“do you see a time when you will be able to let go of this and move toward stuff that is not about murder (I say this with love)”
This bizarre question was posed to me this week and I need to write about it. Yes, the question is strange on its face because, well the obvious: I am immersed in writing a book that has a primary focus of homicide. Right now I’m doing that.
It’s bizarre for other reasons–it was embedded in a series of other questions, by a person who should know some basic aspects of my writing life, who seemed to think I was attending my sister’s murder trial last week when I went to the sentencing of Travis Alexander’s killer. Without going in to details, this is a person in the periphery of my life who after many months of sharing writing together (and the entire time I was on my writing sabbatical for my book), I’d assumed knew at least the very fundamentals of what I was writing about. I think most anyone would have figured out that my sister’s murder trial was not currently going on.
(gratuitous Ryan Gosling insert)
This person also launched this topic abruptly with it’s loaded question in our very first private conversation–online. There are many other details which make this exchange even more incredulous but I’m less interested in going in to this person as I am this question.
How did I feel? Well, at first I felt confused because it was so rudimentary and anyone even reading my bio would know those answers and I thought there was more depth in understanding going on there so it all kind of disoriented me. And since it came as a response to this blog post which answered all of those questions, which clearly had not been read, I directed this person to read my blog for the answers. Maybe I should have just left it at that. I’m sure I should have.
Yet, tending toward verbosity, I didn’t. One of my many learning curves. I decided to give this individual a small lesson on writing about dark topics.
I felt kind of shocked that I was having to educate someone who I thought had more than a basic working knowledge of writing and healing on something so rudimentary. We do whatever work we are doing–writing, therapy, etc–until we feel or IF we feel in a place to “move on”. Some people will write about their pain their entire life. Some will paint about their pain their entire life. Some will write songs about pain their whole life. They will cope their entire lives using their art form to keep moving, keep healing, keep growing, keep staying alive. Some of the greatest art in our culture comes from the expression of pain.
There was so much loaded in this question– which this individual later copped out saying “I was just asking a question”–that hits sensitive topics for me. First of all, that “just asking a question” response is bullshit. It’s akin to the “when did you stop beating your wife?” question. It was loaded, it was not said with love, it was said with judgment. And ignorance. And it wasn’t really a question. It was a statement embedded in a string of words with a question mark at the end.
Those of us navigating very sensitive topics, very dark worlds we’ve been tossed in to, often navigate a mine field of often unintentionally callous remarks.
“When do you think it’s just time for you to stop trying to be pregnant?”
“Don’t you think it’s time to get over that breakup by now?”
“Can’t you just forget about that trauma you suffered in the War and be happy?”
I’m not speaking about people someone might be working with in therapy who is guiding them, who knows them, who feels a pattern has emerged long enough that is destructive so is using that kind of dialoguing therapeutically. Those kinds of questions can have a place. In my line of work we call them a “verbal slap technique” which sounds harsh but it’s more like an endeavor to shift the person quickly to a new reality and see what comes of it. And even that technique is used very judiciously after a bond of trust has been established.
I’m also not talking about a trusted family member or friend who is sincerely seeing you as stuck and wanting to help.
The questions I’m referring to are more subtle, more intrusive, more insulting and more projection.
What I’m talking about would be more like a co-worker seeing a person at work going through a difficult grieving time, still dealing with the aftermath of their husband’s death, immersed in the details about it while navigating their life and asking them “isn’t it just time for you to move on?”. I shake my head but these things do happen.
In the way I see them, they have more to do with the questioner’s discomfort of the topic at hand so they kind of want to shut you up. And that is the absolute last thing someone needs who is feeling that earthquake of a buried emotion bursting forth to clear air.
Dark places surface for oxygen, for light, for healing. Sometimes a dark seed can turn from a weed to a blooming flower. Yet it’s the person living that process of evolution to discover it. Not some stranger coming along the path and plucking it before it’s full blossom because they don’t like weeds in YOUR lawn.
