My Survival Date

This past weekend (October 20th and 21st to be exact) marked the one year anniversary of the worst two days of my entire life.  While I am still relatively young, I am willing to bet that October 20-21, 2012 would have been considered astronomically bad by anyone’s standards – and even that seems like an understatement.  For those of you who don’t know, October 20th last year was the day that I found out my son had been murdered by his father.  It was the day I learned that I would never again see my little boy open his eyes, give me a hug, or say “Mama”.  All of my hopes and dreams for him shattered in that single moment.  A year later, I write this post reflecting over the past year.  I received more messages this past weekend from people telling me they were thinking about me than I received on what would have been Prince’s second birthday (which to me was a more difficult milestone).  My response to everyone who sent that message went something like this:

“Thank you for your kind words.  Today is not a bad day though.  I will not be spending it thinking about the worst day of my life.  I don’t care to celebrate or commemorate this day.  I refuse to allow a date that a demonic man chose to terrorize me for the rest of my life.  This day was not a good day for my son and it was not a good day for me.  I do, however, see it as a day that marks strength.”

Many people seemed confused with my response.  Maybe they were expecting me to curl up into a corner, and spend the two days crying as I forced myself to relive the nightmare that occurred just one year ago.  While I could have chosen that path, and I would not judge someone else who did, I continue to choose survival.  So instead of curling up into that ball and crying, I thought about all the things and people who have gotten me to this place of strength.  I will never say that the path I have taken in the last year should be followed by everyone who has endured tragedy, but it was my path and if my words can help someone then it is worth sharing.

1)  Find your people:  I put this one at the top of my list because without my friends and family I know I wouldn’t have survived this past year.  When my son died, everyone who knew him was devastated.  It rocked my family in a way that a family should never be rocked.  That said, many of my family members were able to rally around each other and we gave each other the strength to keep living.  In addition to my family, I learned who my true friends were.  As soon as I sent out the text message that my son was dying, several of them dropped everything and drove to the hospital just to be there with me.  One of my oldest friends got on the next plane from Louisiana to visit.  She listened to me, sat with me while I cried, made me laugh when I didn’t think I would again, and cooked when nobody seemed to have the strength to even think about food.  When chaos and tragedy strikes, find your people.

2)  Clean house on the toxic folks:  Throughout life its never a good idea to allow toxic people to hang around.  This is especially important during the hard times.  I found that there are some people who enjoy chaos.  They will gravitate around you during these times and make you feel worse.  If you find that someone is making you more sad or appears to be feeding off of your bad situation, drop them like a bad habit and move on.  In the past year, I have made no apologies about getting rid of bad people.  For example, two weeks after my son died, someone who I thought was a friend told me that I needed to “just get over it and stop talking about how angry and upset I was about what happened.”  After that conversation, I promptly told this person to lose my number and I truly believe I am better off because of it.

3)  Grieve your way:  In the past year, I can’t even count the amount of times people have tried to tell me how to grieve for my son or passed judgement on me for decisions I have made.  Many of these people have never lost a child and seem to project how they think they would feel if in my situation.  Recently, one of my coworkers lost his son tragically to a brain aneurism.  The child was six years old and he was devastated.  He asked me what he should be doing.  I told him that he needed to do whatever he felt he needed to do and that he shouldn’t let anyone tell him that what he chose to do was the wrong path.  That said, I would advise someone against doing something that was hurtful to themselves or others.

4)  Don’t be afraid to go to therapy:  Admitting that you need to see a therapist shouldn’t be seen as a weakness.  If a person broke their arm and just decided that surgery or casting it wasn’t for them, they would end up with a jacked up arm for the rest of their life.  If you find yourself in an emotionally unstable place, sometimes you just need to seek medical help and talk to a therapist.  I am not ashamed to say that after Prince died (and while I was in the throws of the custody war), I have seen a therapist regularly.

5)  Take back your happy:  Ever since I met Luc in February 2010, my life has been in some level of chaos.  He has tried to control and torment me.  While I believe he killed my son primarily for money, his secondary motivation was likely to destroy me.  He chose the first time he saw Prince after my birthday as the day he would drown him.  He intended for that day to make me sad for the rest of my life.  I will always miss my son.  I will always hold a certain sadness about the fact that he will never grow up and do the things he should have been allowed to do.  I will not, however, allow the man who killed him to destroy me.  I chose to take back my happy.  I chose to do this for myself and for my daughter.

