No one was hurt

I had a car accident about six weeks ago.

It was minor as far as car accidents go: I was okay, the other guy was okay. Our cars needed some work, but that is long settled and I’m back behind the wheel. I wasn’t sore the next day, but I was exhausted emotionally after spending hours sobbing out of shame, fear and worry. I’m not sure if I’ve ever cried that much all at once.

What if I had hurt the other person?

What if I had been hurt?

What if my kid had been with me?

What if? What if? What if?

I spent a lot of time the day of the accident waiting for someone to yell at me: the other driver, the woman at the body shop, the report taker and cop at the collision centre, Sean, my mom, my colleagues who were waiting for me at the office.

No one yelled – people were almost blasé about it. “Cars get wrecked all the time. No one was hurt and that’s what matters.” This is true and I would say the same thing to someone else, but I had a hard time shaking the shame and the guilt that I. Fucked. Up.

It happened on my way to work so I drive past the spot where it happened twice a day, five days a week. These days, I’m extra vigilant around where it happened, but not overly so. I made sure to get back behind the wheel quickly so I wouldn’t be afraid to when my car was fixed. Two days after the accident, I drove with Sean and Flora to the grocery store. Sean bristled at being a passenger and I got us all there in one piece. This event and the expected reactions to it were a big step to returning back to normal.

And I am back to normal. Mostly.

7 thoughts on “No one was hurt

  1. Yikes. Wow. My son was hit by a nice mom, a Naturopath with two kids in the backseat, in a cross walk when the sun was low and bright. He bounced well in Grade 8 and was NOT injured. The woman could not stop sobbing. Her kids were distraught being younger did not understand. The police were called and did charge her with careless driving. After my son was released and recounting the story with his buddies, I approached this mom. She was grateful that I wasn’t screaming at her, but I didn’t see the point. It’s amazing how a conscience can be our own hall monitor.

    I know [like you] that day will resonate in her brain forever. Thanks for sharing – it’s part of the grieving process.

    • I’m sorry that happened to your son. That must have been so scary for him, you and everyone else in the car.

      When I spoke to my mum that night, I told her I was grateful my daughter wasn’t with me. I was grateful for the obvious reasons, but I think she would have been more terrified if she had seen me lose it like that. (And I lost it hard.) My mum told me that had Flora been there, I may have been able to keep it together better because I would have been trying to keep strong for her. I’m not so sure.

      I think most people’s consciences are harder on them than any external source. Not everyone’s but a lot.

  2. Oh no, that is so scary! Of course you’re shaken, but it will fade and as long as your nerves settle, you’ll be a better driver for it.

    I once was hit (quite hard) from behind at a red light, and I was totally fine afterwards, because it was 100% not my fault. Then, about 8 months ago, I had the most minor – seriously, seriously minor – fender bender in a parking lot, and I took ages to not feel nauseous when I drove by, because minor as it was, it was my fault. Like you, I agonized how I could be so careless and distracted, and beat myself up about it for months. I still haven’t been back to that particular spot, but I swear, it has made me a better driver.

    Glad you’re ok.

    • I think it made me a better driver too. I tend to be a nervous driver. Between this and some gentle feedback from a friend who I drove with a few weeks after the accident, I’ve really been trying to be less nervous so I don’t make bad decisions.

    • They definitely do. I’d never had one before (and neither has Sean), so it was a major dose of reality for us. Sean does way more driving than I do, so statistically, it should have been him. Stats don’t matter in this game. 🙂

  3. I’ve been surprised at my big emotional reactions to car accidents. The first time was when I was talking to friends, yelling across a street on my way somewhere, and their pup ran out and got killed in front of us. I could not go up that street for months.

    Then last year, my car was the cheese in a 3 car sandwich. No one was hurt beyond bumps and bruises, but for weeks I felt like a raw nerve, on edge and emotional. It was on my way home from work on a Thursday, and I completely panic if I have to be on that stretch of road in the late afternoon (now I work from home).

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
This work by Melissa Price-Mitchell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada.
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