I backed out of the conversation with this individual then I got pissed. Then I let them have it. This was my response–good,bad or ugly–this is what I said back:
You do realize that I have two published pieces that are about LOVE and not about murder. This question begs me to ask you, what is it about me writing about murder, which is something that my book is about, makes you uncomfortable? And is it something you prefer not discussed in your group? Because your question on it’s face, assumes I don’t write about anything else but that which tells me a. you’re not paying attention to what I share and b. you are uncomfortable with that topic. and c. you haven’t been dealing with your own dark shit. There, I said it.
To this person’s credit, they offered an apology. No dialogue or interest in learning more but one of those “sorry you feel that way” apologies. And I learned a whole lot about them in the process. And how they will be positioned in my life. And I’m writing this this morning to continue using this craft to let things go and hopefully learn something for myself, about myself in the process.
Any of you out there who have dealt with this same kind of insensitive confrontation, let’s agree this: we don’t need to take on other people’s discomfort. With our grief, our pain, our trauma, the darkest things that have happened in our lives that might be surfacing for air, we have to keep breathing our own oxygen. We would be best to let them have their discomfort and keep feeling everything we are feeling. I think the absolute worst thing to do is to shove it back down, cut it off, because someone else is, in any way shape or form, pushing you to do that. Then all we have is another layer and we gotta start all over again.
I’m up in Sedona today for the next 4 days to fast and write. Those two boxes are here that contain Cindy’s trial and the investigation so I think I will dive in to those again and I will be blogging about any writing I do over on Middle Child.
And one thing’s for sure: I won’t be thinking about when I’ll be able to “let go” or “move on” from this grisly subject I’m diving deep in to. I’ll be living it as it’s happening. That is where I find healing. Although her murder was 27 years ago now, this is the time. And I’m glad it showed up.
Hope you are all having a great weekend! I feel much better having released this!
I want to end on this song by Shelby Lynne that I just love and somehow applies.
29 thoughts on “asked and answered”
KCL…love this! At WS when people say move on or let it go, it is so interesting because if they had moved on they wouldn’t be posting, right?
Thank you for making my day. And God bless you! Sharon
Sent via the Samsung GALAXY S®4, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphone
I saw that comment too Sharon and now that you posted this I realize that was part of fueled this post! Good catch!
Great post. A week or two after a very painful loss many years ago, a “friend” assured me she was there to kick me in the pants if I started “feeling sorry for myself” about it. I found the remark extremely insensitive and unkind. Never felt the same about her again.
Isn’t that amazing how one remark can reveal and shift so much?
Thank you for this! As a person who was abused, if I had a nickel for every time someone (family members included) said something about “moving on” or “why didn’t you say anything” (as a child!), I’d be much wealthier. Re-living and re-telling IS moving on, rather than keeping it secret or holding on to victim status. It’s that very journey through it that gives us the revelations that lead to growth. It took me a long time to realize the questions were based on their own fear of what was being said. You’ve said this so well. Maybe someday she’ll see your words as the gift they are.
Thank YOU for sharing Jane and I’m glad you related to this! I think it happens far too often.
You GO, GIRRRRL! Never “let go.”
We do not “let go” of those things that are permanently etched in our hearts and souls. For some, diving face-first into the underbelly of our worst memories brings us comfort. We want to educate ourselves, and yes, others, by going down into the deeper layers, that only those who’ve truly been there can do. What seems like doom and gloom to others might be our salvation. Learn, learn, learn. Tell, tell, tell. To me that helps, helps, helps; and in time, heals, heals, heals.
ALL of THIS I say with love!!! ❤❤❤❤
Thank you love! I really appreciate your words (always) and I know you know what I’m talking about. You are always there with such good thoughts/kind words. For how many years now??? xo
All your writings help other people so I imagine you will always be writing about it in some way knowing your giving spirit.
You have experience and knowledge in this area to share with the world and help others. Such a giving thing to do.
Thank so much Alexander. 🙂
I sure understand where you’re coming from – some people are so damn insensitive. For 25 years I lived with the pain of knowing I couldn’t get pregnant, and for 20 years I’ve had to endure cruel questions and comments such as “What’s WRONG with you?” – this one came from the mouth of my own grandmother. Or, did you not want to have your own kids, why don’t you have your own kids, you’ll never know how beautiful it is to give birth, have you really tried hard enough, etc. I have been blessed with an amazing husband and two wonderful stepchildren and am happy and at peace, but it doesn’t stop people from reminding me that I’m “just” a stepmom and different from “real” mothers. I think I irritate these same people as I don’t freak out about not giving birth or feel it necessary to explain why I couldn’t have children, so I guess I’m not giving them the reaction they want. It’s so weird, how mean and judgmental they are while prefacing it with “I don’t want to make you feel bad, but….”