Finally, I leave you with one of the wisest things I heard after my son’s death.  I was speaking to the priest at my church.  I asked him why so many Christian people were telling me that in order to have peace I needed to forgive the man who killed my son and all of the people who allowed my son to be killed.  I asked him if I needed to forgive these people before finding peace.   Father John looked at me and said, “Hera, hold onto your anger.  It is that anger that will help get your son Justice.”  Father John went on to explain that forgiveness should be reserved people who can understand forgiveness.  It was clear that Luc had no soul.  Forgiveness would simply allow him to feel absolved for what he did, and possibly even allow him to continue to torment me.  So I will not be forgiving Luc.  It is a waste of my energy –  energy that should be used on happiness.  While I don’t forgive him, I also don’t dwell on him either.  I stayed angry for as long as I needed to in order to get the wheels of justice to turn.

I would never tell someone else NOT to forgive someone who has hurt them.  I simply offer you an alternative.  If forgiving the person who has hurt you allows you to heal, then do it.  Just don’t allow that forgiveness to let them continue to hurt you.  For me, what was more important was learning to forgive myself.  This remains the hardest part of my journey.  While I know how hard I fought and how much I loved my son, there is still a level of survivors guilt and victim guilt that I will likely face for a long time to come.  As I continue on this journey, however, I will focus my efforts on life - on the legacy of my son through telling his story and helping to try and protect other children.  Soon, I will also focus on raising my daughter.  I am starting a new chapter of my life and Luc is not a part of that chapter.

So next year, when my daughter is about a year old and the anniversary of Prince’s death approaches, I will think of strength and survival.  I will have survived one more year, and I will be thankful for all the wonderful things life has given me.  This is my survival date.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hold Fast

In the past few weeks, I have received many more emails from women (no men yet) who are facing what seems like impossible situations with the father of their child/children.  Given what has happened to Prince, it has been hard for me to find the words to advise others who find themselves in similarly horrifying situations.  I fought through an impossible situation for 15 months, but even though I gave it my best shot – it didn’t end well for me and Prince.  My baby boy died during one of the first times he ever spent alone with his father.

While to many my story is uniquely horrifying, I have come to find that it isn’t as unique as it should be.  Sometimes after reading similar stories over and over, I start to think as if there is some playbook of psychopathy that all these crazy men are reading.  I say this because even though we are all different in some ways, some of the terrible things these men do are sickeningly similar.

Many people love to judge women for falling for psychopaths, but I am here to tell you that none of these men are going to walk up to you – punch you in the face – and then ask for a second date.  Most women who end up in abusive relationships (be it physical, emotional, or a combination of both) can’t even understand how they ended up in the situation when its all over.  The burning question on many of my reader’s minds is this: what do you do once you realize that you have been sleeping next to a monster and you now share a child?  The unfortunate reality is that you only have a few options and none of them are good.

1)  RUN:  If you realize the man is a monster early enough, the safest option is to back away slowly toward the door.  As soon as you get through the door safely, run as far and as fast as you can and make sure you hide in a place where he cannot find you.  If however, you have already entered into a Custody War with this person, this may not be a legal option.  (Note:  Even though it wouldn’t have been legal, I still wish I had chosen this option in order to protect my son.  Hindsight is always 20/20)

2)  FIGHT:  Once you find yourself in court with one of these monsters, you don’t have the option to stop.  By that, I don’t mean that you should get emotional and fight with your words or your fists.  If you truly believe this man is dangerous (gun carrying, serial killer, drug user, mentally disordered, gang banging, or whatever else evil you can imagine) type, you can try and fight if you choose not to run.  Most attorneys will not be prepared for the kind of crazy you are going to tell them, so start by contacting a local domestic violence group.  They can give you free legal advice and refer you to an attorney who knows how to deal with psychopathy.  If you choose this option, buckle down and get ready for a terrible experience.  Family court is never fun and games and this is especially the case when you enter into court with a pathological criminal psychopath.

3)  PRAY:  If the first two are not viable options, sometimes all you can do is be the best parent you can be to your child and pray for them when they are with the disordered parent.  The unfortunate reality is that in most situations, family court will not choose to protect your child if that means limiting the parental rights of the disordered parent.  (Yes, this is crazy – but true)  So if you have already considered the first two options, or have tried them and failed, your best bet might be to just be a good mom.  Your child will need you to be emotionally healthy so that you can help them weather the storm of the disordered parent.  (Note:  At the point where I ran out of money and my attorneys would not file an emergency order, I tried this – it clearly didn’t work)

Psychopaths do not play by normal rules.  You will find yourself playing a crazy and disordered game of chess with someone who might very well end up blowing up the chess board.  There are many things I am proud of in my life -my son is one of them.  I am not, however, proud of how many nights I spent stressed out over things I could not control.  I would give anything to go back and rewind time so that I could try all over again to save my son.  I would fight for him every single day and for the rest of my life.  I don’t have that option now, but many of you do.

