Unrealistic Expectations

I couldn’t stop shaking.  I knew that every word coming out of my mouth would likely not make any sense.  This was the last time I would testify in an attempt to save my son’s life.  As I walked to the stand, I felt as if my legs would buckle beneath me.  Judge Algeo watched me closely and I knew this was going to have to be the show of my life.  Sadly, no matter how much I tried to “keep my emotions in check” as I had been coached many times by my attorneys – this was my son I was fighting for and I couldn’t shut off my maternal instincts.  I hadn’t eaten in a week, hadn’t slept in days, and probably should have been on some sort of anti-depressant medication (if, in fact, there are meds that can help a mother not feel as terrified as I felt in that moment).

My testimony went by in a blur.  Everything I had planned to say didn’t come out right.  I begged Judge Algeo to wait until Prince was old enough to speak before he would consider unsupervised  visits.  As I sat there terrified and shaking, Luc sat back and smirked.  He knew he had checked all of the boxes (or at least lied his way through the court’s tests) and he appeared to enjoy my very visible pain.  Prudence Upton, Luc’s very aggressive attorney, seemed to also enjoy my suffering.  She spent a considerable amount of time chastising me for not making plans for Luc to spend time with Prince at chuck -e- cheese on his first birthday.  I remember thinking to myself, ‘seriously woman?  You are worried about chuck-e-cheese and I am worried about my son living to see his second birthday.’

Unfortunately it appeared as though Chuck-e-cheese was a bigger deal than I thought it was.  Judge Algeo and Prudence seemed to expect that it was my job that week to make sure that Luc didn’t have to lift a finger in order to spend time with his son.  I was supposed to contact the supervisor and request more time, plan for a party that Luc would enjoy, and make sure everything was rolled out on a red carpet.  Luc never lifted a finger nor requested extra time outside of court.  That day, however, Luc was the calm and collected father who could shed a controlled tear on the stand and I was the mother who had been painted as a basket case – a scorned woman – and over dramatic.

 

A reflection of myself:

 

A couple of nights ago, I received a frantic phone call from a mother who is going through a terrifying custody case with an abusive (soon to be ex) husband.  She has a two year old son whom she is fighting for.  As I spoke to her on the phone, I thought to myself, ‘this woman sounds like a basket case.’  After our conversation was over,  however, I realized that I may as well have just been speaking to myself  about seven months ago.  This woman had a right to be frantic – act crazy – be terrified – or whatever emotion her body allowed her to have.  She was in the fight of her life struggling through a thankless and helpless system that fully intended on harming her son for the sake of “parental rights”.

 

To give you some background, the father in this case had assaulted this two year old boy and this abuse was documented by Child Protective Services.  In fact, the CPS worker came into court to testify in the hearing when this mother tried to get a protective order against the father for her son.  After hearing the testimony of the abuse, the judge denied the protective order calling the bruises found on the boy “merely negligence” vice abuse.  The judge admitted that he called it “negligence” because he did not want to end all visitation.  This judge chose to  protect the father over this two year old little boy.

 

Upon hearing that the protective order for her son was denied, and visits with the abusive father would begin, this mother broke down crying in the courtroom.  The judge reportedly called her out publicly and told her to “put on [her] game face.”  He continued to tell her that he was watching her every move and that this sort of “behavior” would be used against her in his future rulings.

 

Unrealistic expectations:

Ever since I have gone through my own Custody War, I have learned many tough lessons.  One of the toughest lessons that I have learned is that the courts have turned into a war zone.  In this war zone, women are expected to stop being mothers who worry about their children.  In fact, showing fear in the courtroom could be one of the very things that will label you as a “parental alienator”.  We are supposed to forget about having been abused, turn our children over to men we know have abused and will abuse again, and we are supposed to do all of this enthusiastically and with a smile on our faces.