Incredible insight and comment. I too was not blessed with natural children but am obtaining a darling stepdaughter through my marriage. I totally get what you’re saying here. ❤
I find this person’s comments to you completely obtuse. My belief is that trauma never goes away completely. In resisting trauma and in defending ourselves from feeling its full impact, we deprive ourselves of its truth.
My dearest husband Dale’s death was very sudden and TOTALLY unexpected. We had been on a scuba diving trip 3 weeks prior to my world imploding. Six days prior we had hiked in the local mountains – a total of 4 miles round trip and with some significant elevation. He was in very good health. He had a slight cough and cold 3 days prior to his ER visit. He very suddenly had difficulty breathing. He walked into the ER and filled his own paperwork out. He was diagnosed with pneumonia and the on-call Pulmonologist said he would put in a central line for IV antibiotics. I said, “Good, so you’ll use Ultrasound, right?” He told me this wasn’t necessary. I insisted that it was. He proceeded without using Ultrasound and perforated Dale’s carotid artery twice. He bled out in front of me and this was listed on his death certificate as the cause of his death. Ultrasound would have allowed this arrogant Dr. to have been able to visualize where he was and easily prevented his death. This physician acted outside of the basic standard of care. I was and am still devastated that such a preventable death wasn’t prevented due to his arrogance.
Recently a few well-meaning friends kept trying to coerce me into changing the message on my message machine. I was stunned. And insulted. I love hearing Dale’s voice and I told them that I had no intention of changing it and if it bothers them so much then I’ll understand if they don’t call. I felt like telling them that it was really none of their business but I preferred to just get the heck off the phone. I’ve found my voice and while I still consider myself a nice person, I have less tolerance for stupidity.
What I’ve come to believe now about mourning and grief is that nearly all people talk about “closure”, but there is no such thing as closure. We just absorb life, including its blows, and eventually we must find a way to begin to move on. If you’re lucky or work hard, adversity makes you better, stronger, deeper. I know I’ll never not mourn, because I’m human and that’s the way we’re built. But there have been moments, after more than a year and a half of intense grief that nearly took me over, and certainly bent me to my knees, when something happened — I took a turn, or a new understanding happened and I realized that a certain arc of mourning has been reached; and that’s been a relief of sorts.
The trauma doesn’t go away but it changes, perhaps softens with time. I’ve discovered that there is a HUGE rush to normal in our culture and it closes us off. Not only to the depth of our own suffering but also as a consequence, to everything going on around me. But mourning has no timetable, and I’m good with that now. Even some in my family have told me to snap out of it already. Grief is not the same for everyone. And it does not always go away. I’ve come to know that for me the healthiest way to deal with the trauma of how I lost Dale is to lean into it, rather than to try to keep it at bay. The reflexive rush to normal is counterproductive for me. In any of my attempts to fit in, to be normal, as a traumatized person I felt estranged.
I think that the willingness to face traumas — be they large, small, primitive, fresh — is the key to healing from them. They may never disappear in the way we think they should, but maybe they don’t need to. Trauma is an ineradicable aspect of life.
Nancy, this comment is just amazing. Would you please send me an email ? I want to ask you something privately about it. email@example.com
And my heart is going straight to you around your husband’s tragic and sudden and senseless death. No words but sending my heart.
I’m so, so sorry you lost Dale this way. Just so unnecessary. Your story educated me and brought tears to my eyes.
quote: ….”We would be best to let them have their discomfort and keep feeling everything we are feeling. I think the absolute worst thing to do is to shove it back down, cut it off, because someone else is, in any way shape or form, pushing you to do that. Then all we have is another layer and we gotta start all over again”….
Thank you. thank you! Shoving it down has been my way of life for way too many years. These words come to me at a time I truly need to hear them, absorb them, and believe them. When dealing with people I love who continue to hurt me deeply, it is much harder to speak up and risk hurting their feelings. Why have I always put my own needs and desires last? I am just as important, right?
