Time does not heal loss trauma

Hawke's Bay Today - - Opinion - Craig Cooper

Death is a violent shock­wave. Trauma is the rip­ple. Some­times it never sub­sides. In to­day’s Hawke’s Bay To­day, for­mer po­lice­man Charles Cham­pion has shared the night­mare that is Post Trau­matic Stress Syn­drome.

The cat­a­lyst for Charles’ dis­tress was a night in 1956, when as a rookie cop he climbed into the back of a crashed V8-pow­ered Ford to find five young peo­ple, three of them dead.

Sixty-two years later, he can still see their faces, as if the crash had just hap­pened.

As Charles says, back then you didn’t talk about it. About how it made you feel.

1956 was just over a decade since World War II had ended.

There would have been vet­er­ans still strug­gling to cope with the af­ter­math of their war­time ex­pe­ri­ence.

And not talk­ing about it, cop­ing at the RSA, numb from the cut-price beer and spir­its they earned for their valiant ser­vice.

Fast for­ward to the early 1970s. A fam­ily in re­gional New Zealand an­swers the phone. It’s too early for the phone to be ring­ing, even for a sharemilker used to ris­ing at dawn.

The news is nau­se­at­ingly bad, a teenage sis­ter is dead, killed in a car that hit a bridge less than 20km from home.

The first re­ac­tion is anger, an “eye for an eye”.

The fam­ily Holden rum­bles down the gravel drive­way, a griev­ing brother on his way to town to kill the driver of the car his sis­ter died in.

It was a gut-wrench­ing blow for a fam­ily still get­ting over a young life lost in a trac­tor ac­ci­dent on a farm.

No one talked about it though.

Not even at the grave­side of the de­ceased, on the an­niver­sary of her death, while her brother wept in si­lence, his tear­ful wife and con­fused chil­dren in the car won­der­ing what the hell was go­ing on.

Later that night, there would be so­lace from the neck of a cold quart bot­tle of beer. And no talk­ing about “it”. Or how you feel.

Mathew Kyte’s fam­ily have this week spo­ken about his death in a crash last year. Mathew died af­ter drink­ing and driv­ing. His wife says drink­ing and driv­ing has ripped their fam­ily apart.

A coro­ner re­leased a re­port into Mathew’s death this week.

His brother didn’t need to read it — he knew what killed his sib­ling, get­ting be­hind the wheel of a car with five times the “new” le­gal limit of 250mcg per litre of breath, more than three times the old 400mcg limit. Many peo­ple tried to stop Mathew drink-driv­ing, but he was a hard man to stop. Un­til his life ended in La­ma­son St, Green­mead­ows.

And the rip­ple of trauma con­tin­ues. Coroners re­ports. Me­dia cov­er­age.

But at least Mathew’s fam­ily are talk­ing about it.

This week, a boy from a fam­ily that still feels the af­ter­math of a car crash turned 16. He wants his li­cence, his in­de­pen­dence.

Like many par­ents watch­ing their chil­dren grow up, his fa­ther is ter­ri­fied.

He has felt the rip­ples of grief, watched his own fa­ther weep at a sib­ling’s grave­side.

It’s some­thing they are go­ing to talk about.

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