 

To expect a woman who has lived through the chaos created by a psychopath to “remain calm” in family court as the abuse continues, and while she is trying to protect her innocent child, is asking her to leave her humanity at the door.  Any woman who could walk into family court when the stakes are that high and remain calm – I would question her mental state.  I have heard that the family court used to be slanted toward women.  I sure wish I had been going through the system at that time. When I went through, I experienced what seemed like a war on motherhood.  I was told I wasn’t allowed to be a mother to my son, but that I was required to make sure that Luc could be his father despite what he had done that proved he was not capable of being a real father.

 

As absurd as it sounds, I am still waiting for the day when I get a call from my family attorneys telling me that Judge Algeo has requested that I provide Luc with some time to visit Prince’s grave.  I can also imagine that in this same phone call I would be asked to provide Luc with a car, since he doesn’t have one, and a packed lunch for the long trip.  Some of you might be thinking that sounds absurd, but not as absurd as the moment when I stood over my son’s dying body listening to nurses discuss how they wanted to create a hospital “visitation schedule” for the man who had just murdered my son.

While nurses were discussing allowing this man to visit, I was told that if I said a word to Luc that I would be taken to a psychiatric ward and kept away from my son in his final hours.  That – ladies and gentlemen – is the state of our society.

Pursuing Prince’s Legacy

On Tuesday February 19, 2013, I filed a precedent setting lawsuit against Ashburn Psychological Center and Dr. Margaret Wong (the child psychologist who gave Luc his court ordered psychological evaluation).  As anyone who has been following my story knows, I have never stopped trying to get justice for Prince since this whole ordeal started.  Part of “getting justice” is holding all of the people who failed my son accountable for their behavior.  A few hours after the law suit was filed, I held the first press conference of my life in my attorney’s office.  Sharing how I felt in that moment might help you understand why this was such a proud moment for me as a mother – as Prince’s Mama.

 

I couldn’t sleep the night before the press conference.  Thoughout the night, I kept thinking about all of the things I wanted to say and how important it was for me to make my son proud.  I would be speaking in a forum that few people get to experience.  I had an opportunity to speak for my son as he would never be able to speak for himself.

When I arrived at the attorney’s office, my thoughts seemed to go a mile a minute as I wondered if I could make these reporters understand how important this message was to not only me, but to many others across the country and the world who are facing similarly horrifying situaitons.  As I sat down at the table in front of a bunch of new faces and cameras, my mind slowed down a bit as my attorney Patrick Regan spoke to the crowd.  Then, it was my turn.  What I said went something like this,

“Thank you all for being here today.  I hope you can understand how important this is to me.  My son was a very special boy – he was my angel.  I sit here before you on behalf of my son who couldn’t be here today.  I speak for my son who will never be old enough to speak.  The week he died, he had just said the word “ball”.  It was his second word after “Mama.”  As many of you know, my son’s father – during just the fourt unsupervised visitation- took off all of my son’s clothing, put him in a cold bathtub, and then held him under the water until he died.  This was a violent and hideous crime.  My son’s father didn’t “snap” and he didn’t go crazy after having a history of mental health.  When Judge Algeo suspected that (Luc) had a mental health issue, he ordered him to have a psychological evalaution.  (Luc) then went to the Ashburn Psychological Center, a place with whom he had a previous history, and paid Dr. Wong to give him a clean bill of health so he could gain unsupervised access to my son Prince.  Dr. Wong proceeded to perform an unethical and negligent psychological evaluation where she ignored all of the evidence that did not support Mr. Rams’ claims of mental health.  It was her dangerously flawed and negligent examination that led Judge Algeo to grant unsupervised visitations – which ultimately led to my son’s death.”

 

As I looked out at the faces in the crowd, I noticed even several men in the room shed a tear.  I continued to explain to the crowd how regardless of whether Family Law touches your life personally, everyone should care about how children are treated in this country.  If children continue to be exposed to abusive and violent parents, these emotionally and physically abused children will eventually become adults and the same issue that was so easy to ignore will eventually become a deeper sociately problem.   If a man as disordered as Luc can walk into a psychological and pay/charm his way into getting a clear bill of health, just about anyone could have done the same.  Dr. Wong’s behavior undermines the entire justice system and we all, as Americans and as members of the human race, should be appalled.

