"Aaron is missing, Jenn."
"He's missing? What does that mean, he's missing?"
"I don't know. I don't know a lot. I just know that the police have found his car in a ditch. There was some blood in it. But they don't know where he is. He's missing."
Even as I sit here to write about what that phone call felt like, the memories of what my body felt inside upon hearing such news is easy to remember. Feelings of confusion, dread, worry, fear, and terror.
For two whole days I spun inside of myself. I couldn't eat or sleep. I feared the worst and tried to hope for the best. Could he be found? Is he alive? My boyfriend. My Aaron. The one I love. The first one I've ever really loved and who loved me back. And in my gut, I already knew something awful had happened.
My friend called me back two days later. Remembering that conversation feels like a blur. "Dead. Found in a field. Stabbed to death. Dead." That was all I heard. I don't know how we even ended the conversation. Perhaps I hung up on her. And all I did for the next two days was sob. Aaron was gone. And he wasn't just dead. He had been murdered. And it felt like part of me died with him. Perhaps, because it did.
Yesterday, I sat across the room from a woman I've been meeting with for the past six months in regards to my eating disorder. She has asked me to journey back to this piece of my story. I've been surprised at how easy it still feels to remember those things. Though much of his face still feels fuzzy for me (I have no pictures or anything left of him), I still remember what it was that we shared together. I can remember what it felt like when he kissed my neck. I can remember the sound of his laugh. I can remember what it felt like for him to hold me as we fell asleep in each other's arms. It often haunts me, yet it's easy to dismiss at the same time.
After his death was when I began smoking. After his death was when my eating disorder went from more of a minor issue, to a full blown one. After his death was when I became almost desperate for men to notice me and love me - to make me feel like he had been able to.
I experienced trauma then. The trauma of his murder. The trauma of losing my first love. The trauma of experiencing death in this way. Its impact on my life and heart have reached far deeper inside of me than I've ever taken the time to acknowledge. It was all I could do then to just survive. My grief and depression swallowed me.
There is much in my young adulthood to journey back to. More trauma. More loss. More devastation. More violent places. And maybe to some it feels pointless or stupid or even unhealthy to dig up the past and drudge it up and sift through it.
But for me it's not pointless or stupid or unhealthy. It's necessary. It holds the key to freedom and healing. The process is hard and difficult, but I have found life in it and because of it.
I was told that as a person begins to recover from nearly a lifelong of disordered eating that many, many things begin to bubble up and come to the surface. Especially the things that food has helped to keep down for so many years. I've been experiencing this bubbling up over the last several weeks. And though Aaron has felt far from my mind, the trauma surrounding the memories of him and how I responded to it, hold the key to much of what my heart is feeling and holding right now.
And if I feel brave enough and vulnerable enough to write them, there will be more pieces of my story to share here as I begin to take this journey back....
Ultimately, journeying back always, always draws me closer to the One who has been writing grace into my story from the very beginning. And being close to Him is the only place I want to be right now.