This photograph was taken in 1964. My mother and father had just divorced due to his infidelity, alcoholism and abandonment.
She took this photograph of me right before we pulled out of the driveway from Buffalo, New York headed to Dallas, Texas. She had just bought an old car for fifty dollars and was headed towards a journey with four fatherless daughters, and his hunting dog, Gunda.
Our car was piled with whatever she managed to fit on the top, and tied our limited possessions down with ropes to secure everything for our fifteen hundred mile journey, from New York to Texas. Our grief journey begins as we head out to our new normal.
Once we arrived in Texas, we stayed with her sister and her husband. They had three children of their own and there were a lot of people living in that three bedroom house. My aunt kept watch over me and the rest of the kids went to school. Once school was out, one of the neighbors down the street kept on eye on me. The problem was, she spoke fluent French and I too began to speak French. My mother was not able to understand me when I spoke to her and soon placed me in the care of my older sisters.
Time passed, and we found a home of our own and moved into a small rental house. We had been to her brother's house and once we arrived back home, we saw the fire trucks in front of our house. It had burned to the ground and we lost everything. So back to her sister's house we went. My oldest sister had been the one I was relating to as a mother figure by now. My mother was now working full time and trying everything she could to get us relocated again.
My oldest sister was getting married soon and my grief journey would begin to take hold of me on a more personal level.
I was diagnosed with grief at age four after a series of vomiting bouts caused me to dry heave and eventually I would just pass out from exhaustion.
My mother had me admitted to Children's Hospital in Dallas and they ran an array of tests. Upper and lower G.I.'s - blood samples, psychological testing, you name it, I was put through the ringer.
The doctor's were unable to find any physical causes for the vomiting and asked my mother, "Who died?" She thought about it and nobody in our family had died. Then it hit her that my oldest sister, who was my primary caregiver while my mother worked, had recently married and I was placed in daycare.
I had never played with children before and really didn't know how to. I was constantly getting into trouble and was drawn to the school age kids but was not allowed to play with them.
Keep in mind that I had been with an individual baby sitter that spoke French, but when I began to take to French language at my own, my mother had my sister watch me. Prior to that, I had stayed with my aunt. I was a year and three days old when we left and within that three year span, I was in deep grief that was showing up physically.
No wonder I was grieving so young.
I didn't know who to make an attachment to as my primary caregiver. My mother was working two jobs and was rarely around.
I had been in Texas three short years and had already gone from my mother, to her sister, to a neighbor, an older sister, and now to a strange place where I didn't know anybody.
And so my grief journey begins ... a young girl left with the feeling of being "Unwanted" - and abandoned by a father and a mother I only got a glimpse of every now and then.
I recall that hot Summer day when she walked into her bedroom and found me staring at that photograph. "What are you doing in here?" She asked with a look of deep concern on her face. I replied, "I'm just a baby here and nobody wanted me?"
She took a long, hard breath and let out a big sigh and began to try to explain that day to me. "Kim, this was the day that we left New York to come to Texas. Your dad and I had just divorced and he had already had a daughter that was three months younger than you are.
He and I were still married when he strayed from our marriage. That hurt me very deeply. I took you and your sister back to New York to show him that we were doing alright now."
We had only been back about a week from that trip she mentioned and I recall seeing my father for the first time. I had just turned eight and celebrated my birthday and the next day he came in to see what his brother wanted.
He didn't know we had driven up from Texas and he walked in the door. I recognized him from old photos my mother kept in a box.
I ran straight up to him and wrapped my arms around him and my thoughts were racing into the fantasy I had always dreamed of seeing him one day and how once he knew me, he would want to come home and I would finally have a dad that would teach me about fishing, and baseball, and would go swimming with me and take me horseback riding!
There he was in full form! I didn't want to ever let him go. He reached down and pulled my arms away from him and said, "Hey there kiddo. How are you?"
I looked up at him and felt an ache in my heart and said, "I'm fine." and walked away. I knew immediately that he didn't even know who I was.
He looked over at my sister, and then at my mother and said to her,
"How do you do?" Then his eyes darted back towards me and then again at my sister and then back to my mother and then he began to yell, "Son of a bitch!" over and over again.
The reality of the family he had walked away from seven years ago had returned but two of the daughters were now grown and married. My sister and I were the only two left living at home.
There we were in the flesh and he didn't recognize any of us.
I felt like running away and I just wanted to go back home right then. My cousin asked me if I wanted to go listen to some records and took me back to his room and we listened to The Beatles.
He told me that my dad was drunk and that is why he didn't know who we were and not to be sad about that. His words seemed to be in slow motion as I sat there with tears flowing from my eyes.
I recalled that day, seeing my real father for the very first time, and I told my mother that I didn't care about what happened to them.
She told me that she had sent him that photograph of me sitting on that old pickup truck to make him feel bad about what he had done.
Her reasons didn't seem to matter to me that day.