I am suing Dr. Wong and the Ashburn Psychological Center for 20 million dollars.  There is no amount of money on this planet that will make what happened to my son right and there is nothing that can be done to make me forget the terrible pain that I will face for the rest of my life.  This lawsuit is about justice and accountability.  I want to continue to helping people and I want to keep my son alive with a strong memory and a positive legacy.

If I could work every day for the rest of my life and receive no monitary compensation just to be able to have kept Prince with me, I would sign up for that deal in a heartbeat.  Unfortunately, I was not given that choice.

Today was a good day.  I have never been more proud of my son than I was today as I stood there speaking to all of those people.  I realized in that moment that my son was able to have more of an impact in his 15 months than most people will ever hope for in a lifetime.  I was a proud Mama today.  I will never stop telling your story Prince, and I will always fight for your legacy.

V-Day

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.  Many people will be celebrating with their loved ones, giving and receiving candy and flowers, and feeling generally warm and fuzzy.  While part of me would love to join in on the love fest, I have decided to write about the other date that falls on February 14th - V-Day.  For those of you who have never heard of this, V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls inspired by Eve Ensler’s play, The Vagina Monologues.

Critics of V-Day are angry that there are people who want to talk about Domestic Violence on a day that is supposed to be about relationships and love.  To them I say – until domestic violence is no longer tied to “relationships” and “love”, I will continue to talk about it.  I think Valentines Day is the perfect day to talk about this issue.  It is a time when women and men should examine love and relationships and either cherish having found a man who isn’t abusive, plan on how to escape an abusive relationship, or try and help someone who is being abused.

So for my V-Day blog post, I am going to tell one woman’s story of abuse as a tribute to this day.
(Note:  The man in this story is NOT Luc)
“Mr. GQ” and the loss of innocence:

