I didn’t give it a name for a long time. PTSD was something that soldiers brought back from war, not something that people living ordinary lives had. That was beyond naive, as I found in the years following my husband’s death.

Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome: A disorder in which a person has difficulty recovering after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event. The condition may last months or years, with triggers that can bring back memories of the trauma accompanied by intense emotional and physical reactions

My husband had cancer, but we didn’t think it was close to the end as there were still things we were exploring. He didn’t feel well, so stayed home from work that morning, over 21 years ago, and I fixed him breakfast before I left to run an errand. When I returned after less than an hour, the house was eerily silent and I went upstairs to find him on the floor. Sparing you the details, which I could recount easily without pause, it was a shock, a shock to my system.

None of us understands what happens to make us react to some events in one way and to other events in another. I spent months, years dealing with that shock. I would relive it at odd times and at recognizable times until I learned to, literally, stop the film, not let it rerun in its entirety. If I wanted to, I could play it at any time now, but I don’t.

What I learned is to look around and realize that I am not the only one in this situation. I learned that, no matter how compassionate and sympathetic I had been to my friends who lost someone, I’d not really understood. At least, my understanding wasn’t as educated by experience as it was now was.

Fast forward and I’ve been through other life traumas, but none that rattled my brain like that one. No particular reason for that one other than it was so unexpected at the moment. My brain didn’t cope with it or process as I normally would have. Other things that happened were awful, but my brain didn’t react the same way. I processed better. Then this new incident shook me.

I’ve always had pets, dogs and cats along with the hamsters and lizards that came with having children. Twelve years ago, I went to get a kitten and ended up with two brothers because I couldn’t make a choice or separate them. They were billed as Siamese/Tabby mix and weighed one pound each. Mickey was named for Mickey Mantle because he batted at things with both feet, a switch hitter. He was more burly looking and was the sweetest boy, always doing something silly or cuddling up with the dogs or me. Guy was definitely Siamese, named Guy because I thought he was female and gave him a girl name until I found out. He did not like to be held or confined, but loved to be petted and purred so loudly you could hear him across the room. He was elegant and strong. So we lived our lives with the girl dogs and the boy cats existing in harmony. The boys were inside outside cats and spent time with their secret lives outside, but mostly hanging around the yard or curled up inside. They were street smart as to dogs, cars, hawks and owls and even an occasional fox.

I left on a trip this summer and didn’t see Mickey as I left. I kept checking but nobody had seen him and I was sick at heart. When I got back, Guy was missing, too. I was heart-broken and posted notices, went to the animal shelter, drove around calling so they might hear my car or voice. Nothing. Not a sign. The answer was a Facebook post showing a coyote nearby. I knew immediately what had happened. You need to understand that I live in the city, an urban area, although there are creeks and the Arkansas River within a couple of miles. We’re not in the country where I might have expected this. This is a predator who has invaded our city, taking pets from yards. We had severe flooding this spring, coupled with ever present development, so I can’t blame the animals for being animals.

But still. I’ve tried to go all Circle of Life on this, but it is haunting me. Maybe I’ve watched too many nature shows and watched how brutal it is. Maybe the online descriptions of pets being taken in front of their owners and descriptions of the torn carcasses got to me. I’ve had nightmares of my boys being grabbed and so on. One night my older dog barked for hours, which I’ve never heard her do. She heard or sensed something outside that was wrong. Her bark wasn’t even normal and it was creepy. It’s another PTSD because it is a shock to my brain even though I didn’t witness anything. I’m getting better, but it stings and it’s taking longer than I thought to turn off.

The lesson I’m taking from this is that there are predators in our world and they interrupt our everyday lives with their horror. I’m suddenly thinking what I would feel if I were a parent or spouse and my loved one was killed by a predator while doing normal things like going to school or a movie or a concert or shopping, or if I were in the middle of an attack, watching people being shot around me when we were supposed to be doing something ordinary. I can only imagine how their sleep is interrupted with terrifying images, how they try to move every day knowing their loved one was ripped from them or they saw the horrible aftermath of the attack. Even if you weren’t there in person, your imagination takes over and the happy memories roll around with the horror until you can learn to separate and deal with it all.

My lesson for us all is that we don’t know what predators are attacking people we see in our everyday lives. The predator could be disease or violence or anything they are trying to process with their heart and brain. We don’t process every event the same because we are human and we can’t always control our reactions.

My thought is that we need to be kind to each other. Always be kind.