You Don't Have to Be Strong, Sis

Six years is a long time to carry this kind of pain. These were the words I said in front of two strangers in therapy two weeks ago. I had avoided seeing a therapist since my accident because that would be admitting defeat and that I couldn’t fix myself like I once assumed. I restrained tears as I spoke about what had brought me there. I reflected on six years of grief, confusion, and moments that had shaped me into the broken person before them.

November 20th, 2010 would have been the best day of my life but it never came to be. It quickly went from what was intended to be my sorority’s induction ceremony to a journey filled with wounds that ran far beneath the surface.

The pain meds made it hard to feel anything. I knew my friends were no longer here but I could not comprehend why. I didn’t attend their funerals because I was healing from the physical wounds of the accident that had claimed their lives. The hospital was a dungeon as my emotions and memories came in waves just as those who visited. The visits stopped but I was left to my own demise.

It was hard to imagine that tragedy could be God’s plan and that He allowed it to happen. I wasn’t suicidal but I often wondered why God let me survive. I was the complete opposite of my friends who were driven and compassionate. V was determined to become the sorority’s national president and B had dreams of medical school. They had intentions of changing the world through their work, but it would be their short lives that impacted people most.

There were no words I could find that would undo the pain people felt. I promised myself to live my best life since my friends couldn’t. I have broken this promise several times because being strong isn’t easy. Sometimes I locked myself away in the darkness of my apartment and rambled about what could have been done differently. I frequently cursed the universe for making the mistake of a lifetime.

Everything I had worked hard for was snatched away in a split second. I joined the sorority I had admired from afar in April of 2011 with a ceremony that inducted my friends posthumously. I would be suspended from the sisterhood just seven months later with more questions than answers. The same women who once rallied behind me had vanished in an effort to remove themselves from the never-ending accusations of hazing and public scrutiny.

I struggled with my crippling mental health while trying to be a normal college student after being charged with two counts of misdemeanor death by vehicle. Officers believed I had fallen asleep due to sleep deprivation brought on by the pledging process. I thought I was finally closing a chapter that should have never been written. Wrong.

It would be five years before a special aired on the ID channel which detailed the weeks leading up to the accident. A scar that was already slow healing found itself ripped open as I blinked in shock at seeing my mugshot flash on the screen. I was again the main attraction of a story that had now gone international.

I died a painful spiritual death on the day of my accident. My faith had been shaken and I could barely keep my head above water. I wasn’t able to place my faith in the hands of a God who had decided to ruin so many lives. I partially lost my freedom, my dignity, my sanity, my friends and I was forced to place it in God’s hands. He literally stripped me to a place of nothingness where I had only two choices. I was forced to trust in Him or die a thousand deaths every day.

I didn’t know it then but the pain that I harbored in my soul would eventually change my life. His plan was greater than the pain and regret I once felt. He wanted me to live even if it meant that I had to understand His reasoning for allowing death to surround me. The purpose of my pain was under layers of defeat, depression, doubt, and people disowning me. 

My tragedy served as the catalyst for my transformation and changed my life’s trajectory. My pain not only gave me purpose but it taught me valuable lessons. I learned that it is okay to hurt and seek help because prayer doesn't solve all problems. I learned the importance of forgiving myself and the guilt that I carried.  These are all things I may not have figured out had my life not taken such an abrupt turn. It took death for me to really understand the idea of living. 

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