I decided that today I would share with you something that's haunted me for nearly 10 years. They are just words. But they are BIG words. REAL words. They are bold. They can't be erased or undone. They were public words. Sometimes the words were accurate. Sometimes the words were sensationalized. Sometimes the words stung. But the thing that has haunted me for so long has been these words.
May 24th, 2005 Zachary was murdered. We didn't know this truth for a few days...but I did know my world was turned upside down. For what felt like one minute, I was a grieving parent just like any other grieving parent. I was processing the loss of Zachary and struggling to understand what had happened. I was trying to breath and face every minute without him. Within hours though I had to share my grief with strangers. Child Protective Services was at my house the day Zachary passed. Clearly they knew something I didn't. I had to sign away temporary custody of my daughter that night.
Take a minute to let that sink in.
Zachary was gone. All I wanted to do was mourn for him and hold onto my daughter. I wasn't allowed in a room with her unless I was supervised. I didn't understand why.
The Police were already at work investigating his death. They were all aware of what I wasn't. The very next day I was asked to go to the station for questions. They were at my home taking his belongings. It was surreal. Nothing felt real and I was spinning.
Next thing I knew is Zachary was in the headlines of the papers. His name was on the evening news. They were saying MURDERED. I couldn't even manage to say the syllables to put that word together and speak it. I just wanted to take back time and fix everything. I wanted to wake up from this awful nightmare.
These big, bold, scary words turned into hateful words written by strangers who didn't know me. They judged me and thought they had all of the facts to presume I was a terrible person who let her child be murdered. The articles that were written, although they had correct facts in them, they were out of context. They painted the wrong picture. A picture of a mom who ignored signs. Strangers said I should be thrown in jail. They said I should have my daughter taken from me for good. They judged what kind of a parent I was. As I was trying to just face Zachary's loss, I was made to also face it in a very public way.
Thank GOD for Gene and Jeanne. They walked me through minute by minute, day by day, week by week and eventually month by month. Gene was the Assistant District Attorney who was assigned to our case. Jeanne was the Trauma Counselor. I shared with them my hurt and sorrow and they helped me learn the very important lesson that only the people who truly know you and your heart matter. I had to learn to forgive myself throughout these past ten years. I had to speak the words that I did what any other mom would have done in my situation and believe them. This was undeniably difficult.
The most intense and difficult moments were the ones filling the first year after Zachary's death. After sentencing in the summer of 2006, day 1 of grief started all over again. It was a different chapter though. I was facing quieter days. No court. No more fighting for justice. That part was over. It was a different kind of grief. I didn't know what I could do for him anymore. I had worked for a year to help fight for the best outcome we could hope for regarding the sentence of his murderer. Now what?
Several months later I found out I was going to have another baby. This started yet another chapter of my grief. Being pregnant again. Finding out it was a boy. Loving him and going on with life as if everything was "okay" without Zachary. If it weren't for my amazing husband who supported me through every tear and every emotion, I don't know where I would be today. Anything I've ever wanted to do to support my love for Zachary, Bill was in.
Things started to shift in 2010. I met April. She's an amazing woman. A fighter. She inspired me to be a voice for Zachary. Click on any link, or flip through some of my blogs and her spirit is in 90% of it. I feel like this was the year that I took a hold of my grief and said you don't control me, I control you! I did little things and big things to celebrate Zachary's life. I faced challenges and didn't back down. I realized that there's no escaping this life. I can't hide from grief I can only face it and walk through it. So that's what I do now.
I know I'm going to have hard days. I know I'm going to cry. I don't enjoy them, but I don't run from them. I woke up today with tears in my eyes. I faced guilt over going to see my favorite band, Dave Matthews Band, last night. I know Zachary would want me to be happy. I know I'm allowed to have fun, but the crappy thing about grief is it doesn't listen to reason. We just feel it anyway. So I'm allowing myself to cry today. I'm allowing the feelings to come, but I'm forgiving myself and I'm not going to let grief win today. I am going to be okay and just face it again the next time it shows up.
As for those words that have haunted me for the past 10 years... I'm letting go of you today. I am a great mom. I love ALL THREE of my children. I won't let negativity hurt me. These headlines may be true but they don't define me and they don't define Zachary.
Thank you to everyone who has been there for me. From day 1 to year 10. I am thankful for you all.