#DomesticViolenceAwareness, Child abuse, Domestic Violence, gas lighting, healing, Hope, Love, Uncategorized

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Jen’s Story

“When I was 17, I met him online and he asked me out over and over. I finally agreed to go, but I knew the first day he wasn’t for me. I found out he had schizophrenia & was no longer medicated. That night he insisted he would pick me up the next day. Half of me was worried I was judging and being mean, thinking “no thanks” and the other half was kinda worried what could happen if I said no. From that day he wanted to be with me every day. Within 2 wks he had already started yelling and blaming me for stupid things, but his roommate would stand up for me…but soon, I’d be on my own. We moved in to our own place 2 months after meeting. That’s when things really fell apart. He would get angry and throw scissors and knives at me, scream and swear, call me names, threaten me, and turn the whole apartment upside down. I was never allowed to go with my friends, he’d even get mad if I talked to my mom too much. One night I woke up to him standing over me in bed with a gun pointed at my face. He thought I was cheating and he was going to make it so nobody could have me. I was terrified & I was stuck there. My brother died tragically and my boyfriend was so mean to me because men he didn’t know would hug me, that my older brother had to tell him to leave the funeral home and not come back. Shortly after that, my family showed up and moved me out. I went back, he was mentally ill and threatening to kill himself…I just knew I could help him! After all, his family wouldn’t. His dad was a decent person, he was well off, but lived 4hrs away and had nothing much to do with us, and his mom was a drug addicted prostitute who only made life harder on everyone. Finally one day, I had enough and we broke up. He moved to his mothers. THEN… I found out I was pregnant. I decided to do the right thing and tell him…surely a baby would fix them all!!! Boy was I wrong!! At 19yrs old, living on half my heart, fighting to have my baby despite the doctors saying I would die and now having to put up with mother and son making every day hard. Him always screaming, even kicking the back of my chair and sending me flying. My son came in the world, we almost lost him as an infant..and I could see, I was on my own. I mostly let my boyfriend sleep in the daytime so my son and I would be ok. When he was awake he was always mad at us..or someone…or something. At one point my son was a baby, and my Ex was mad that my sister in laws family had more money then us and he lost it. He held me and my son at gun point. He wouldn’t let me out of the house and he wouldn’t even let me make a bottle for my son. He progressively got more out of control. The last straw was when he got mad at me, I don’t even know why and decided himself we were done. I thought I hit the jackpot…until he told me that I wasn’t moving on. In fact, I was going to die…and I could chose how. He could pour gas on me and set me on fire or he could hang me with a noose. I knew my son needed me, I knew I had to survive. I quickly started telling him how much I loved him and wanted him, it was my only option if I wanted to live through the night. It worked. The next day he left for work & I knew I had to take my chances if I wanted to live to see the next day, and I called my parents. They came and got us and we never looked back.

I swore I would never be treated badly again… I moved on, a couple years later I met the man of my dreams. He treated me and my son like royalty. I quickly was pregnant, just like he wanted but I had a lot of complications. I was hospitalized for 10weeks until my daughter was born. He took a leave from work and stayed by my side, for the entire time, hours away from our families. He would cry because he missed my son. He was perfect…until we took my daughter home and got engaged. Then the real him came out. He was so mean to me, but I convinced myself I could deal with it, I wanted a family for my kids and he was only mean to me…he wasn’t as bad as my ex so it would be ok. Until Good Friday, 2011. My dad was dying in the hospital…it was 5 weeks until our wedding, and my friends decided they wanted to get together at my house and see how was I was…little did I know, my world was about to crash. They showed up and asked me to sit. They called my son to the room and they told me that he had came to them while I was with my dad. He had bruises and had reported that my fiancé was hitting him…he had even punched him in the face! He was 8 years old!! He had thrown my 1yr old daughter at a wall…. she was his own blood!! The list would go on and my heart would shatter more. I called the police and he was arrested. My children haven’t seen him since, I will protect them with everything I have. I will never understand how two men who were so very different but both swore to love me, could be so abusive…how they could hurt me and my children. That’s not love. We didn’t deserve that. Thankfully, now our life is great. We have moved past that. My son is 16 and has spent the last 8yrs or so attending rallies and events to end domestic violence. He tells his story, he has no reason to be ashamed. My daughter has grown to know the man of my dreams as her Dad. I’m completely in love with a man who will drop everything for me, OUR kids, & my mother…he’s always there. I thought I wasn’t worthy of this type of love, but I know now that I am, it’s just too bad they didn’t know it. They are missing out on some extraordinary kids, and that’s their fault, not mine.”

