Trying to Feel Feelings After Trauma Shuts Them Off with Fi Lusby

Auntie Anne Beiler
October 19, 2021

Auntie Anne Beiler

Founder of Auntie Anne's Pretzels


By the world's standards, my sister, Fi, and I shouldn't be in a relationship with one another. No one would condemn us if, after our shared tragedy, we were estranged and never spoke. And no one would blame us if we walked out on each other years ago and never returned. But today, we're best friends, because instead of driving us apart, the tragedy drove us closer together.

This doesn't mean it's always been easy, especially for Fi, whose inability to feel was suppressed and locked away after the event. But we can never exhaust learning more about ourselves, which is what Fi has done over the years. On this episode of Overcome with Auntie Anne, I have a candid conversation with my sister and best friend, Fianna Lusby, about the tragedy of loss, processing grief, and the never-ending journey of personal growth.

The big, dark day

On episode two of Overcome With Auntie Anne, I share the personal story of tragically losing my nineteen-month-old daughter, Angie, when she was run over by a tractor. But the other side of that story is that it was my sister, Fi, who was driving the tractor when the accident happened.

Fi wasn't married at the time and still living at home with our parents. She worked with daddy in his masonry shop and every morning would drive a bobcat tractor, loading and unloading sand.

Fi and Angie had a special relationship. Because Jonas and I lived in a trailer on the same property as my parents, Fi and Angie would see each other every day, and they had a great connection. Knowing that Angie was often toddling around the property, Fi was always very careful when driving the bobcat, making sure Angie wasn't nearby before making any movements.

On this particular day, though, even though she looked just like she always did, Fi didn't see anything in the path of the bobcat and started backing up. But when turned back around to go forward, Angie was lying on the ground. She died instantly after being run over.

As Fi recounts, Angie was so tiny that she didn't even feel a bump or anything unusual while backing up. She remembers jumping off the tractor and then realizing it was still moving so she jumped back on and turned it off. Everything else after that, though, is a blur for her.

I remember Fi running away after the accident. Some time later, our family found her hiding in a clump of weeds and brought her to the house. By the time she got there, the house was already full of people because the community we were a part of had come together to take care of us.

But despite the full house, Fi felt alone. She went to the couch and just laid in a fetal position. She felt like everyone was looking after Jonas and I, and admits that's what they should have been doing. But she didn't feel like anyone was looking after her.

And she was scared, scared that Jonas and I would hate her. She remembers saying to herself over and over, "They will never forgive me."

As shocking and hard and tragic as the accident was, I knew Fi needed reassurance when I saw her laying on the couch. So Jonas and I told her then and there that we didn't hate her and we didn't even think there was anything to forgive because it was an accident.

The big, dark life

I've been fortunate over the years to have Fi as a traveling partner. And often, as I've shared this story at different speaking engagements, she's been in the audience. But it occurred to me one time while doing so that I didn't know how it made her feel. So I asked her as she sat there in the audience, and I'll never forget her response. She said, "What you don't understand is, I don't feel anything."

The day Angie died was what Fi calls "the big, dark day." She admits, though, that she didn't know just how dark it was until years later. Because on that day, Fi believes she unconsciously decided that she wasn't going to allow herself to feel the pain of what happened. And in her words, that was the worst thing she could have ever done.

In the house we grew up in, we weren't necessarily encouraged to share our emotions. We often remember daddy saying, "Just get over it." And mom would always say numerous times during the course of a week, "Little children, love each other. Do not give each other pain. When one speaks to you in anger, do not answer them again," and also, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

Fi and I don't blame our parents for these things. But as she says, if you don't give children a chance to express what's going on inside, they're going to carry that for the rest of their lives, and it'll end up doing more harm than good.

And that's exactly what happened. Because she didn't know how to handle her grief, didn't know how to handle the pain of what she was going through, Fi locked it all away. And in locking it away, she put herself on a path in life of never talking about what was going on inside. Her silence led to more silence which led to more silence. And deeper and deeper it went until she no longer felt anything.

No one knew this was how Fi was processing the tragedy that happened. But because it wasn't common for us to share our feelings, I don't think anyone gave it a second thought. And Fi didn't either until years later.

Overcoming the darkness

Obviously, after suppressing them for years, Fi has struggled with her feelings. For so long, she says, she often felt nothing. She didn't feel the pain of loss. She didn't feel the pain of others. She'd attend funerals but couldn't relate to the pain others were going through. She even says joy was something she didn't feel. As she puts it, she was emotionally dead.

But after years and years of feeling this way, she began to have a desire to feel something, anything. She wanted to have some genuine emotions. So she began therapy. The type that has really worked for her is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EDMR). Through it, she's been able to get in tune with what she's feeling and to identify those feelings. When sadness occurs, she can recognize it, name it, and feel it. When joy comes, she can recognize it, name it, and feel it. And after years and years of silencing her emotions, Fi is finally able to give them a voice.

But this is why we share our stories. Because neither Fi nor I want anyone to go through life feeling silenced. When I asked her what she would say to someone experiencing trauma today, she said very simply to find someone to talk to, find someone who will listen to you. All you need is one good person. And when you talk, she says, be open and honest. Cry and sob and share everything. Don't believe the lie that you don't have a right to say something. You do. So share, because not sharing will bury it deeper and deeper and cause more problems in the long run.

Fi also says that people in tragedy need to have Jesus's arms wrapped around them. But not just figuratively, literally. They need to be real flesh and bone arms. So we also need to learn to be Jesus to others who are going through tragedy. And oftentimes, this simply means showing up and listening. And when you've listened a lot, listen some more. Don't offer advice or try to give answers. Just listen. And keep listening. Wrap your arms around them and don't let go.

There's so much more that Fi and I could share about our lives, other tragedies we both went through, other experiences we had, and maybe one day we will. But for now, I just want to say thank you Fi for your openness, honesty, and vulnerability. I'm grateful that you believed me when I said I don't hate you and there's nothing to forgive, and I couldn't imagine life without you by my side. And thank you for never giving up.

Fi and her husband, Mike, have written a book about their collective journeys called And Then We Danced. As Fi puts it, it's about how God can take two broken lives, bring them together, and create a wonderful ending.

The post Trying to Feel Feelings After Trauma Shuts Them Off with Fi Lusby appeared first on Auntie Anne Beiler.

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