“When you can find the light within the darkness of the story of your life you will know that you have found your soul… And when you can take your light out into your life’s work and serve the world the light of your soul you will be living your purpose!”
I found my voice, now I can tell “My Story”
It was my dying daughter who taught me how to love again and it was through a deep understanding of my mother’s life and her death that I found my personal power and my voice.
It has also been through embracing the tragedies of my past that I am able to have peace in my heart for myself, my children. The chance to live well overwhelms me with gratitude most days.
I was not predisposed to heal my life like this; to have this much peace and love is a well-earned miracle. I was born into a family where I learned far too well the pains of the ever so common addicted and severely dysfunctional family system. I survived all of the forms of childhood abuse that our society has a label for today. Worst of all was not having my pain heard while I was growing up.
What I know now is that surviving a childhood like mine was not the victory at all. Rather, facing and embracing the “adult wounded woman” that childhood created, is where my victory has truly been earned. That is where my compelling story really began.
The last memory I have of my family, in the home I grew up in, was of my father choking my sister in a drunken violent brawl. He nearly killed her. I had no idea you call the police for something like that, or for the bloody fights that destroyed my home and harmed my family.
I took that frightened, wounded, immature child who was now in a grown up body out into the world at sixteen years old and tried without success to have a functional life. I married for the second time at twenty to an easygoing man who was a small town hero, alcoholic and idolized son.
I struggled to keep my composure six years later when I stood over his casket, at his funeral, with his parents and most of the town’s people blaming me for his suicide. I buried my husband on September 11, 1985, a day that has since earned its name as a national day of mourning, a day I will never forget.
After the service was over I could not run for my life fast enough. I ran with my two children and my own set of addictions and shame issues trailing behind me. I ran from the police, the private investigator and the social services that were responding to the calls, to take my children away and blame me for a murder that did not happen. I ran to the first and most comfortable place familiar to me. I ran to my party friends.
I moved in with a man, who eight years later was featured on the evening news as one of history’s most wanted serial killers. He was eventually convicted of killing 34 people. I thought my face had fallen off as I watched the evening news realizing my children and I had our “life” to be grateful for. I left him after a few short months for throwing a plate at me, putting a hole in the kitchen wall and stealing what little money I had left from my husband’s death.
The next and only place for me to go was to my mother’s home. This was a relationship I had always wished was warmer, but it was my mom and somehow deep down I knew I had to go home.
My mother died just over a year after we arrived at her summer home. She got cancer in her lungs and voice box. She had never been successful at giving up her alcohol or cigarettes. Now she could.
My mother’s second partner since her divorce from my father, a woman, took her entire estate, everything she owned. I never even got to smell her clothes or hold them to grieve.
First, there was my husband’s suicide, and then my stepfather’s cancer. He was also an alcoholic. And then my mom. It seemed like more than I could take.
I did nothing but sit for some time, in my despair and self-pity, which was pretty severe by this point. I drank a lot and contemplated suicide a lot. However, that option was already highly overused in my family system and I could not bear for my children to have to endure that kind of hurt again.
Then, I had a little ray of hope spark inside me that I could break free from this hell. So, I sobered up, went to self help meetings, and got a job helping people like myself to do better. The act of helping others get their lives together gave me the inner drive to also want to get my life together. So I kept doing it for the next three years. Three years that were less than functional in many ways, but better, so much better, than what I had been living before now.
I earned a good reputation in the community I lived in as “a ray of hope for others.” That ray of hope was nurturing my own heart and giving me purpose. I joined with others in the new age wave to heal my past and forgive my family system for all the wrongs I felt they had done to me. I processed many wounds, shared many tears, and made a commitment to do whatever it would take to heal my life, for myself and for my children.
I started college courses and contemplated going to see my father who lived just down the street. I knew he was an important part of my healing. He still practiced his alcoholism and dysfunction. He was with a new wife now. I had not talked to him in years. He had sent a plant when my mother died. It felt like cutting off my legs and arms when I would fantasize about going to see him and confronting him about our tragic and damaging past.
I had been encouraged by many to go see him for my own healing but always hesitated. I finally did find my courage and I did go see him. It, our relationship, ended in his suicide. I had thought I knew despair before now, but I was ever so wrong. This new despair was debilitating and then some.
Time stood still and no hope could even penetrate my broken heart this time. I could not imagine a God in this universe who would want me to suffer any more than I had already suffered in my past. And here I was, in the abyss of despair and deep grief, again.
I don’t know if I could have accepted help from anyone if it had been offered. Perhaps it was and I was so closed off I couldn’t accept it. I mostly recall people running as far from me a possible, as if I had some kind of disease. They surely had no idea how to help me or even how to become close to such a story as mine.
I like to believe it has been my calling to know this kind of despair and suffering in a deep and forgiving way. I also know those who knew and loved me wanted to help but had no idea how to do so. They did not know how to enter my cold and defensive space. As they say in some of the trainings I have attended “you can only help someone where you yourself have been there before.”
I quit everything I was doing and took a six-week road trip through the high country of Colorado to try to clear my head and reconnect with my needy children. We camped out for weeks at a time and I allowed nature to re-enter my soul just a little. I had an affirmation or a prayer if you will, at the front of my mind. I kept asking the great universe, “that I be shown how to heal my broken heart” and I said, “Please don’t take away my children, whatever you do”.
I did not fit into this society very well before my father’s death and now it really felt like I lived in my own little world. It was almost Christmas when we got home from our trip and I did not return to my job. I met a nice man who showed some interest in me regardless of my overweight body and my messed up life. He stayed for one week, offering us some warmth and attention, which we were starving for.
