Going Back to the Scene of a Trauma: Finding Closure and Healing

June 25, 2014

Every summer for the last 35 years, my husband, Steve, and his family have been going “up north” for a week-long vacation of fishing and relaxing. They have never, ever missed a year.

I’ve been going for as long as I’ve known my husband. We stay at the same beautiful resort each year: comfortable cabins, beautiful hiking trails, gorgeous sunsets over the lake. We look forward to the call of loons, the soaring eagles, and great fishing. It’s a week to wind down and regroup. It’s a week to enjoy!

And that year it was no different. Steve and I spent hours in our little boat talking about how we would take our new baby fishing!

Except that year, I left in a helicopter.


My son, Jaxson, was born at 23 weeks, 3 days gestation that day in July 2012. He was given a 4% chance of healthy survival. Over his 93 day NICU stay we watched our tiny son, who weighed barely more than a pound, struggle to breathe, fight off sepsis, get at least 6 blood transfusions, battle insulin problems, and struggle with an immature heart, lungs, and eyes.

But, he made it.

And a year went by and it was time for vacation again. I panicked. How was I going to handle being back at the scene of the biggest trauma of my life?

We decided we needed to face our fears head on. Once we got to the resort, the whole day played out in my head…this is where I first felt the cramps. This is where I realized that something might be wrong. This is where I called my nurse. This is where we were when she said “Get to the ER NOW!”

That week, I had time to reflect on the events from the previous year and put them into perspective. My family was supportive and understanding. They helped watch Jax when I needed some time to clear my head and regroup.

On the last day of vacation, we decided to also visit the hospital where I went to the Emergency Room. As we pulled into the parking lot, my heart was beating out of my chest. I could remember the fear in the doctors eyes. I could remember what it was like to have 15 people rushing around me, preparing me for a helicopter flight. I was so nervous to be there again. But, I wanted to say thanks to the staff for their quick work that ultimately saved Jax’s life. Coincidentally (or not?), both my nurse and doctor were on duty!

helicopter pad

It was amazing being able to say thank you, in person, for what they did for our family.

We also stood on the helicopter pad and gave thanks for the pilot, the EMTs, and the dispatch people who made the life-saving flight happen.

I had more than a few moments of flashbacks and PTSD symptoms that week. But, it was also really healing, too. It was very good for me to be there – and then leave there – in my car, and not in a helicopter! For me, it was good closure.

We’re coming up on Jaxson’s 2nd birthday and our second return to the “trauma spot.”  I hope that eventually, I’ll be able to think of it as “vacation spot” again! Each year will get easier, I think.

Have you been back to the scene of a traumatic event? Was it a healing experience for you? Have you been back more than once? Did it get easier for you?