Break the Silence

Break The Silence For Victims of Post-Separation Violence

Dear community:

As you may know, I’ve been supporting individuals who wish to feel more resilient, resourceful and revitalized with the Gentle Trauma Release Method for over three years now. The healing that I’ve witnessed is absolutely incredible and I love this work.

Today I have an important message to share about domestic and intimate partner violence, wrapped up in the intention of building hope and community to help us all contribute to change and improvement in the safety of the women and children who are often vulnerable.

Even if this doesn’t apply to you directly, it does apply to your community as a whole and quite likely some women you know personally.

I also have an amazing free event to share with you at the end (but you can jump right to it here if you’re curious).

In 2021, while I was completing my Gentle Trauma Release practicum, I had the honor of working with “Rachel” who’d courageously stepped forward to receive my support as I was putting my newly acquired training to use with real humans.

One of the “bombshell” traumas that came up during her coaching was the tragic loss of her sister to post-separation violence when Rachel was still a child. This loss of course profoundly impacted her, and believe me when I say my newbie coaching skills were put to the test!

 Even as a brand new coach, the GTR method provided the tools and interventions to facilitate incredible relief for Rachel and she experienced countless shifts in her wellbeing, goals and perspective in the weeks and months that followed our brief time together. Triggers were released and she stopped reliving the trauma every time a letter arrived from the parole board about her sister’s ex partner.

I love that; being able to help women experience tangible, lasting shifts in a relatively short period of time. This is what happens when trauma is strategically released on a bodily level.

Rachel loves to write, and as part of her expression she’s written letters to Michelle, her sister, to honor her memory. She needed a suitable platform to share this, so I offered to include her story in my blog. I recognize that this may be a triggering topic, so skip this one if you’re not up for it. However, there’s power in speaking up and continuing to do so as a means to drive change. We’re not there yet, so let’s advocate and keep moving toward doing better.

I want to emphasize that HOPE is huge here, and that Rachel’s story is one of healing and release, in spite of her loss.

Rachel’s letter to Michelle:

“Thank you Ramona for allowing me to tell this story on your platform. I’ve tried in a number of different ways to tell this story as a warning – with limited success. My prayer is that if even one person hears this story in their heart, then I have achieved success.

I’m sorry to write this anonymously – or mostly anonymously. I’m not far enough along in my healing journey to actually share the truth of my name. But suffice it to say that much of the credit for getting me this far is due to Ramona and the Gentle Trauma Release program. I’m not yet whole, but so many of the missing pieces are back in place because of this program.

To give you some context, when I was 14 my sister was murdered by her estranged husband the night before their divorce. He did terrible things to her before and after death that her manner of death made headlines in the province I lived in as well as the country. Domestic violence never made the front pages of the paper nor was it ever the first story told in a newscast before her. The events surrounding her death were so sensational that the news outlets couldn’t help but report it. I’d hoped in the years in between that her story would make a difference, yet domestic violence continues to increase. So my only hope left is you, the reader and my prayer that this story resonates with you.

Additional context: My sister was almost 11 years older than me and we were the bookends of a large family. I was 7 when she moved out and 14 when she died. I never really knew her, only snatches of memory that tease my brain, but she gifted me with many things that I treasure to this day. I hope this story does her justice.”

May 26, 1969

Dear Michelle,

I’ve just entered the world and thanks to you I have a middle name. This is the first thing you ever gave me and I always wondered – did you pick Rochelle because it rhymed with Michelle? 


Winter 1971

Dear Michelle,

I’m so glad I got to see you today! The nurses are really nice in this hospital but I don’t know why I have to be inside this plastic tent? Can you get me out? There’s a baby next door that cries a lot. I’m going to see if I can get her a stuffed toy.

(Context: When I was 3 I had pneumonia and was in an oxygen tent. The hospital rules said you had to be 16 and Michelle was only 14 but mom and dad lied about her age so she could come see me.)


Spring 1972

Dear Michelle,

I went to school with you today. Well, Mom came too. You put me in a chair and all your friends came over, but I don’t know them and I’m scared. You pick me up and speak softly to me. I know I’ll be safe.


Christmas 1973

Dear Michelle,

Bertie Beagle is the best thing that ever happened to me! He’s so squishy and just the right size for a dog. I love him so much!!!! Thank you for making him for me. He’s my best friend.


Spring 1974

Dear Michelle,

I’m sorry I threw up on Bertie. I tried to move him but I couldn’t do it quick enough. Mom washed him in the washer and put him through the dryer. I think he might be mad at me.