KCL, how you so often manage to address issues that are current in my daily life is beyond me, but I am so grateful to have you to learn from. Without even knowing, you are an advisor, comforter, supporter, sister, daughter, and above all, a dearly cherished friend. I will always be in awe at your writing talent, touching us with insights and inspiration. I end as I started ….. thank you, thank you! 🌸💐🌺
Thank you for allowing my words to assist you Spellbound. That’s the whole point right? Connecting. I think what you describe is so universal, dare I say, especially with us women. Baby steps and then sometimes there is a ruthless tearing off of the bandaid saying “I will be selfish right now!”. Selfish gets a bad rap sometimes! xo
Absolutely! I think I will save this message for a while to keep reminding myself that I am vowing to take a better path for ME !
Thanks bunches, KCL. mwah!!
I’m kind of speechless, KCL. So much I’d like to say but the words aren’t coming together in a coherent form. Thanks for sharing this with us.
I once had a *person* ask me what was wrong (she knew) and tell me to move on two days after the death of my very close friend. I was at a loss for words and was unable to express my true feelings. Time is almost irrelevant when it comes to sorrow and pain. The mere passing of time doesn’t help all that much. Love, gentleness, tenderness and kindness do.
Oh our Precious Kathy,
You are one of my gifts or ‘Blessings’ as I see it.
You are so uniquely qualified to address the subject of sorrow, grief, trauma, healing and any descriptive s in-between. When I first met you at the beginning of Travis’s first trial for justice, I knew how special you were. Watching you give and give and then give some more really blew me away. Now years later, I feel that way ten-fold. Like ZoeyW on WS said “You have a BEAUTIFUL Soul. . . There is a lesson to be learned here. I only hope this gal has learned it and will tread more lightly next time she may be faced with the same situation. My hope is that she is young and needed an experience in empathy.
You, my darling ‘UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN’ continue as you always have. You are a ‘Treasure’.
God Bless You always and in all ways !
♥ ♥♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Thank you so much Soulsad…we go way back don’t we? Thank you for *seeing* me in the ways you do. You too are a treasure! xo
Hello Kathy. I just “found” you yesterday and spent many hours reading everything I could find that you have posted. You are a very talented writer. I really wish I had found you sooner. I have so far in my life not had to deal with losing a loved one to any type of violence. The fact that you have makes my heart hurt for you. However I can see that you also write about hope and happiness and love. I spent many hours smiling at the wonderful things that are happening in your life. So I guess what I am saying is, please don’t move on from what you need to write about but continue to embrace it. Does that person expect you to ever be able to move on from loving your sister? And why would she want you to? Just a couple more things I wanted to tell you. Yesterday when I clicked onto your blog the very first thing I saw was a picture of a sign that said Whidbey on it. I have just recently reconnected with a cousin of mine after 50 year and he lives in Whidbey! Then a little while later I saw something you posted about Jodi Arias’s outburst in court being like the man who killed Polly Klaas towards her father. I had just said exactly the same thing to my husband not 3 days before. Then I read that you are a psychiatric nurse. I have 3 children who are either nurses or currently studying to become a nurse. Then i read that you are almost the same age as I am (56). That blew me away as I had guessed you to be MUCH younger than that.I thought you might not even be 40 yet. O.k. now I am rambling a bit but I will close with sending you a virtual hug and know that there are so many people who need you to keep writing. Your new fan, Penny.