Thank you, Jen, for sharing your story. I am so glad you found true happiness, and you and your children are safe and loved.

You are brave.

You are strong.

You are important.

#DomesticViolenceAwareness

Depression, EMDR, Grief and Loss, healing, Hope, Love, Onsite, Uncategorized

April Is Almost Gone

April is almost gone, just twelve days to go. Usually, grief latches on as the calendar page turns from March to April. Depression soon fills all the creases and crevices from my inside out, leaving little room to breathe. The pain of knowing what April stole from me was unbearable, no matter how healed I thought I was. The pain was still there, taunting me from a far off place.

This year, my therapist and I started using EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing ) therapy. EMDR is used to help people who have been through a traumatic event reprogram their thoughts, beliefs, and reactions to the trauma. This process helps remove the block a person created in order to cope with the traumatic event. Once the block is removed, healing can begin.

I had heard about EMDR, and saw it used when I was at Onsite last year. It was just by chance that my therapist asked me if I would be open to trying it. I wasn’t sure it would work, but I decided to give it a try–I had nothing to lose.

The first session was just days before April 1st. It was perfect timing to test the results. If April could sneak past me, without depression following it, I knew it was working. The first part of the session was used to create a safe space, and a feeling that I could pull up if I needed to. Then I was to think about the two most upsetting memories or beliefs about my gram’s death. That was easy, because, even after so many years, the guilt still haunted me. My first belief was that I killed my gram. A nurse at the ER even cast the blame on me. After my gram’s surgery, I had not filled her prescription; mostly as an order by my gram who just wanted to get home. The following day, I forgot to fill them after work, and then she was on her way to the hospital in the back of an ambulance. I was told it was irresponsible to not get the prescriptions filled, and it was my fault that my gram had a heart attack. My next regret was that I did not follow the ambulance to Dartmouth when she was transferred. I wanted to, but my gram insisted that I go home to my children; who were eleven months, three and five years old. I felt guilty that I listened to her. I felt guilty that she arrived at the hospital alone. I felt guilty that I wasted minutes I could have spent with her.

As I explained these thoughts to my therapist, I told her, “Logically, I know I didn’t kill her.” But logic doesn’t always come into play when there is trauma. The doctor at her bedside after she died told me it was not my fault. And, if I had not listened to her, and followed the ambulance, she would have been angry at me. I know these things, but the guilt was overpowering.

During the session I went through that day step, by step, and pulled up memories and feelings that have been swirling inside of me for the last ten years. I cried. I smiled. I felt sensations throughout my body. I was exhausted. It felt like years of pain and memories were lifted out of me, shook around, and re-positioned. I seemed to have responded to EMDR quickly, and effectively.

The following days came and floated by. The dread that usually arrives with April was not there. I was able to think back to those last few moments with my gram without the overwhelming pain, without the longing, without the deep sadness. A few tears fell, quietly, and quickly on the ten year anniversary. But, they stopped as soon as they started. I felt comfort and even smiled at some of the thoughts that came. 

She was ready, and she knew I never would be. She picked how and where she wanted to die. She was in charge, and went peacefully. There was nothing more that I could ask for. She deserved to die with dignity. After ten years, I let her go. I let her go, and accepted that she will never leave me. Her love and guidance are with me everyday. And, for the first time, I actually believe this.

Since her death happened on Good Friday, Easter has also haunted me. This year, as we approach Good Friday tomorrow, I am free. I am free, and so is she.

Christmas, Grief and Loss, healing, Hope, Love, Uncategorized

Christmas Memories Between Mother and Daughter

In 2011, five years before my mom died, she wrote on my Facebook wall her Christmas memories. I don’t remember what inspired her to do this, but I am grateful to have this. It helps me remember the good times, and gives me insight into what was in her heart. We have a lot of similar memories…but that is what makes us family.