I remember the first time I saw him, he looked like he had walked right out of a GQ magazine.  He was tall, dark, handsome, and very well dressed.  I had arrived at the party early and the only person I knew hadn’t arrived yet.  Though I was super confident, I was also shy around guys.  I was 22, had just graduated from college, and only recently moved away from my entire family.  While I had dated in college, I was still a virgin.  I was waiting for “Mr. Right” or “Prince Charming”.  I still believed in fairytale romance and hoped to one day be swept off of my feet.
Mr. GQ flashed me a smile from across the room.  Initially I looked behind me because I thought he most certainly couldn’t have been looking at me.  A few minutes later, he was standing in front of me asking me for my number.  Over the course of a couple weeks, we went out on several dates and things seemed to be going pretty well.  I told him I wasn’t interested in sex before marriage and to my surprise he seemed cool with that.  One day, he invited me over to his place to watch a movie to which I accepted without a second thought.
Upon arrival, he led me into his bedroom.  I remember asking him why we couldn’t just watch the movie in the den like normal people.  He made up some excuse about the main television being broken and having an annoying housemate.   A couple of minutes after the movie started, he handed me a drink.  Things went south quickly as he moved to taking off my clothes.  I protested and reminded him that I didn’t want to have sex with him.  He told me to be quiet and that it would be over quickly.
I remember feeling confused and scared.  Why didn’t I feel normal?  I felt like I was fighting to remain conscious and I kept blacking out.  Was there something in the drink?  As he forced himself on top of me, he didn’t care that I was pushing him off trying to make it stop nor did he care that I continued to say no.  I felt like a rag doll and he looked like a robot on auto pilot.  After it was over, I was in shock.  I felt dizzy and wondered if this was really happening or if I was going to wake up from this nightmare.
I never called him again.  I went through the next several months wondering if I was still a virgin or whether I could even call that rape since I had agreed to go into his bedroom.  I chose not to report it, because I knew that it would come down to my word against his and I had gone to his room willingly.
The Aftermath:
The woman in the story was 22 year old Cappuccino Queen.  I was raped the first time I had sex.  I don’t talk about my first time, nor do I look upon it with the same fondness that I imagine some women who planned it might.  Until recently, I didn’t even want to consider what happened to me as rape.
Ever since my son died, many people have told me how strong I am.  I wasn’t strong as a 22 year old woman.  I was scared and I let a rapist go free to rape others because I was too afraid to report it.
Almost ten years later, I met Luc (a different guy that Mr. GQ and clearly even worse).  After having lived through such a terrible experience in my 20′s with Mr. GQ, I believed that maybe I had just met someone nice and charming who was actually Prince Charming.  Right after I had Prince, this man I had believed was my Prince Charming (Luc) raped my 19 year old sister.  After learning what he did to her, I wanted my sister to report it.  I didn’t want her to feel the shame that I feel now – ten years from now.  After my sister reported the rape, however, I learned a very scary and painful lesson.  Unless a man jumps out of the bushes with a ski mask on, beats you to a pulp, and its all caught on a retail surveillance camera, you will be lucky if the rapist sees any jail time – you will be lucky if it isn’t turned on you.
Having been a victim myself of this violent crime, I am here to tell you that women don’t report rape for the hell of it – out of anger – or for revenge.  Rape is not a black and white issue and not all rapists jump out of bushes with ski masks.  It takes a very strong woman to admit that she has been raped and EVERY report needs to be taken seriously.  In our country, criminals receive the benefit of innocence until they are proven guilty.  When it comes to rape, that often means the victim is seen as guilty until proven innocent.
Recently, the Washington Post reported about what happened to me and my sister after my sister tried to remove the man who raped her from the streets.  I am certain that instead of being appalled at what occurred, at least one person commented on the article about how awful it is when women report rape falsely.  I am willing to bet that people who jump to the conclusion that the report was false have been in situations themselves where they have committed acts of violence against women.  These people fight fervently to make it seem as if women run around the streets crying rape at the drop of a hat.  This just doesn’t happen.
The man who raped my sister was not an innocent man.  Having potentially escaped the law in several murders, and then after raping a woman not even half his age, he became emboldened.  He felt above the law because he had been.  Then, he went on to kill an innocent child for money.  I can almost guarantee that the police officers who didn’t want to believe this man could possibly be a rapist have still not learned their lessons.  I am willing to bet that these same officers will continue to charge victims and allow criminals who commit acts of sexual violence to walk free.  They will do this because our system allows it and  encourages it.  When  a victim is further victimized by the system – authorities are never punished for getting it wrong.  In fact, the officer who arrested my sister after my sister had been raped was promoted soon after.
This week – I encourage you to celebrate love and cherish healthy relationships.  While you’re receiving flowers and chocolates, however, please also think about the work that still needs to be done in this country before women are truly equal and before we are all truly free.

Trusting Your Gut

Intuition, or gut instinct, is the most powerful natural protective mechanism that we have. – A quote just about everyone would agree on in theory

While just about everyone will admit at some point in time that instincts are a good thing, most of us are taught to also question them.  We learn from a very early age not to wrongfully judge others, to be kind and loving, and to avoid being a mean person.  I used to love walking closely behind Prince as he walked through the mall.  He was like a little barometer of goodness.  He would naturally gravitate toward people who put out friendly and positive vibes, and would avoid people who have him the willies.  By avoid, I mean that he never seemed to care if bad people were insulted by his screaming and he never thought twice about running away from someone who scared him.  For example, Prince cried every time he saw Luc.  One time he cried so long that he started to hyperventilate which forced the visit to end early.  Prince’s gut was fully functional. Prince was a special little boy, but his instincts were not unusual for a child.