I felt more abandoned and more unwanted than I had ever felt in my entire life.
I mean she had the mean old Mister living in the house now, and I was already sick of the way he would come home drunk and smash our things, beat her down in a corner, and then come after my sister.
I usually stayed quiet and out of his way. I was usually found playing alone in our bedroom with my Breyer Horse collection, pretending to ride far, far away from this hell I called home.
The next day, I took off towards a field that all the kids in the apartment complex played kickball in and my heart was sick and tired of the hurt feelings that I had been keeping in.
Finding that stupid photograph, knowing now how my own father didn't want me, I began to yell at God right there in broad daylight.
I recall screaming, "Yeah! I know you're up there 'somewhere' but what kind of father are YOU? You kicked this world in motion, created people and then you just walked off said the hell with us all. I HATE YOU!!!"
I told him how from now on, I didn't need nor did I even want a father - I'd do just fine without him. For the first time in my life I was experiencing an inner rage that I had never known before.
All my friends had fathers - why did God let this happen to me? "It's not fair!" I screamed out one last time.
It was hot outside, the pool was closed and most of my friends had gone on family vacation - something I would never experience.
I had all these emotions raging.
I can identify them all now that I'm grown, but then I just felt anger and rage.
Little did I know that things were about to go from bad to worse.
The day came when my sister began to rebel from The Mister's harsh hands and my mother saw to it that she get a fresh start and she moved out to go live with our oldest sister and her husband.
My thoughts were pretty prophetic that I would soon be the target of his rage now that my sister would be gone.
I was right. The hair pulling, and name calling of how worthless I was, and I was sick of walking on eggshells around his drunken bouts of rage.
The relationship between him and my mother was like a revolving door.
They would get along for a short time and then he would come home drunk and his inner fears of my mother leaving him would turn into a jealous rage and the beatings would start all over again.
One night was the final blow for my mother. I could hear the two of them screaming and the brutal sounds of his fists slamming her against the wall.
She would scream, "Please ... stop! Please ... just leave!" Yet her words only seemed to enrage him more. He pulled out a gun and had my mother by the back of her neck when I opened my bedroom door.
I too began to scream at him, "I hate you! Leave my mom alone!! I hate you!!"
The next thing I knew, I felt the hard, cold steel of the barrel of that gun hit my teeth and he continued to shove it into my mouth to point that I was gagging. He gritted his teeth and told me that I was going to get into that bed, close my eyes while he took my mother for a little ride.
All I could do is shake my head as to say, "No" and he told me that if I called and told anyone about this that I would never see my mother again.
The next thing I knew, he pulled my screaming mother out the front door as I watched out of my bedroom window. She was driving and he was facing her with the gun pointed to her head.
I got out of bed and fell to my knees behind the bedroom door. I began to pray to Jesus to please protect my mom and please let her come home. I promised to be good if he would only bring her back home that night.
My blood pressure must have been off the charts that dreaded night and my nose began to literally spray blood. No, not a trickle - blood was shooting straight out of my nose and I began to panic.
I ran to the bathroom and leaned over the sink as I watched an enormous amount of blood fall into the sink. It took about an hour for the bleeding to stop and I went back in my room laid down in my bed.
I looked at the clock and it was going on three o'clock in the morning. I began to cry and suddenly felt a coolness came across me. My labored breathing began to calm down and the tears stopped.
I closed my eyes for a few minutes and my mother came in my room about fifteen minutes later.
She was pretty bloody herself and she saw the blood on my shirt and asked,
"Did he hit you too?" I replied, "No. He just stuck that gun in my mouth and my nose started bleeding really bad after you left."
She turned and went to her bathroom and I followed her. I was now nine years old, and I am wiping the blood off her lip and telling her, "It's going to be alright momma ... Please don't cry." I got a wash cloth and held it to her lip and she looked at me as fear gripped her.
She broke down and cried like I have never seen her cry to this very day.
I asked her where he was and she said he was passed out on the couch. She said I could sleep with her and we finally fell asleep.
The days that followed were no different. They had made up, things were going good, and then he would hit the door in a drunken rage and the fighting would start all over again.
This went on until I turned fourteen. I told her that I was going to go live with my oldest sister. I couldn't take this anymore.
Her own fears of abandonment took over that day.
She demanded he leave for good.
He died shortly after that while he was helping his biological daughter with her roof. He had a massive heart attack and fell from the roof.
I never went to his funeral.
There was a strange emotion of relief and sadness at the same time.
My ability to trust men was just not there anymore. The men in my life thus far didn't want me - then they did - then they didn't - then they left.
They yelled and hurt - and I didn't know which hurt me the worst, the physical impact and the bruises that followed or the verbal beatings that took years to silence.
At least the bruises healed and faded, the violent recording of my mind never silenced.
I now had found myself in a very familiar situation some thirty years of marriage later.
I had just discovered that my husband had been involved in an affair with a girl half his age. God - I thought I had lost my mind. I believe in a way I did.
