Allison Moorer, author of Blood: A Memoir, tells her story of surviving her parents’ murder/suicide, which occurred in 1986 when she was 14 years old. Her father was an abusive alcoholic, among many other wonderful things, who could not control his drinking or his behavior. Her mother was traumatized and could not remove Allison or her sister from the situation. When she finally left him, he could not handle it and ended up shooting Allison’s mother and then himself on the front lawn of the house her mother had rented to get herself and the girls away from him. After her parents’ deaths, Allison went to live with her mother’s younger sister. She began a new school and lost her grandmother all in about 10 days after losing her parents. Both families were shattered after this unfathomable circumstance. She was not put into therapy or cared for any differently than if event hadn’t happened. Allison carried on and went on to graduate from high school, earn a bachelor’s degree, enter the music industry, and make records. She became very productive and tried to figure out something to hold onto to bolster her poor self-image and identity.
She has had many ups and downs in her life and has had difficulty having relationships. She has not felt OK or safe in her life. Allison realizes now that she still has work to do to figure out some things and untangle things that never had the opportunity to be untangled. She learned that personal safety and agency is important, no matter what your age, and that we need to evolve to protecting everyone’s development. She learned that giving and receiving love is the most important skill. And she learned how important it is to be able to effectively express yourself. Allison’s advice to someone going through something similar is to get the child into treatment immediately. Do not let their openness close. Do not let them feel responsible or alone because they will have abandonment issues throughout their life. And for others, whatever gets you to recover sooner, do that.
Former English literature professor Priscilla Gilman, author of The Critic’s Daughter, tells of losing her father multiple times in her life. First, when she was 10, her parents split up and she lost him in her daily life. She lost him as a stable, reliable parent figure when he had financial issues and struggled with depression. When she was in her early 20s, he had a heart attack and five years later he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He died in 2006 when she was 36.
These multiple losses were heart wrenching for her. Literature and her sister (and best friend) helped her get through it. Also, writing about her father and attempting to find him through writing helped her get through it.
Priscilla Gilman learned that people are complicated. There are always people in our lives that we look up to and put on a pedestal—like parents, teachers, mentors—and then we discover things about them, see them struggling. She stresses the importance of attempting to recover a sense of the person—even with their flaws—with a deeper love.
Gilman’s advice to anyone going through something similar is:
Try to remember and hold onto the person when they were their truest, most essential self.
Incorporate the person in your life (play their song, make their favorite dish, share stories about them with people in your life, and more).
Allow yourself to feel the full extent of the sadness in your loss. If you postpone grief, it is still there. See a therapist, talk to loved ones who knew the person, write about it, meditate, whatever will give you care and support.
Eilene Zimmerman, author of the memoir Smacked: A Story of White-Collar Ambition, Addiction, and Tragedy tells the story of losing her ex-husband to complications of a secret IV drug addiction. Peter hadn’t seemed right for some time before he died — he behaved oddly, lost weight and hair, looked unhealthy, and kept losing and forgetting things. Since he was a hard working partner in a prestigious law firm, the last thing Eilene suspected was drugs. (more…)
Carolyn DeFord’s mother Leona Kinsey disappeared in 1999. She went to the store to meet a man and never returned. At the time of her disappearance, she was in active addiction. Law enforcement did not investigate immediately, as her mother was over 18 and had the right to go somewhere else if she so chose. A member of the Puyallup Tribe, DeFord learned about the cycle of life from her mother. She tapped into missing persons support groups online and shared her story with others. She discovered the MMIW (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women) movement. DeFord learned about responding to trauma, about the system, the risk factors for hurt and harm, and to forgive her mom. She suggests being persistent and not giving up if someone you love disappears. Deford recommends honoring your feelings and walking the healing journey with others.
Anjum Coffland describes going through a divorce and her husband killing her two teenage daughters Tiffany and Brittany before shooting her in the legs and then killing himself. After the murders, Anjum went into survival mode and gets through it day by day. She pushes herself in hopes that she will be with her girls again one day. She advocates for changing gun laws so that it is not as easy for someone to get a gun when they are going through a divorce and in an upset state of mind. She believes that one phone call could have saved her family. She acknowledges that it takes time to heal and encourages anyone going through something similar to keep going, keep pushing. “Don’t give up on yourself,” she says.