No, it wasn’t the Al Ghantoot tragedy (though he’d also been driving within sight of that one). It was early evening along the Creek, and he’d been following fairly closely behind a dark green estate car, when a little girl of about three rushed out into the road to greet someone on the other side – quite oblivious to the traffic.
The green car braked hard, and he did the same, almost ramming it. But it was too late. The little girl was lying at an awkward, unnatural angle against the kerb, and he would never forget that sight as long as he lived.
“Was I following too close?” he kept asking me, as I tried to counsel him in the days following the accident. “Was I tailgating? Did I push him over the speed limit?”
“No” I reassured him. “No-one claimed that either of you was over the limit. And you weren’t tailgating either. Think about it. He jammed on the brakes, and you were able to stop in time. You were perfectly in order.”
But it would take more than that to close the chapter. It was as though he almost wanted to held responsible, a strange quasi-masochistic reaction. But grief therapy operates on a highly irrational plane, with much denial of both innocence and guilt. All we can do is try to escort the sufferer back down the strange route by which they arrived, and usher them gently towards the rational.
He’s not there yet.
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