When I was a teenager, I went on vacation with my family to Europe.  My sister was about seven years old and was easily scared.  While we were in Paris, my brother and I were teasing her about how when we went to the Notre Dame Cathedral she should be on the lookout for “Quasimoto”.    (Note:  For those who don’t know the story of Quasimodo, he was born with a hunchback and feared by the townspeople as a sort of monster.)  Just as we left the cathedral, my sister ran smack into a scary looking old homeless man.  In true seven year old fashion, she ran away screaming and crying about how she had just seen a monster.  Of course, my entire family was completely embarrassed and my parents explained to my sister that it was wrong to judge this man because of how he looked and was dressed.  About five minutes after my sister’s very public reaction to this man, we noticed that he was going around pick pocketing unsuspecting tourists.  While my parents’ hearts were in the right place, I think my sister had a very protective instinctual reaction that was not simply based on how this man looked.  While the rest of us felt bad judging him based on our gut instincts, my sister was right to run away from him because he gave her the willies.  She did what most seven year olds would do to protect themselves – run away screaming.

 

Ignoring your gut:

Everyone reading my blog likely knows by now that my life has recently been filled with all kinds of bad news drama.  Some of you might still be wondering how in hell a woman like me got mixed up with a serial killer.  While I recognize that my story is on the extreme spectrum of badness, there are a lot of important life lessons that are useful for even the less extreme situations.  I have spoken before about how I met Luc online (mistake number one – noted).  Our phone conversations had gone well and he seemed to have an interesting story (because it was just a story); however, when I first set eyes on Luc something deep inside me told me to run.  The hair on the back of my neck stood up, and he just plain gave me the willies.  That feeling in my stomach, sadly, was not butterflies – it was God sending me a sign and telling me things were not right with this man.

So why didn’t I turn around right there in the mall and leave?  Why didn’t I just stand him up, make up an excuse, or just disappear and never answer my phone again?  I didn’t run because I ignored my gut.  I was a good person who didn’t want to be mean by telling him he gave me the creeps before running in the opposite direction.  By ignoring those initial instincts and sticking around for that first date, I allowed him to dig his evil claws into me and disarm me with his charm and all out love bombing techniques.  It only took Luc a few minutes to squash my gut.

Unfortunately, after I initially ignored my gut with Luc, it became a bit of a slippery slope.  There were moments when that gut feeling would come back, but because I didn’t have solid evidence to explain why I had these feelings – I continued to ignore them thinking that maybe I was the one overreacting or just “being mean”.  When I was pregnant, I ignored my gut thinking that maybe I was just hormonal.  There became a point where I had defended the idea of Luc so much in my head, and to doubtful and rightfully skeezed out friends, that I felt invested in something I should not have even entered into.

 

Things that inhibit your gut:

In the past, I have cautioned my readers against internet dating.  I am going to take this a step further to say that with the emergence of technology, we often enter into situations that inhibit our ability to have that initial gut instinct.  For example, con men in other countries run online schemes swindling innocent people out of millions of dollars without ever having to face them in person.  It is easier these days for predators and criminals to hide behind a computer screen.  Luc was incredibly successful at finding his targets on the internet.  He would not have been this successful in person.  The nonverbal cues that people give off help us determine whether or not they are genuine.  When you don’t have the opportunity to assess these cues, you start out at a disadvantage.

 

The price I paid:

Ignoring my gut instinct was what initially allowed me to fall for a con man, but the sad reality is that once I figured out my mistake – and realized how terribly dangerous Luc was – the courts forced me to ignore my instincts when it came to Prince.  The Judge chastised me for having had a child with Luc, and appeared gleeful at the idea that I would forever be punished – now  forced to ignore my maternal instincts and turn my son over to the man who had conned me.  Prince only survived three visits before on the fourth visit coming home brain dead and cold.  Every single time I said goodbye to my son before handing him over to Luc, my gut would scream bloody hell.  My instincts at this time told me to run.  I had gotten as far as getting Prince a passport, and was actively thinking about places I could go and hide.  Unfortunately, I had ignored my gut for so long that the courts took away my ability to legally follow my gut.  I knew that I couldn’t break the law without becoming a fugitive, end up in jail one day, and lose custody by default.

Sadly, I know there are many parents who will continue to face this painful reality.  I wish I could provide you with the wisdom that would make it easier to endure.  The only possible advice I would offer you is not to let the court make you believe that it’s in your child’s best interest to ignore your gut.  Try not to let years in the system make you numb to those instincts that might one day save your child.  It might feel easier to ignore those instincts when you are forced to turn your child over despite them.  Play the game because you must, but don’t ignore your best defense against evil – instincts.

