Domestic violence is a disgusting epidemic and I’m in awe of how many people are telling their stories. It’s almost as if the stigma has been lifted. Even though I know there are still multitudes that are living in silence, I pray their day to speak will come. It is by far the most important part of our journey. If you are one of the silent ones reading this…please, find someone you can trust…and tell them. Even if it’s the only thing you can do at this moment – tell someone.
I had that chance. And I stumbled.
I recently reconnected with my cousin who I hadn’t seen or spoken to in (too many) years. I found her on Facebook and “friended” her to test the waters. She had many issues over the years and I was a little unsure of just how reconnected I actually wanted to get. We kept it strictly FB friendly over the next year or so and then she gave me her phone number and asked me to call. I hesitated. Actually, I ignored it. I just wasn’t ready to talk to her, yet.
This was the cousin that had been molested alongside of me in our childhood by our grandfather (Aftermath of Abuse). I didn’t know if she remembered and I wasn’t sure I was ready to speak about it with her. She had a rough life riddled with everything from drug abuse to rape. If she didn’t remember the molestation, I didn’t want to be the one to send her into a tailspin. And honestly, I was not mentally ready myself. If I allowed myself to go there with her, I didn’t know what else would follow. Eventually though, I made the call.
I always believe everything happens for a reason. You don’t have to be religious to believe that. However, if you believe in God, at some point in your life you accept the fact that you are put in a certain place and time for a purpose that you are unaware of and have no control over. There is a higher entity that brings you to this place in life. At least, that’s how I look at it.
For me, it came after a strange trigger episode. I had been listening to music from my childhood (music that directly related to my grandfather) and not for any specific reason. It was just music that had not been heard in a long time and it was – a sound for sore ears. After a few days of listening, I was in my dining room and caught a distinct whiff of my grandfather’s cologne. It was at a time when no food was cooking, no candles were on, no one different was in the house. No one was even in the dining room nor had they been for hours. And the odor was in one spot. If I turned my head to the left it was not there and if I turned the right, nothing. It was very odd.
This not only came after days of listening to this music but also of me spending time with an aunt and cousins from that side of the family I don’t see often. Actually, almost never, and it was also after promising to call my cousin who I had been talking to on FB but still hadn’t done so. It became overwhelming for me. Too much all at once. Everything just came together in such a way that I realized … now is the time.
So the next day, I called her. We spoke. We caught up. Finally there was a lull in the conversation and I outright discussed what I remembered and asked her if she had any memory of it. She said she didn’t but she was also unable to talk because her husband was nearby and she sounded a little frazzled, either at the conversation or whatever thoughts were going through her mind. She hesitated for a moment and then said she’d been “messed up” (on drugs) for so long she probably wouldn’t be able to remember.
So I left it at that. We spoke several times since that initial conversation and caught up on the insanity of her life and how she was in a good place now. Clean and sober for five years. I believed her. I knew that the likelihood of a real 5 years straight – for her – was probably not a full 1826 days of sobriety but I didn’t judge. I was never a drug user so I can’t begin to understand the difficulties of kicking the habit for good.
I was not nearly as forthcoming with stories of what I had been through in my life. I wanted to be the listening ear for her. I felt at the moment that was my place and what I needed to do. It’s what she needed as well. Our calls were good. It felt good to reconnect. She was so grateful that I was non-judgmental. I was there for her because she was my cousin and she needed someone -family- to hear her.
In November, my cousin was murdered by her husband. Compression asphyxiation. She was strangled. He crushed her windpipe.
When I had gotten the news, this was not yet known. All I knew is that she never woke up in the morning. I even called her husband and spoke to him. He seemed just as one would expect, holding it together for their youngest son. This was our first encounter and when talking to me he expressed his gratitude that there was someone in the family who gave a damn. Due to her years of drug use, her mother, my aunt, for the most part disowned her. None of the family spoke to her mostly because we didn’t know where she was. Let’s just say, the family is fractured and dysfunction has had its way throughout the years.
Within days, I learned the truth about what really happened. I was slightly stunned but not really shocked. There was some part of me that thought something was amiss. The news resulted in me and another cousin doing a lot of legwork, making phone calls and trying to piece stuff together. Part of me went to that place in my head that thought if I had mentioned my story to her maybe she would have mentioned hers to me. Maybe I could’ve helped her in some way and this would not have happened.
Now that a couple of months have passed, I’m able to understand that all of this was somehow meant for me. Another reminder. An eye opener. A catalyst that told me to stay on course. One that struck too close to home. This was another reason I was unable to write for the past few months. Even though people have reached out saying I was brave to tell my story and inspirational, in the days and weeks after my cousin’s death, I felt like a hypocrite hiding behind a screen telling my story to strangers and I couldn’t even help my own flesh and blood.
Truth be told – it bothers me.
The reason it affects me, I think, is because my family was more willing to believe her death was drug related than a “simple” domestic violence murder. My family was more willing to believe she drowned herself in drugs over the years because she was a pathetic loser than a possible coping mechanism resulting from molestation at the hands of their father. And still, I have not spoken up. Not to them. And I’m not sure why.
In the heat of the moment, I did spew out the details of what happened at the hands of my grandfather. Something that put me at ease, physically. I had come to terms with that situation years ago. It was something that never really weighed on me, at least not consciously. I had a fine relationship with my grandfather as I got older but those may have been times when what happened at the age of 5 was blocked out. On his death bed, I forgave him and let go of all of it. The memories resurfaced when I started this blog.
Lately, I’ve had an overpowering sensation of needing to tell my family. Not so much those I am closest to, that I speak to on a somewhat daily basis. But those I don’t speak to as often. I’m not sure why. I owe them nothing. They haven’t been in my life for, well for almost the entire marriage. Part of it was me pushing everyone out of my life so no one would know but now I feel more of a question as to – why didn’t they try? Maybe if someone made the effort to be in my life this wouldn’t have gone on for as long?
I don’t really know what I’m feeling. I can only go with my instincts and when I start getting these pangs of sharing it’s only a matter of time. It’s been a year since I first shared my story with a few people I know in the real world and I haven’t regretted it. Maybe I just picked the right people to tell.
When I was talking to my cousin, she had so much anguish bottled up I had told her to start writing. I told her how healing it was. That it would be something beneficial and therapeutic for her. She asked me if I had done that. Writing. I told her I did. I told her it truly soothes the soul. And I implored her to do the same. She asked me what I wrote about. As soon as her words came out I felt sheer panic. Questioning myself whether or not I should tell her right then and there. It felt like a 5 minute pause and was probably only 5 seconds. All I said was – this and that, things that have happened in my life. She asked if it helped me. I said … absolutely. I immediately felt guilty for not telling her. I thought to myself if she presses me for specifics I’m going to tell her. But she didn’t. The conversation continued on and there was no real opportunity to squeeze it in.
We all have a bad habit of thinking there is always tomorrow. No matter the subject. No matter the person we want to tell. No matter the relationships we want to mend. The truth is … and we all know the truth … tomorrow is not promised. I will never have the chance to confide in my cousin. To have her know she could feel safe in confiding in me. Our reconnection was disconnected before either of us were ready. Don’t let that happen to you. Whenever possible …
Tell. Your. Story.
To read from the beginning… #MyStory starts here.