I was literally drug to church by a good friend and I went kicking and screaming the whole way!
I did NOT want to go to church and face "THAT FATHER" as I didn't know him anyway and he didn't want me around.
The church was hosting an event called, KAIROS and the pastors were walking everyone through a series of questions and they brought up what they referred to as "Father and Mother Wounds." Coincidence? God's timing?
Call it what you want, I needed it and I went running towards any hope of healing that hard, busted, raw bleeding heart within me.
I was in my early forties now and our three daughters were grown and about to go out start their lives.
Our oldest daughter was already married and had just gifted us with a beautiful granddaughter, our middle daughter was about to leave to join the Army and our youngest was sixteen and halfway through her high school years.
My mother was very ill and I was not working at the time in order to care for her full-time. I had her go live with my older sister, the same one that she had sent my other sister to live with many years ago.
I was exhausted emotionally and I needed to figure out what I needed to do to feel normal again.
I stayed in the marriage for another seven years only to see that I wasn't going to ever trust him again and I knew I could not nor would I continue to live like this anymore.
I moved out to a small apartment across town and continued my quest to get to know this new love I had run away from so long ago ...
"My Father - My First Love - My Best Friend"
We had long walks and deep conversations about my life. I had learned to ask Him questions and simply be still and quiet my thoughts in order to give Him a chance to show me a few things.
It felt as if I had undergone heart surgery. He ripped my chest open, brought up a lot of painful memories from my childhood as well as my adulthood. I never was made to feel condemned, but at times I felt conviction.
He expressed that in order to give me a heart of flesh, He had to break my heart for what had broken his.
I began to cherish His Holy Word and my prayer life exploded. My inner rage was bound to the foot of the cross and somehow He had managed to cast a peace on my soul that I had never known before.
I witnessed countless miracles and was blessed beyond my wildest dreams. I got involved with grief work and my purpose was now beginning to make sense.
I recall the hurtful words my ex-husband would say to me while he was involved with another woman.
How worthless I was, how much weight I was gaining, how my clothes were out of style, how prideful and stubborn I was about everything.
Then when his sin came to light, never even said, "I'm sorry."
I dropped nearly thirty pounds during affair, I was going on about three hours of sleep, my hair was falling out and I couldn't stay focused on anything for very long.
I started drinking just to ease the pain and forget about the reality that was closing in on me. I was not being a good mother to the last daughter that was living at home.
I recall just wanting to die and be done with this hell I was calling life. I'm glad I didn't follow through on that thought.
I began to seek self care and lined up a Christian counselor, I went to codependency groups and participated with others like myself that grew up in an addictive home and thought this was the normal way to survive.
I advanced in my church within the ministry and soon found myself helping others in the very same KAIROS events that began to change my own life.
I was beginning to see that God had taken me out of the "wilderness" and was beginning to lead me into the Promise Land.
I was eager to take my lessons with me and start loving myself again.
I have come to see that I am loved ... deeply loved. I have come to see that I am wanted and that I am beautiful after years of feeling ugly and unwanted.
I have met a man that I have the utmost respect for and we are taking things slow. We work hard and we play hard and we both enjoy being near the ocean and see our time there together as very sacred and spiritual.
I am on the mend and God is showing me my purpose in life.
To simply come along others that are busted, broken, and bleeding from grief that has overtaken their lives and help them simply learn to hear His voice, to be quiet and still and help them put the pieces back together.
I was so blessed to have Godly women in my life during such dark times. They were the light I needed at that time.
They helped me see that I was not in control of anything ... they helped me learn to trust a world I didn't understand.
I still struggle with trust issues, but I am still learning.
Looking back on my life, and surrendering my life to Christ has shown me that he truly doesn't waste anything. His Word is leaping off the pages now as I write this to you.
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Genesis 50:20
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
I am still working in the death industry and I continue to see so many children, like me that are burying their parents. Some have very similar wounds as I did, some are still wondering, and some have gotten the chance to get that beautiful healing.
I have witnessed many of my friends go through the hell called divorce.
Couples that I have known most of my adult life stare across the table at one another and think to themselves, "Who are you?"
Close friends that are struggling with their health issues.
Adults, much like me - grew up fatherless, in abusive/addictive homes, full of trauma. My pain became my Purpose.
I am most drawn to the trauma with Grief Recovery.
Trauma is now known as PTSD. The Grief Recovery covers the loss of a parent, loss of trust, and all of the other emotional aspects that don't seem to make sense to you.
There are no real stages to grief and it is a personal journey.
You eventually rebuild something new and move forward to another comfort zone until it gets moved out again.
So you see, time does not heal all wounds ... It's what you do with that time that heals. Loss isn't always about death. I lost my ability to trust, my self esteem, my confidence and health.
I wish I had found The Grief Recovery Method sooner. God's timing was what finally got me into recovery. It's never too soon or too late to heal.
From my heart to yours,