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Happy medium:

I am not suggesting that I should have run away screaming and crying when I saw Luc the first time (though this would have likely been better than sticking around).  Instead, I am suggesting a happy medium between the screaming child and my adult reaction.  Had I to do all over again, I would have slowly backed away and ducked into a random store in the mall.  Then, I would have ignored his phone calls or just made up some excuse why I couldn’t make the date and never again contact him.  Sure, if for some reason you cannot escape a bad situation without running and scream – by all means channel your inner seven year old and scream your head off.  Most of the time, however, we find ourselves in situations where we can easily choose to walk away when it doesn’t feel right.

Right after Prince died, my body felt like it was shutting down on me.  I was a perfect target for predators because, frankly, my gut didn’t work right.  I have since realized that there were several people who came into my life, and tried and capitalize on my devastating situation for their own personal gain.  Luckily, I am starting to come out of the initial fog and have noticed things about these people that have led me to back away slowly before running away (screaming only in my head so not to cause a scene).  It has proven somewhat harder to run away from a person you have initially let in; however, it is not impossible.  At the end of the day, it is not mean to cut someone off if by doing so you are protecting yourself and your children.

I will forever have little lessons Prince taught me.  The lesson of “trusting your gut”; however, is one that Prince reminded me of.  When I was Prince’s age, I also had a healthy gut that I managed to ignore countless times as I got older and started to overthink every single situation.  While I am not advocating making a snap judgment on a homeless person who may have fallen on hard times, I am advocating for not ignoring your gut instinct about someone just because you feel bad and have been taught to give everyone a chance.

If I ever find myself at the steps of the Notre Dame Cathedral with my future child, and we see Quasimoto’s stunt double trying to rob innocent people, I will grab my child’s hand, swiftly walk away, and say, “Mommy has the willies baby.”

 

Strength – When You Have No Other Choice

One morning in February 2012, I woke up just like every other morning.  Prince used to wake up at 3am as if he had an internal “I want to sleep with Mama for a bit” clock.  He knew I woke up for work at 5am so he would get up with just enough time to sleep with me for a couple of hours.  He was so used to getting his way when it came to the morning routine that he wouldn’t cry.  He would look right into the baby monitor and say, “Ah? Ah? Ah?”  I would roll out of bed (hair looking like a hot mess and barely able to see), grab him out of bed, and take him into the bed with me.  Prince would promptly sprawl himself across my body, and happily spend the next couple of hours with Mama before I had to go to work.

Driving to work that morning, I heard the news that a man named Josh Powell had just murdered his two innocent children during a court ordered supervised visit.  As I heard the news, I almost ran off the road.  This story hit me hard, because I actually worried about this sort of thing happening every single day.  Most people cannot imagine that level of crazy, but I was living in a nightmare packed with the kind of crazy that most people only see in movies – or hear about on the radio during their drive in to work.

When I got to work that morning, I felt like a zombie.  I couldn’t stop thinking about Prince and what I would do if I didn’t have him with me.  That morning, I brought up the Josh Powell story with a couple of my coworkers.  I told them that I was terrified for my son, and I couldn’t imagine how I would live if something ever happened to him.  I noticed that most of my coworkers were saddened by the story, but they were not able to relate the same way I was because they were not scared in the same way for their children.

Strength – when you have no other choice

Back in February 2012, I had a hard time imagining a life without my baby boy.  Now, a year later, it is my reality.  Many people have told me that I am the strongest person they have met, and they often wonder how I am able to make it through each day.  What I often have a hard time explaining is that I was grieving for my son even before he died.  I was terrified for him every single day since the day I learned what Luc was – a psychopath (July 17, 2011).  Sometimes I wonder if I am able to be so strong because I have become used to this level of chaos, and desensitized to all of the bad things that can happen.