This is a memory of tradition of my childhood Christmas, around age ten. I am leaving out the bad stuff, it isn’t welcome here. After Thanksgiving and my birthday the local stores would deck out their windows, the lighted trees would bedeck the light poles and the crown of lights all of blue. 
Our front porch had a five foot electric candle on both sides of the door. The door was decked out with a huge wreath. 
Out front atop the snow was a lighted Santa riding in his sleigh with his reindeer. The side porch….which everyone used had a medium sized wreath and a tree decked out with lights, honking big lights, no mini lights because they were not sold yet.
In the parlor of the house was a sixteen-foot tree somebody had set up, and my Dad put the lights on it. As a family we decorated the tree with mostly hand-blown ornaments, many given to the family by friends. The lights were three inches across, and covered with colored plastic granules.
Tinsel was applied and I got the job of watering the tree.
Mom and Dad didn’t mind if we got up about an hour before them to open our stockings and this Christmas (I was about ten years old) I went in to my brother’s room and jumped on his bed to wake him up. He wasn’t keen to wake up, so I jumped and bounced, and made a nuisance of myself until he woke up.
I don’t remember exactly what happened after that, but I do remember going back to my own bedroom and getting back into bed until 9am until somebody came to get me out of bed.
Our stockings were red felt with white trim and hung up on the fireplace (the fire wasn’t lit or Santa would have been scorched!). I could always count on a navel orange from my grandmother, and a book with “Lifesavers” candy in! The rest of the presents varied, but of course, there were never enough. I was also allowed to pick out one present to open before our grandparents and Aunt Marge arrived for Christmas Dinner and to open the rest of our presents.
Before the relatives got here we always had a good breakfast and got dressed. When Grampy, Granny and Aunt Marge came I got hugged and kissed way too much! They brought their presents into the parlor and placed them around the tree then Grampy would go off with my father and the women would try to help my Mom (which made her crazy) and Gram always made the gravy. She was always the last to sit down to dinner (and the last one to get up from the table). She liked to talk and Grampy would yell “Shut UP Avis!” but she never seemed to hear him.
We opened presents, except for my grandfather who said he wanted to keep his for later. Go figure!
After opening the presents we sat down to the table in the dining room and we always had cranberry juice with lemon sherbet to drink after Grace.
Then my father would cut the turkey and people would pass their plates to him and he would put the meat on, then the rest of the food would be passed around. No-one got up until everyone was more-or-less done, then Gram and Aunt Marge and my mother would take care of the left overs, clean the kitchen and do the dishes (mostly loading up the dishwasher).
Dad and Grampy kind of hung out and then as the sun began to set my grandparents and Aunt Marge would set off back to my grandparents house and we would pick up the parlor. By now we had a fire, so we threw the paper in the fireplace, gathered up our presents and took them happily to our rooms.”

A few days later, I responded with my memories of Christmas with her.

My Christmas memories are almost like the ones you posted. I remember going to bed and listening as you did your last minute things while I peered out the window hoping that I would hear or see Santa. I would run back to bed when I heard you on your way to bed and stayed there until I couldn’t stand it any longer. I don’t remember seeping….but when I knew that it was close to morning I would wake Peter up and beg him to look down stairs with me…he usually would give in after a while but we got sent back to bed until a normal time. When it was late enough to wake up (6am rings a bell), we would all go downstairs and open our stockings. I don’t remember breakfast, but I remember that you let us each open one gift before we went to Bill’s family’s and had Christmas there. Then we would go home and wait for Gram to come and open presents with her and have our dinner with her. I have lots of different memories from all of the places we lived, but these are the main ones. I remember the orange and thinking “what that heck is this,” and I also remember the Lifesaver books.
I remember the Christmas in Waterford where it was thundering and lightening and being scared for Santa that he might not be safe out delivering his gifts. As a kid it was awful waiting for Gram to come, but I am glad that we did because it was more than worth it to share it with her. Thank you for all that you did for us over the years and giving us things that were special and for giving us memories to keep. I do not remember any of the gifts (except for a few…TV with no remote!, Pamela doll, and the Bulls jacket) but that shows me that the gifts are not what the kids will remember, it is the time that we share together as a family.”

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmasperhapsmeans a little bit more.”

~Dr. Seuss

Hold your memories close, some day, they will be the only thing you have left.