September 1974

Dear Michelle,

You and Mom walked me to school today. It’s not a far walk but there were so many people I didn’t know! Why do I have to go to school? Why can’t I just stay home?


Spring 1975

Dear Michelle,

We all went to your school play today. I don’t know what it was about but I had to sit still for hours and hours Michelle while we watched you do something on the stage. 


Fall 1976

Dear Michelle,

You moved out today and started University. I don’t know what that is but you’re still in school. Mom said you’re going to be a nurse. Ick.


Spring 1977

Dear Michelle

You came home with a boy today. His name is Wayne and he seems ok, but he’s from Riverton.


Spring 1979

You came home with a different boy today. I don’t like him and I don’t know why.


August 1979

Dear Michelle,

Today is your wedding day! I’m so excited! I’ve never been to a wedding before but you and Mom made your wedding dress and all our dresses. I feel so pretty. It’s too bad you got that black eye from water skiing. I never even thought that you would like to do that.


September 1982

Dear Michelle,

I didn’t know. I swear I didn’t know that men out there beat up women. I didn’t know that you lived with that kind of monster. I didn’t know the pain you were in. God. I want to hug you but you hiss in pain as your left side is all bruised. X came home high from a party you told us. He couldn’t get his cowboy boot off and you tried to help him but instead he took his other boot and hit you with it. And he hit. And hit. And hit.


May 1983

Dear Michelle,

Honestly you’re the best big sister! I should know as I have plenty of them!!!! That pink blouse is beautiful. I feel so special when I wear it.


December 1983

Dear Michelle,

Well thank God! You’re finally going to leave him. For good this time. No more moving you out of one apartment or house to another. No more waiting on tenterhooks to see if he made bail. Finally, you can be safe.


January 1984

Dear Michelle,

How did X even know which restaurant we were at? How did he find us?


February 27, 1984

Dear Michelle,

Tomorrow you are to be divorced and I can’t wait for you to get rid of X. He makes me mad. I can’t wait to hear from you after it’s all said and done.


February 28, 1984

Dear Michelle,

Why didn’t you call today? We were all waiting for you. But then we thought maybe you went to England or Edmonton to escape.


March 1, 1984

Dear Michelle,

The hospital called the house looking for you today. You didn’t show up for work either yesterday or today. Where are you? Are you ok?


March 2, 1984

Dear Michelle,

I spent all day worried about you. Why can’t we find you? Mom and dad called England, Edmonton, and even X’s brother. But no sign of you. Are you ok?


March 3, 1984

Dear Michelle,

Carolyn picked Kristina and me up from school today. She never does that. I insisted on going to the library. I knew something terrible was waiting for us at home. We turned the corner to the house and everyone was there. On a weekday. Mom was home from work. Martyn. Kathy. Their cars parked in the driveway.

You were found and no longer of this world. When Mom and dad called X’s brother yesterday, they lied. They knew exactly where you were but waited for the police to tell us.


March 4, 1984,

Dear Michelle,

I went to school today. Everyone said I didn’t have to but I didn’t know what to do with myself. There was so much sadness at the house. And the phone didn’t stop ringing. Did you know Michelle that reporters called the house? I even talked to one (I didn’t know he was a reporter. I thought he was just sympathetic.)


 A week or so later

Dear Michelle,

Your funeral was today. There were hundreds of people there. And oh gosh! The letters and cards we got. One stands out from a man who had a heart attack and was in the cardiac ward of the hospital you worked in. He wrote that when he opened his eyes he saw this young, beautiful face looking over him. Worry and concern in her eyes. It warmed his newly repaired heart. And now he grieves for the loss of this beautiful and caring soul.


June 1984

Dear Michelle,

We buried your ashes in the cemetery today. It was a family affair but I took off right after. I rode my bike around and around. How is X still alive and you’re not?


November 12, 1984

Dear Michelle,

X’s trial starts today. Honestly, I wish someone would go and just shoot him.


Later that week

Dear Michelle,

I sat in on the trial today. I’m so angry. During a break or lunch or something, X walked past us and smirked. I wanted to hit him. I wanted to do to him what he did to you. But all I could do was to keep from vomiting.


Later that month,

Dear Michelle,

Well, X got life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. We weren’t allowed to give statements or speak. I hope he dies.


Spring 2007,

Dear Michelle,

X has applied for early parole and wonder of wonders, we can finally submit victim impact statements. So I did. And I flew back for his parole hearing with my husband. I’m sorry you never got to meet him.