The fear that I lived with every single day was extreme.  Anyone who saw me in court would remember how my voice shook as I begged Judge Algeo not to make me give my son to the man I feared would hurt him.  While I didn’t have any solid evidence that something this extreme would happen, I did have loads of historical circumstantial evidence from Luc’s past and all of the people who died around him.  While I hung onto to the hope that Luc loved his son, I knew that he was not capable of loving him the way a father should love their child.  The most scary thought was that I knew Luc was dangerous, and that Prince would not be able to escape this man unharmed - nobody had escaped unharmed.

Many people all across the world are living in fear that something will happen to their child.  The pain that is caused from this fear is not the same as what I am living through, having lost my son, but it can sometimes feel equally as terrible.  While my son was alive and I was fighting for his life (and my own), I didn’t have a choice but to be strong.  I couldn’t have imagined living through the death of my son because to have been able to imagine it would have been unnatural.  So right now, I am doing the same thing I did before my son died – I am surviving the chaos because I have no other choice.  I am strong because I am a mother - mothers don’t get to choose not to have strength for their children.

 

How I Keep Living:

Every day I receive letters from others who are struggling to protect their children in a system that has encouraged them to shut off their parental instincts.  While this issue is close to home for me (because I lived it with Prince), people suffer through other types of terrible tragedies and painful situations every day and can certainly relate to the idea of “strength – when you have no other choice”.  Its been nearly four months since I last woke up with my son sprawled across my chest.  Sometimes I still wake up at 3am thinking that I have just heard his voice.  I don’t pretend to have the play book on how to be strong in the face of evil, chaos, and the impossibly bad, but I have learned a few things that help me get out of bed each morning.  Whatever it is that you are going through, I hope that you can find your own strength through my words.

1)  Find your “happy” place:  There are still times during the day when I get sad.  Sometimes I look at my son’s picture on my office desk and have to walk away just to keep myself from crying.  When moments of sadness hit me, I hang onto happy thoughts to get me through the sad moment.  For example, I remember a time when Prince made me laugh or I think about all the amazing friends and family who have helped me through this situation.  Lately, I have found a lot of happiness thinking about Luc trying to hide in the corner of his cell while Bubba is waiting to violate him.  (I apologize for some for whom I have offended their sensibilities.)

2)  Choose your battles: There are a lot of things you can get stressed out from on a daily basis.  If I chose to be stressed about all of them, I would most certainly die immediately.  If you are dealing with a lot of stress in life, give yourself a break and allow yourself to just walk away from things that are not work the stress.  For example, Fairfax Hospital treated me and my family like trash the night my son died.  While sometimes I feel like going there to scream, cry, or just tell them how terribly I was treated, I realize that unless they are willing to learn from this experience – it is most likely not work my energy.  Instead, I choose to limit the drama when I can and focus on things that actually make me feel better.

3) You cannot fix stupid/crazy:  When I was fighting Luc in court, I had to get to a point when I realized that there was no way I would ever be able to make him not stupid and not crazy.  Now, even with Luc behind bars, there are still a few stupid/crazy people who would rather trash me than recognize the terrible tragedy that occurred.  Initially, I spent a lot of time being upset about these people.  I have learned, however, that this stress is not helpful and it certainly won’t bring Prince back.

4) Get passionate and don’t be afraid to be loud about itThere is no pill on this planet that will get me out of bed faster than simple passion.  When this tragedy first occurred, I had several people who suggested medication.  I am here to tell you that medicine will not make what is causing the pain to go away.  What seems to help me, however, is finding something to channel my energy.  It is my son’s legacy that gets me out of bed in the morning and it is the idea that I can help others that keeps me going.  Whatever it is you are passionate about be it basket weaving or pursuing justice, chase that passion with fire and don’t be afraid to get loud about it.

Finally, there is no right or wrong way to grieve.  Whether you are grieving the loss of a job, the loss of a relationship, the loss of your belief in the justice system, or the loss of your child and the love of your life – allow yourself to grieve your own way.  Take time for yourself and don’t worry about pleasing everyone in your quest to find your own strength.