A month later I confirmed my pregnancy at the clinic and went home to cry. As the affirmation commitment to “heal my life no matter what” continued to maneuver the direction of my life, I chose to take this as a blessing. I made big changes by moving to a new town, in a new state, and started a new and more family focused lifestyle. I rented a small house with a garden in a real neighborhood. I bought a beautiful round, oak dining room table on which to have meals together with my children.
My children were finally going to a nice, small town school where I volunteered in their classrooms. I enrolled them in programs and made myself available for them in a way that we all desperately needed. I volunteered at a non-profit center where that deep inner nudge continued to take me into my own healing, by helping others. I hoped for a good future for all of us.
I turned thirty that year and I was finally going to be able to relax a little, I thought. But that relaxing would not last for long as I learned that my unborn child had a heart problem and would most likely die at birth or soon after with out major medical intervention. It was through a strong intuitive dream that I was lead to the doctor where I received this confirmation.
I was devastated and very confused about life and how much suffering the human spirit should have to take. I cooperated with doctors for more testing and went through the whole rigmarole of procedures that go along with this kind of tragedy. I was given my options, which included little hope of my baby’s long-term survival and which would require major adjustments for my family. I was only a financial step away from being a welfare case, and could not see any possibility that would change soon enough to help with the cost of a quality life for us.
I cried a lot and poured my heart out to my new friends at the center where I volunteered, but most of all I questioned my prayer. “Help me heal my heart and please don’t take away my children,” that was the prayer I had put out to the God I had come to know and talk to.
Then one day, as I was pondering a very difficult decision about my unborn baby that I needed to make, and soon, I realized that letting my baby die a natural death was the best option for my family. I went on to realize that this unborn child who was coming to me with a broken heart had come into my life to help me heal my own broken heart and the heart of my wounded family. I felt the dying baby was the answer to that prayer I had held in the front of my mind not so long ago.
I chose to see this tragedy as a gift to me for the healing I so sincerely asked for. I found places inside myself that I’m guessing were as close to heaven as I could ever imagine by “accepting this tragedy just as it was.” I was discovering a “world beyond the wound,” full of unconditional love, and the most profound forgiveness ever imaginable, as I processed this loss and all the other losses too.
The days ahead were not easy by any means. In fact, I had to find an endless supply of courage to face it all. But, there was a healing beginning to happen for myself and my family.
I spent the next four months processing the inner shadow of that broken heart of mine, while my unborn child grew to full term in my womb. There would be no more running from my pain for me. This child not only touched my life in a deep healing way but, her life’s purpose seemed to be to help other hearts heal too. I found the groups and seminars I was assisting with were rich with transformation.
My children were a bit young to fully understand their sister’s death, but this acceptance I modeled did affect their lives in a positive way. They were witness to my healing and that was a powerful sight for their sore eyes. We were close and it felt for the first time like we were becoming the deep loving family I had been working so hard to give to my children.
I delivered my baby girl at full term in the birthing room at the community hospital. It took two days to get through the birth. I had to have my labor induced because of the fear I had in letting her go. It was a hard delivery, but filled with heart and soul. I named her “Krishna” and my daughter gave her the middle name of Rose; she said, “Mommy, she is like a flower blooming.”
My friends and children were with me and we all sang at the top of our lungs in the birthing room, blessing and celebrating her life, her death, and our healing experience. She lived for ten hours and had more purpose in those ten hours than most people have in a lifetime. I will never forget it and I’m guessing you won’t either, now that you’ve heard our story.
Of course it was hard to let her go, and confusing for my children, but I have learned in my life that the act of forgiveness and this kind of “healing” requires this kind of hard work.
The medical staff and my midwife did an incredible job of honoring the difficult request I had prearranged with the hospital, allowing my baby not to receive heroic measures. I had no idea this was something you had to get permission for ahead of time.
I went home the next day without a baby in my arms, but the yearning in my heart to nurse and hold my child did not go away for some time. My friends held a celebration for “Krishna” at the center where I volunteered. It was attended by many who had a deep respect for the healing that was taking place.
The days and months since my baby died have turned into years, and the heart opening that I experienced has never left me for long. My life has been less than perfect many times since and I still struggle like anybody to pay the rent, finish the college degree and love those who reflect parts of myself back to me in the toughest of ways.
I must say that even as I had this huge healing I still had not earned the self-esteem that I needed to truly live by it. I struggled with this for some years wondering why, if I have had such a “miraculous heart opening” do I still hold back? What I came up with was: “I had a healing alright, just what I had asked for, but it still needed to be empowered.”
As I pondered these thoughts of insight and truth with my personal growth I was brought back to the death of my mother. I remembered those months with all of the surgeries she had to go through. I realized my mother had her voice box removed as a “last attempt to save her life,” before dying of cancer, and that I would need to learn to “use my voice” as the way to save my own life.
I literally felt my voice open up and yearn to never be suppressed again. I felt a deep sense of forgiveness in my heart for my mother and myself for ever thinking that she left me nothing when she died. I had come upon the greatest gift that any daughter could want: a chance to find her voice.
My mother never modeled to me a strong sense of self-esteem or an ability to use her voice to stand up for herself while she was alive, but she showed me just the opposite at her death and that has become my empowerment.
My mother died the day before my 28th birthday. I believe her life, ever so difficult and painful for her, had meaning and purpose. I know now that my mother was one of the most influential people in my life. I know I will be forever grateful for the gift she gave me.
I also know the gift has given me the passion and power to dedicate my life to helping to empower others. I know that we can heal and build a new future as we allow our purpose to unfold from our stories. With this, I offer you my story.