Hold Fast

I come from a long line of strong people.  My Scottish roots can be traced back hundreds of years.  I am from the Clan McLeod.  My son is a McLeod.  When my son passed away, my father told me a story about how long ago when our family was still living in the highlands of Scotland there was a horrible tragedy.  The rival clan had gathered around the McLeod church and burned all of them alive inside.  Entire families were killed -women, men, children.  The only people who survived were the ones who happened to not be there that Sunday.

If my family members who had survived had not moved on with their lives, I would not be here.  They lived through a terrible situation and made sure to thrive in spite of it all.  Our family motto is “Hold Fast”.  This could mean many things, but to me it means sticking to who you are, protecting your family, and fighting for Justice.

So my advise to other parents who are living the nightmare that I have been living the past several years (since I met the devil himself), is to hold fast.  It is your job to protect your child in any way you can - even if that means just being the strong and healthy rock they can come home to after surviving the chaos.  For those of you, like me, who have lost a child (my unnatural or natural causes), you are still their parent and you must still hold fast in the fight to protect their memory and their legacy.

 

 

 

 

 

Surrounded by people – but still alone

It’s Christmas Eve tonight.  One year ago, this very moment, I was tucking my son into bed and preparing to wrap his presents for his first Christmas.  Looking back, I am glad that I was unaware of how bad things would get.  I was able to celebrate my son’s first Christmas like he would have so many more.  It was my son’s first Christmas, but it was also his last.

I didn’t go shopping this year and I haven’t been able to listen to Christmas music.  Nothing seems to matter without Prince.  I have been smiling to make others happy and going through the motions, but truth be told – I wish this holiday would just pass this year. It’s just another day that I have to wake up without my baby boy.

I woke up this morning and my first thought was how I needed to go get Prince.  Then, I remembered  that he was gone.  Even though its been nine weeks since he passed away, I still wake up sometimes and its like he is dying all over again.

My belief in God might be what’s keeping me from completely falling apart.  While so many people have tried to comfort me by saying that Prince is in a better place, this doesn’t seem to give me peace.  A better place for Prince would be here on earth where he would be allowed to live out his life.  Instead, he was never given that chance that he deserved.  So while he is not here suffering along side his grieving Mama, I am not so sure that he is in a better situation than he would be had he been allowed to live.

 

So right now as the police, the judge, the lawyers, the prosecutors, and the medical examiner all sit down with their families and prepare to spend the holiday full of joy and happiness, I remember the one Christmas my son was allowed to have.  I think about how this Christmas I will be visiting his grave instead of watching his face light up with joy while opening presents.  It’s this time of year when people take a vacation from things like death, duty, and “solving murders”.  Instead, they hug their children extra tight and thank God they aren’t me tonight.

 

I am surrounded by what feels like thousands of people, but tonight – I am completely all alone.  I am left with the thoughts of my dead son.  The child I was not allowed (by law) to protect.  I was a mother interrupted and my son was living on borrowed time.

 

Though my son was a shining star in my life, these past three years have been full of pain.  I grieve my son, but I have been grieving the loss of happiness, innocence, and justice since the day I left the devil.  I took my newborn son out of what I knew to be a life threatening situation and the courts send him right back.  I was not allowed to be his mother.

 

I sit here tonight remembering my son and thinking about all the things I wish he could have done – the places he could have seen – and the milestones he should have met.  I wonder when it will be that I am aloud to live my life and leave this monster in the shadows where he belongs.

 

So tonight, I don’t feel thankful for much in the face of this terrible loss.  I do, however, thank God for the fire burning rage I have inside of me.  It is this rage that keeps me fighting for Justice.  While I know that all of those who had a hand in killing my son will one day have to answer to God for their sins, I am certain that God left me behind to make sure that these same people don’t get away with these same sins here on earth.  Bottom line – there is nothing scarier to a public servant who has done wrong than a mother scorned.  There is nothing scarier to a psychopath than a woman who is not afraid to shine a light on what he really is.