Take time to love yourself in the days to come. Be easy on yourself. There is no such thing as perfect. Let go of that desire, and just be.

Be present.

Be free.

Be you.

And remember, you are amazing.

Hope, Love, Uncategorized

The Year That Made Me A Believer

Five years ago, I was a newly single mom of three.  A five, eight and ten year old depended on me for everything. This was not something new, but the circumstances had changed. When I lost my childcare, I also lost my job. In between the fear that I was going to be murdered by my ex-husband, and trying to find enough money to just feed my children, I was blessed to find a job that fit into my children’s schedules. 

The job was part-time, and I had full-time bills. Each week I was a little more behind, but I figured out how to make it work. Until Christmas came. I knew it was coming, but I didn’t have time to focus on it, or what it meant. There was no way I had any extra money to even buy one gift. My kids had already lost so much with the divorce and fire a couple years before, I could not take Santa away from them. I didn’t know what I was going to do. 

The stress of the whole situation ate at me. I felt like a failure, and times like this was why I had stayed in a toxic, abusive relationship for so long. I stayed awake nights as I thought about how I could make it work. I did not have anyone in my life that had money to help. I had already sold my gram’s coin collection to my brother, so I could buy groceries and gas until my first pay check came in.

That was when it hit me. I might not have had anything of extreme value, but I had gathered enough stuff after the fire, to replace my belongings, that were worth something. I got out of bed, and started going through my things. All my hopes and dreams of free time, and hobbies turned into dollar sings. I took pictures of the items and placed them on Facebook marketplaces, and Craigslist. 

Soon, I was getting emails, and things started selling. As my pockets became full with money, I was able to fill stockings. That was one of my biggest concerns. I didn’t want to be the reason the magic of Christmas was stolen from my children. After I had enough money to ensure they were full, I started my search for the perfect gift from Santa. One by one, I was able to find a gift suitable for each child. Some of my shopping took place at thrift stores, to make the money last longer. 

A friend knew of my struggles, and placed us on the list for the Santa’s fund. This was not something I had ever had to do before, and I hated taking the help, but I had to. Not for me, but for them. A neighbor was the one to deliver it, and as he handed me the basket, shame heated my body. This was not the life I had planned for my children. 

The ladies I worked with handed me a card before we closed for the Holidays. Inside the card was about $200. I could not keep the tears inside. This gesture of kindness and love meant more than I could express. A little while later, I received a call from my children’s school. When I arrived there I was taken into the principal’s office and handed a card and a gift. The principal told me, each year the teachers put money together and give it to a deserving family. 

When did we become a deserving family? I could not stop the shame from coming over me. This was not the life I wanted for my children, but neither was living in abuse and turmoil. This was going to be the price of our freedom and safety. 

Inside the card was a gift certificate to Walmart. I don’t remember how much it was, but I know it was enough to fill in some gifts, and make sure the kids had the warm clothes they needed for winter. Everything was falling into place, and I realized, there was a Santa Claus after all.  On Christmas Eve, I helped Santa put things into place, filled the stockings, and waited until morning for the kids to wake up. The magic in their hearts poured out through their eyes, when they saw that Santa had come. 

Their excitement, and the feeling of community that this situation had brought to us made me believe. It made me believe in better things. It made me believe there is always a way. It made me believe the impossible is always possible. It made me believe in love, and magic. It helped me see that Santa is never far away. 

When things get hard, remember to believe. In better days. In love. In yourself. And of course, Santa. 

Grief and Loss, Hope, Love, mental illness, Uncategorized

Happy Birthday, Dad

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It has been so long since my dad died, that I do not remember ever celebrating his birthday. I do not remember sitting around the table eating a birthday meal, watching him open his gifts, or blowing out his candles. I do not remember much of anything about him.

I do not remember his smell, or his voice. I do not remember his touch –from love or abuse. I do not remember so many pieces of him.

I have one photo of him that was damaged in the house fire. I have nothing else left of him, or his. In his thirty-seven years, there is barely anything left behind to prove his existence.

Except for me, and now my children, who are his grandchildren.

The memories I do have of the short time I was able to spend with him are haunted by abuse, and regret. I witnessed him hurt my mom, and brother, and experienced his abuse first hand. I also have memories of his kindness and love toward others in need.

