life changed from 5:05 to 5:06 P.M., his ended. And that survivor’s guilt has a world of its own.

The difference between trauma and grief for me is that when I tap into my grief, it seems like it has moved. That a part of it has been processed, some of it, but when it comes to trauma, I find it very difficult to process. This day has its storage unit in my brain, and it’s locked. Somedays I also feel tired of it, to replay. Feels like I’m Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, forced wide-eyed to look at myself break-in into that room and find him that way.

Years ago I was living in another room. My girlfriend’s living room. For years I walked into that room replaying two things.

1. Her pulling the trigger.
2. Myself collapsing by the entrance.

I lived this day for about three to five years. The way this memory was born was in great detail, but it lasted two seconds. I would, for years, collapse over and over again. I would dream about it, think about it, sometimes it would replay at random times like during a meeting or presentation and some other times a loud bang would play it again. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I suddenly felt such a stranger to that girl that I was able to walk in that room and hold her. It changed everything. 

Now, when I revisit that memory, I can only see the back of her head as she moves the gun towards her. Then I see my younger self, shaking and finally, I see myself now holding her. Who I am now can handle this memory because I’ve lived it, I’m a veteran of that trauma and the only person qualified to hold my younger self. I am currently not able to do this with him, it happened only a year ago but I trust in the future, a thirty-something-year-old me will do the same.

For now, all I can do is meditate, run my anxiety away, surround myself with love and take it day by day. 

I hope everyone else struggling with triggers and flashbacks that reads this understands.

You’re not alone.


– Grieving Young.

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Karina, also known as Grieving Young, writes about loss and grieving on her blog.  She had so much support after the loss of her girlfriend and best friend from her family and therapist, but felt they didn’t understand because they hadn’t lost anyone.  She wrote her first post to “get it out of her system”, and started finding people who related in such a profound way.

However, it wasn’t until recently she started using her name on the blog.  Until now, she has been anonymous.  In her words, “I finally felt heard. It means the world to me to be able to create something positive out of the excruciating pain I have experienced while grieving”. She hopes that her journey helps others feel less alone and helps in some way.

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