From Tragedy to Transformation
Six years is a long time to walk around with this kind of pain. These were the words I said last week in front of two strangers once I decided to be an advocate for myself. I have avoided consistently seeing a therapist since my accident because that would be admitting defeat, admitting that I can’t fix myself how I once assumed I could. I found myself in the chair for an hour holding back tears as I spoke about what had brought me there. I found myself in the chair reflecting on six years of pure grief, confusion, and moments that had shaped me into the woman sitting in front of them.
November 20th, 2010 was shaping up to be one of the best days of my life. After all, I had plans and had been working diligently to bring my dreams to fruition. The day would come and go and quickly went from what was to be a day of joy to the start of a journey laced full of grief, hurt, and wounds that ran far beneath the surface.
The pain meds made it hard to feel much of anything at all. I knew they were gone but wasn’t able to fully comprehend what this meant for everyone they had left behind including myself. I wasn’t able to attend any funerals or even celebrations on campus because I would be in the hospital for weeks to come. My room became a dungeon as my emotions came in waves just as the guests who made frequent visits. The visits would stop but I’d still be left to my own demise and imagination.
It’s hard to imagine God using something so tragic as part of His plan. It is hard to rationalize something when you have no idea why it happened or more importantly, how God could allow it to happen. Not once in these six years have I entertained the idea of suicide but I often wondered why God left someone like me behind. I had no true concrete plans for my life and I wasn’t the nicest of people. I was the complete opposite of the two He had decided to claim as His own.
Victoria was determined to become the national president of the sorority and Briana had it made up in her mind that she would go to med school and become a doctor. There was no doubt in their voices as they proclaimed great things over their futures. They had dreams of impacting the world through their work and instead impacted the world through the short lives they lived. They were life changing.
There was no amount of words I could find that would undo the pain felt by so many people. The only promise I made to myself was to try to live my best life since they no longer had this chance. It is a promise I have broken several times because life is hard and pushing through sometimes doesn’t feel like an option.
Sometimes I locked myself away for hours in the darkness of my apartment, other times I rambled about what could have been done differently, and other times I simply cursed God for making the mistake of a lifetime. Sometimes I spoke into the universe hopeful that they would hear me apologizing for what had come to be.
Everything that I had worked so hard for was snatched away and if it wasn’t, it was just a distant memory at this point. I would join the sorority I had once admired from afar in April of 2011 only to receive a letter on the 1st anniversary of the accident which would ultimately lead to my suspension. Some of the same women who had originally rallied behind me were gone in an effort to remove themselves from the never-ending saga. I was called a murderer, I was labeled selfish, I was discussed in the comment sections of local newspapers, and I was dissected in threads around the country who analyzed what could have been differently.
I would spend the next few years attempting to be Kamil again and not that girl. I struggled with PTSD and depression while trying to complete my degree and put on a good front for those around me. I was doing a fairly good job until I was charged with two counts of misdemeanor death by vehicle. I remember going into the situation with a gleam of hope that maybe we were in the process of closing a chapter that should have never been written. I remember the cop who handcuffed me that day saying that all of his peers, police officers who were supposed to protect me, thought I was lying. Their own need for gossip was done at my expense as I suffered to come to terms with what had happened seasons earlier. This actually became routine. People felt the need to keep it going and I was ultimately in a losing battle.
Fast-forward nearly five years later to when a special would air detailing the weeks leading up to the accident. A scar that was already slow healing found itself ripped open. Messages poured in and I was again the main attraction in a circus that had gone international as it put me on display. As always, I put on my game face and continued on because this was my only option. The armor I had formed over the years was admirable as I shielded myself from a community that often seemed intolerable of tragedy.
Though they were actually gone, I died a painful spiritual death on the twentieth of November. My faith had been shaken in the worst way and I could barely keep my head above water. I wasn’t able to place my faith in the hands of a God who could be so careless with His ways as He proceeded to flip so many lives upside down. I couldn’t see the hope in the next day, let alone in someone who had allowed this to happen to me.
It would take me years to partially understand what God was doing. I had become so fixated on all I wanted as a clueless college student that I neglected what I actually had. I had put my life in the hands of people who shouldn’t have had to carry that responsibility. He literally stripped me to a place of nothingness where I had only two choices.
Trust in Him or die a thousand deaths every single day.
Has God ever done the complete opposite of what you wanted? Has He ever had the audacity to give you what you need versus what you want? I didn’t know it then but the pain that I harbored deep down in my soul would eventually become words that fueled this blog. He allowed everything to come to pass because His plan was greater than any of the pain and regret I was feeling. God will take everything away from you if it doesn’t align with what He wants for your life.
He didn’t want me to be this person who went along with the status quo. He didn’t want me to be a person who waddled in her own despair; He wanted me to help others by any means necessary. He wanted me to live even if it meant that I had to understand His reasoning for allowing death to surround me.
Don’t allow the tragedies in your life to overcome you to the point where the reasoning is missed. Sometimes the purpose is under layers of defeat, depression, doubt, and people disowning you. Your tragedy sometimes serves as the catalyst for your transformation.
I’d love to say that I’m back to being the old me but that would be a lie. Situations like this can change the entire trajectory of your life. The moments in your life where you have no clue how you’ll make it through the night ultimately serve as stepping stones for better.
Although they are gone in the physical, I can’t help but notice how much better off we all are having known them. The lives impacted by Briana and Victoria are countless as people all over the world have been touched by how highly people continue to speak of them. At times I wish I could rewind time and take different steps to ensure that they would still be here but I can’t.
I sometimes try to remember the sound of their voices to no avail but I live constantly with the memory of their character. They were shining and radiant for people all over to see. Their death would serve as an urgent reminder as to how important it is to not just celebrate your large accomplishments and milestones but to celebrate the small wins and triumphs.
I want to share six invaluable lessons that I’ve learned while dealing with tragedy.
- It is okay to hurt. Never believe the hype that you have to be strong. You’re allowed to cry, scream, and do whatever you need to do in order to process.
- Find your tribe. It is so important to find people who ground us when it seems as if a simple wind will sweep us away. I can’t tell you where I would be if it wasn’t for the support of those closest to me.
- Seek help. Don’t feel less than for needing the assistance of a professional. You’re only prolonging your healing process by not taking advantage of this.
- Find the purpose in the pain. If you’re going to be here on this earth, you may as well find a way to help yourself or others by sharing some of your lessons learned.
- Some may disagree but if you believe in God…keep it real with Him. I’m not saying it is right but honestly I was pissed with Him for a long time about what had unfolded. I battled with my faith for a while but this resulted in a deep spiritual awakening
- Forgive yourself. Once I forgave myself, it was so much easier to deal with my enemies because I knew that I would trade everything to flip the hands of time.
Life is scary but twice as beautiful if you just open your eyes. Even with all my low days, I’m thankful that the sun still rises each morning and I can try again. I challenge you to always challenge yourself to be your best self and live a life worth being talked about. Live a life so big that even years after you’re gone, people still feel compelled to go a bit further because of you. I challenge you to live a life worth living instead of settling to just exist.