I remember how intelligent he was, and how he could always come out ahead. He had survival skills like no one I have ever seen before –I like to think that is where I learned to survive through the extremes of abuse I experienced. He was a pro at getting something for nothing.

He was someone you did not mess with, but also someone you went to for help. He had a kind heart, and a lot of love to give. What I remember most is how much he wanted to be loved, and accepted.

He had Paranoid Schizophrenia, and for the longest time I was confused as to who he was. I confused his illness with him, which led to fear. When I was able to separate the two, I was able to see him for who he was. I was able to see all the good he had to offer, and I was able to understand the why behind the bad.

I wish I had more time to get to know my dad. I wish that his life could have been easier for him, and I wish he could have found the true love he had been searching for. I know there was a reason he was my dad, and I am grateful for the lessons I was able to learn from him.

Loving him taught me that people are more than a diagnosis. There are reasons behind many of the things people do. He taught me tolerance, strength and perseverance.

In his memory, I ask that you find someone in need of some extra love, and love them. Talk to them. Learn from them. Give people the gift of your time.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

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Grief and Loss, Halloween, Love, Uncategorized

All Hallow’s Eve

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I have always felt connected to Halloween, but never really cared for dressing up. I felt connected to the Earth, to the Wind, to the Water, and to Fire more than any other time of the year. A spiritual kind

of thing.

As a child, I thought my love of Halloween was just for the candy, and never thought more of it. As I grew older, I realized there was much more to the day and night than that. For me, who has lost so many people I love, it is a day to remember them. It is a day to feel connected to them. It is a day to honor them.

As the air becomes crisp, memories start to fill my senses. A song, a smell, sometimes a touch will bring back a loved one, if only for a split second. Every year I look forward to this, and embrace the unity that is created between here and there.

From goosebumps, to dreams, to quick glances in the dark I appropriate their presence.

With much love, I honor all those who have passed before me.

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Honoring Albert, my dad, my grandmother, my uncle, Chris, my gram, my mom, friends, pets, and all of the people I have had the privileged of working with as they came to the end of their lives. Each one taught me something. Each one left an impression on my life. Each one has helped make me who I am today. Thank you for each and every piece you leave behind.

Love, Tom Petty, Uncategorized

Dear Tom Petty

29790939_2116556518361810_3824043330497413120_nDear Tom Petty,

A year ago today, you took your last breath. My mind hasn’t been able to process the pain yet. I can’t bring myself to believe it. Thankfully, your music is here for us all, to help lessen the pain.

I don’t know why you were taken so young, when you still had so much to give…to your family, and your fans. The magic of your words saved so many people, and they will continue to save so many more. The right words at the right time, there is nothing one of your songs cannot cure.

Thank you for the hope your words bring me. Thank you for the love you shared. Thank you for always being a friend, especially during the times when I felt like there was no one else. Thank you for keeping me alive…for the song, and for the actual act of giving me a reason to continue on through some of the toughest days. Thank you for helping me believe that something good is coming. Thank you for giving me the strength to not back down. Thank you for everything.

With So Much Love,

Jessica

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Tom Petty has been my religion…for lack of a better word. When I felt like I was let down by God I found Tom. His music brings me peace, to spiritual places. When I hurt I listen to his music, when I am sad, or angry or happy I turn to his words.  I leave my gratitude for the man who saved my life so many times. With Tom I was never alone.

❤️I am grateful I found his music when I was 14.
❤️I am grateful his music was there when I felt like no one else was.
❤️I am grateful I was able to see him live in 2012, and for the healing that show alone gave me.
❤️I am grateful I was able to see him live in 2013 and in 2014 at Fenway park.
❤️I am grateful that I was able to see Mudcrutch in 2016.
❤️I am grateful I got to see him 5 times his final tour, twice in the front row.
❤️I am grateful for the moments of eye contact and the smile and the pick from the first Philly show.
❤️I am grateful for all of the friends I have made through TPN. Music brings people together.
❤️I am grateful Tom found true love after so much heartache and I am grateful I was able to see the love shared between him and Dana.
❤️I am grateful he has so many people who love him.
❤️I am grateful we have his music to lean on.❤️

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