When my son found my ex-husband dead of an overdose, I had to put my grief aside and be there for my children.
My children witnessed some of the abuse that occurred during my 18-year marriage, but worse, they were forced to witness my ex-husband’s obsessive drive to destroy me after I ended our marriage. I was at high risk of being murdered and had many safety precautions in place: alarms, bars on my windows, a personal protection dog and a lot of education about domestic violence.
I lost all sense of peace for 10 years after we divorced. The abuse continued through my children, broken windows, a car set on fire, a winter coat slashed through the back, and on and on. I could only control my domain and I decided at some point that I had to choose to be happy and peaceful in spite of him. That was a turning point for me.
I had a career teaching but I wanted to counsel others about domestic violence. I went back to school at night and became a school counselor. I have helped many young children, teenage children and mothers through this distressing time in their lives. I want them to know that they do have a future and that they will find peace. The sense of hopelessness is one of the worst human emotions that one can feel. No matter how bad it gets, you must believe that there is so much good in the world—good fathers, good men, good counselors, good women and good neighbors.
My children loved their father even though they knew that he had done many bad things. They were kind to him but kept their distance, especially during the last few years. Now there is much regret, guilt and sadness about how long ago they really lost the man they called “dad.” I see progress also. My son is finally mentally well enough to work. His eyes are soft and brown again with no sign of the blackness I once saw in them. My daughter is getting married and crying about her dad not being there but she will be alright too. My other two daughters are so much alike even though they are 10 years apart in age. They grieve privately.
My reaction to his death? Lots of nightmares where he comes to kill me again. Lots of tears for his parents and my children. Thankfulness that he will no longer suffer or cause great suffering to others. Sadness for the young man I married and wanted to grow old with. Great relief that I don’t have to be afraid of him anymore.
It seemed fitting to me to face my fears and go to his grave. I did not go there to rejoice. I felt fear that he would push up from the ground and grab me. I heard strange animalistic sounds coming from my mouth that I had never heard in my life. I wiped off his headstone with my wet tissue. I forgave him. Then, I turned and walked away from his grave and it was very empowering. I will never forget what he did to all of us. But I WILL have my peace.