When I decided to start a blog two weeks ago, I was just coming out of the darkest period of grief (for me, this lasted from about 3-5 months after my son died). That doesn’t mean the grief went away. It never will – and I wouldn’t want it to. I looked forward to combing through all of my writing from the previous months, doing a bit of editing and choosing some things to share. As a way to remember my son and how much I love him. To wallow a bit. To pick things up and put them back down.

Just as I began to do this, though, an entirely new thing happened: I became terrified.

I’d had flashbacks and anxiety previously, but I simply did my best to tune them out and ignore them. I wanted grief, not horror. Maybe I was too depressed to be afraid. Eventually, though, I was triggered so strongly that I became overpowered by fear.

PTSD is different from anxiety. It’s the difference between fear and worry. An anxious person might be on edge during a hike, wondering if there are mountain lions nearby. A horrified person is actually being attacked by the mountain lion. And a person with PTSD is trapped in that moment of fear.

I was attacked by a mountain lion.

Before and during Sacha’s delivery, I was much more worried about my own life than his – not because I valued my own life more, but because something abnormal was going on, and all signs indicated that he was fine. Therefore, I thought, the problem must be with me. I wrote a will and had it notarized. I saw the mountain lion among the trees.

In the operating room, the cat pounced. A code was called just as I heard Sacha cry for the first time. Codes are not called on babies that come out crying. I thought the code was called for me. And I hoped that it was for me – not because I wanted to die, but because I couldn’t imagine anything bad happening to my son. I thought that I was going to die, and knew that I was powerless to save myself as I stared up at the ceiling. I was prepared. But I didn’t die.

After Sacha’s delivery, he kept crying and seemed okay for awhile. Then he bled to death and no one was able to explain why. Meanwhile, I continued to lose an enormous amount of blood with no solid explanation. I thought I would bleed to death in the same way he had, killed by a mystery illness so abhorrently abnormal that even the specialists threw up their hands. I was terrified, but I was also ambivalent. My Sacha had been gobbled up. I wished the carnivorous fangs would finish me off as well. Again, I didn’t die.

My whole mind still doesn’t fully know that I didn’t die. Part of my brain is stuck in those moments of fear. I have to go back and teach myself what happened. Which is a horrific task, because I have to teach myself that my son died, that the code was called for him and no one was able to help him.

In the meantime, I’m stuck in the fear that the world is not a safe place for me – or for any pregnant woman, or for any infant. The fear isn’t a thought; it’s a bodily experience.

While locating the value and meaning in grief and anxiety can be reassuring and even fun, I have a much harder time locating the value in fear.

All I can do is try to exhaust myself, try to rest, try to strike a balance between avoiding wild animals and continuing to live my life.

The absurd detail: I am a zookeeper, a lion tamer, a taxidermist. The cat that attacked me died along with my son. But I’m faced with his cousins everyday.