What an incredibly nice comment Penny. I’m glad you found the blog too. Isn’t it wild how many of us thought about the Polly Klaas trial with that vile comment? They show their true colors when all is lost. Thank you for reading and commenting and taking all that time! xo
KCL, I’m so sorry you’ve had to endure such insensesitive comments from folks too self absorbed to read with interest and understanding, yet feel the need to share their ignorant thoughts without any real insight. I guess that will unfortunately come with the territory of putting yourself out there. Rest assured for every one insensitive thoughtless comment, your words are healing and insightful to hundreds more. I’ve “known” you since the early days of Trial 1.0. Travis’, not your sisters, but have read most all your blogs, just not commented. Now I feel compelled to. I’ve not had an easy path in this game called Life. I was informed by my mother that I was conceived via rape, she told me this at 16. She named my Dad as the rapist, a man she was married to for 50+ years. He was an alcoholic but quit drinking when I was 5 months old. An aunt was in the process of adopting me over the way my mother treated me. I had two older siblings and my parents had two more children after me, so I’m the middle child. My relatives assumed once my father was sober all would be well. That wasn’t the case and only in my 40’s did I decide just because I was born to a woman who detested my very existence did I have to continue to allow her to be in my life. If she had nothing worthwhile to say to me, and she never did, why would I as a grown woman continue to allow her to be in my life. She never wanted me in hers. I married young, although I had already moved out of my parents home. I worked full and part time since the day after high school graduation to get away from her. My husband was abusive, broken bones, doused in charcoal fluid, beaten when he was drunk or sober, pregnant or not, none of it mattered. No wonder I tied myself to an abuser. I was divorced by 29 with 2 babies. They are now 31 & 26. I’ve never remarried and am fairly certain I won’t ever again. In 2007 my older sister committed suicide. I immersed myself in the Caylee case to escape my pain. Less than two weeks before my sister killed herself she asked me to move in with her. I told her I couldn’t as my youngest was in 2nd year of University and I needed to still provide her with a home. I was so angry, and still am. My daughter now lives with my mother, my father has passed away one year after my sisters suicide.
My mothers family pleads with me to stay in touch with her, to keep myself in the will. After years of pressure from my mothers family I told them to stop pressuring me and that I had reasons for staying away and if they continued to pressure me I would tell them things they didn’t want to hear. I eventually told them exactly what my childhood was like. They all assumed the abuse had stopped, it never had, she just got better at hiding it.
We were always told, or at least I was always told you don’t talk about family outside of family. My parents were immigrants, with only 3 out of 12 aunts and uncles coming to America. There was no extended family, no grandparents. My parents were the oldest people I knew.
As I continue to come to terms with my family issues, the story of your dear sisters murder and your fight for justice inspires me to know there are worse monsters than the ones I’ve had to endure out there. We all have our crosses to bear and our own roads to travel. The path you are taking is helping many, besides yourself. Know that as you continue to move forward. You’re a special, warm, caring person and I wish you all the best in your upcoming nuptials. You deserve the happiness that has come into your live and will so enjoy being a StepMom and wife. I am thrilled for you.
Sorry I went on and on, I wanted you to be aware of the healing you are inspiring as you continue your journey.
With love and best wishes
Some days I carry my PTSD around like a pair of earrings…I may not remember which pair I put on that day, but I know I’m wearing them. I can’t even go for a nice walk on a beautiful, sunny day – without thinking that someone evil is going to jump out and assault me. I makes my heart pound even more than the steps I’m taking (rather briskly) to make it harder to trap me. You don’t need to explain anything to anyone, but I understand how much it helps to let out the angst when someone doesn’t understand why you are who you are. As far as I’m concerned, you’re just fine! And a very good inspiration of what I’d like to do, if I can just stop the fractured ideas from coming apart when I begin to write anything down. Keep doing exactly what you’re doing; you have helped so many people that you aren’t even aware of. ❤
What an incredibly descriptive passage on PTSD Deb. I’m glad you can find comfort in my words. ❤
It has always been my contention also that there is never closure. If anyone has had losses in their lives, I would think they would know that or is this total denial on their parts which of course is one of those 4 stages of grief.
My first loss (after the losses of pets) was my Mother when I was a teenager. The truly sad part was that there were no photographs allowed, no mention of her name, in essence we were to pretend she never existed, our prior lives never existed with her in it. Grieving was not allowed in any format.
For those that we love and we lose, I feel it is important to discuss those memories to keep alive in our hearts and a way to reach out to others. Everything we do which might be writing a book, keeping a journal, being supportive to others going through losses, (etc.) is all a part of a therapeutic healing process which can be ongoing for the rest of our journey in life.
From everything I have read, you will always be a force for what is good and right. You will continue to be there for others with a loss such as yours. This is what your life has become about. The lives you have already touched and the lives you will touch with the publication of your book. This is who your are. There is no end.
Thank you for a very powerful and moving blog.