Honestly, I had nightmares in the days leading up to the parole hearing. While he had threatened to kill us all back in 1984, I knew in my head that this wouldn’t happen, but somehow that fear still got to me. I remembered X as kind of muscular but the man that walked into the room for the parole hearing was just a shell. I would have never recognized him.

I don’t know who got to speak first but I remember shaking – with rage or frustration or fear – I don’t know which. Gary told me after that when X started to speak his first thought was “Uh oh.” X was articulate and presented his argument as if it was perfectly logical. But that’s what these guys do. Right? They’re very intelligent, charming, and articulate. That’s how he got you to go back to him over and over again.

But then his arguments started to go off the rails and we all breathed a sigh of relief. He was never going to get parole with the nonsense spewing out of his mouth. 

You know what though Michelle? He’s non-repentant. He’s not sorry for what he did and has no plans to rehabilitate. He defends his actions as a “difference in divorce”. Ludicrous.


February 2024

Dear Michelle,

40 years has passed since you were taken from us. It’s hard to believe that you’ve been gone that long but I can honestly say your death was a defining moment in my life. One of a few as it turns out.

I’ve often wondered what your life would have been like had you lived. Would you have found someone worthy of your love? Would you have been able to pass on your artistic and crafting skills to children and grandchildren? Would you have explored career opportunities in other countries? What would life have been like if you lived and X died?

I have such fantasies.

I’ve done my best Michelle, over the years to tell your story. I’ve done fundraisers for women’s shelters. I’ve shared on social media. I’m honestly not the great story teller of this tale because it hurts my heart. 

Every now and then a letter comes from Victim Services or the Parole Board. I used to have total meltdowns when they came and eventually had to get Gary to open them up. I kept hoping X was dead and then fearing that he might have escaped. But it’s just an update and nothing changes. He has not attempted any kind of rehabilitation and doesn’t think what he did was such a big deal.

I don’t have meltdowns anymore when letters come. I got some help and released the trauma your death caused from my body. I no longer have heart palpitations nor do I take to my bed and hide. 

Knowing that I can’t change the past, I can recreate your story Michelle. So, I’m writing one about you, in a different line of work because no amount of research is ever going to make me want to write about anything medical. I’ve made you a master weaver working in France, finding healing powers after the spectacular death of your abusive ex-husband. Trust is tricky for you in this story, but you get there. 

I don’t know what else to do for you but give you a life you never had a chance at. 

I miss you. I know others do too. The world never really got to know the gifts you could have brought to the table. February 27, 2024 marks the 40th anniversary of your death. It still makes my heart hurt.

“Rachel’s” conclusion:

Since 2007 I receive regular updates about X’s progress that come in the form of letters from both the parole board and victim services. Each time a letter came I had a breakdown and relived the days surrounding her death all over again. It got to a point where I had to get my husband to open those letters as it was too much for me. My emotions ranged from either hoping he was dead to fearing he had escaped. It was always neither; just an update that he hadn’t participated in any rehabilitative programs.

I was first introduced to the Gentle Trauma Release program in 2021 when Ramona was completing her certification. I saw a post on social media and somehow the way she worded it just resonated with me and so I reached out. Am I ever glad I did. I first tried to deal with smaller issues thinking that if I dealt with smaller issues the big ones would take care of themselves. It doesn’t work that way and during one session I just blurted out Michelle’s story. It had come up for me in my thoughts and emotions and Ramona gave me a safe space to talk. Once this came out and we worked through releasing that trauma I felt almost an immediate improvement.

Coincidentally in the weeks that followed I received another set of letters from the parole board and victim services. When I looked at the envelopes my heart didn’t start racing, my head didn’t swim with all the same thoughts – none of my usual responses came up. I looked at those envelopes and I opened them myself. It was a proud moment for me.

I have a ways to go yet, but knowing that this type of therapy is available to me gives me hope.

Thank you.

Rachel

__________

Break the Silence Summit

My speaking spot will be June 26 4:00 pm MT/ 6:00 pm ET/ 3:00 pm PT/ 5:00 pm CT about

A Gentle Path to Feeling Resilient After Trauma

How to build a foundation for wellbeing to move forward in your life.

An organisation based in Québec Canada, called Solyane’s Haven is putting on a free virtual event, with presentations and a roundtable, in French and English, featuring speakers from Canada, the United States, and Europe.

The summit brings together resources, advocates, and victims around the topic of post-separation violence, which can occur after a person escapes a situation of domestic violence.

June 26, 27, and 28 on Zoom | Free registration

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