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 it: There 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.