The Day My Heart Broke…
The Day My Heart Broke…
“Do you know a Norbert Gross?” This was the question asked of me when I opened my front door to two Police Officers. This is so hard to write, as it makes the memories flood back and my eyes well with tears. But first….perhaps some background…..
My husband Norbert was at a gliding club, although he didn’t know how to fly. He had always wanted to learn but felt he had left it to late. OK, he had just turned 60 but was fit and active and far from being an old man!
I convinced him that while he might never learn to fly a Jumbo Jet, he could always learn to fly something smaller…perhaps a glider. We live in a regional area (the beautiful Whitsundays) but he did some research and found a gliding club …however it was over 1,000km away. Nevertheless I encouraged him as I knew it was a lifetime dream. I said “Go for it!” 🙂
He signed up for a week long course and set off with enthusiasm. I gave him a hug and a kiss before he left, and said “Have a great time.“
On the evening of the first day of his course, I received multiple text messages where he excitedly described the euphoria of flying and ‘catching a thermal’. 🙂
“We get towed up 2000 ft then released. To stay up you need to find a pocket of rising air. You then turn inside this pocket while you get lifted up. So I was able to hold the glider in a tight turn to stay within this pocket and gained 3000 ft. In total we ended up at 7000 ft altitude! The higher you are the better and safer you are.”
That was the last message I ever got from him. I sent him a text message the next morning (his second day of training) but didn’t receive a response. I wasn’t concerned…I figured he was probably up in the air somewhere! 🙂
Later that morning came the knock at the door.
I opened the door to two Police Officers. My heart skipped and the world began to slew sideways. Once they had identified that I was Norbert’s wife, they said “We have some bad news.”
I recall that my first coherent thought was….”I hope he is in an Intensive Care Unit.” In my gut I knew something bad had happened.
But the Police Officer said “Unfortunately there has been an accident, and your husband has passed away.”
I actually don’t recall much after that point. I remember that I swayed and one of the Police Officers took me into the lounge to sit down. She kindly asked if I would like a glass of water.
“Water?” My mind struggled to grasp that idea. Everything felt surrealistic and ‘nightmarish’.
Difficult and overwhelming experiences cause the older brain, often called the ‘lizard brain’ or ‘reptilian brain’, to take over. We experience what is called ‘flight, fight, or freeze mode‘, or, more scientifically, an ‘acute stress response’.What Does a Traumatic Experience Do To Your Body and Brain?
It was like I couldn’t quite grasp the concept of what was happening. I didn’t cry and I wondered if I should be crying as wasn’t this what a normal person would do? It’s not like I didn’t believe the Police Officers as I knew they were telling the truth and this was all really happening…but it felt dream-like, as if I had woken into the middle of a movie set.
I don’t have any family in the state as Norbert and I had moved here to retire, and this was obviously an issue for the two Police Officers as (I realise now), they couldn’t come to deliver news like this and then leave me alone! I eventually got my brain into enough order to recall that my friend Linda lived not far away.
Later in the evening my friend Carmel came to my door, bringing food as she guessed rightly that I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. I recall saying that I didn’t think I could eat anything but she had brought soup so she made me eat some of it.
I can’t recall who passed on the news to my children but I was told (by someone…can’t remember) that my two daughters were catching flights the next day and were rushing to get to me.
It all felt so strange and quite bizarre though, and while my chest felt tight and my body ached from stress, I still hadn’t cried. It was too big for crying.
That night it was all over the TV News and it felt like my grief had become a public spectacle. The whole of Australia knew that my husband would never, ever come home. I knew it too.
I felt my heart breaking…..
As I write this after-note, two and a half years have gone by since that fateful day. My heart goes out to the scared and vulnerable person who wrote the story you read above. But….what would I say to her if I could go back?
Well, I’d hug her tight and say “I understand…this seriously SUCKS! 😭 But please know that although you feel like your heart is breaking, it will not always feel as physically painful and gut-wrenching as it does right now.”
“You WILL feel better. Don’t bother with trying to be strong, simply put one foot in front of the other and survive. That is all you need to do.“
“You will never forget Norbert, but you will tuck him in a corner of your heart and he will stay with you while you slowly make a new life. And he will be so proud of you for doing that. Just……keep……going.” ❤️
Marlene is an Australian widow who has written about all the good, bad and ugly stuff that happened after her husband Norbert died tragically. Marlene responds to all comments.
Such a personal decision! There is no way I would tell somebody else what they should do, but I thought I’d share my own feelings……because despite being adamant that I would never do this (it’s better to remember them as they were etc etc), I changed my mind. I thought I’d tell you why.
I stood in the middle of a vast expanse of nothingness, with a midday sun blazing down and dust eddying lazily around my feet. The blindingly blue sky stretched from horizon to horizon. I felt small and insignificant….and very, very sad, because this is where my husband died.