Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Maybe this is for me more than anyone else, but I hope someone else will benefit from it.

I have been a mental health counselor (LCSW) for over 20 years. I have experienced the death of a wife and a child. Emmalee's death was much more painful that Camille's death. My kids felt the opposite. Their mom's death was more painful. We all experience death differently. Why does anyone have the right to judge how much pain we should feel or for how long?

I have heard other counselors say, "That person needs to move on or let go. It is time to get on with life."

To some degree this is true. We can't allow a loss to consume us and put us in a pit of despair. However, that doesn't mean it is wrong to cry, feel sad or remember our loved one and feel the familiar twinge of pain associated with this loss. The other day I heard a counselor say, "It has been four years since her husband died, why is she still crying over it?"

I believe this is the wrong attitude to have. It tells this woman that she is defective in some way for crying four years after her husband died. Why can't we still feel the pain 20 years agter a loss? As a counselor I may have had this attitude when I was young and inexperienced. I now know that grief is messy and there are no rules that govern it. Whatever we feel it is okay.

I took my son to the MTC today in preparation for his 2 year mission to West Virginia. It was a great experience. I know I will communicate with him through letters and hear from him over the phone twice a year. With Emmalee I will not see her again or communicate directly with her until the resurrection. Today's departure of Matt was a breeze compared to losing Emm. I hope that doesn't sound rude? It is just a perspective.

I say let's grieve our losses and experience them and be okay with the emotions that come up relating to our loved ones death. Don't feel bad for crying years after a loss.

9 comments:

Mindy said...

So true Steve! I love that we are able to live and learn and understand things differently. I'm glad that good things really do come from really hard, sad things that we have to go through. I'm so grateful for your example and for your honesty in such tender conversation.
Love You!
~Mindy

Anonymous said...

This is a very raw account of your feelings and I applaud you for that. If I were to lose my spouse or children, I can't imagine living without any of them. My spouse is my rock, best friend and love of my life all rolled into one person. Were you and your wife not close? Do you not think that Emmalee and your deceased wife are together in the eternities waiting for the ressurection? I have read your blog and from an outsider looking in, I find it rather odd that there is little mention of Emmalee's biological mother. How old was Emmalee when she died? I realize this is deeply personal things but any details are so abruptly left out, it causes a person who does not know you to wonder why the deaths were so drastically different emotionally. If you are not comfortable sharing I completely understand. May God bless you and yours.

Steve said...

Dear Anonymous,

I don't mind your questions at all. In my book I discuss these things in much more depth. As I have thought about your post, and saw your comment, "Maybe this is for me more than anyone else", I wondered if your were contemplating your death and how your spouse might react to it? I am sure you would want him to feel about you as you expressed your sentiments about him?

Emmalee was adopted a birth by myself and Camille, my first wife. So when you asked about her biological mom I assumed you meant Camille. If not I will let you know about my feelings toward Emm's birth mom.

I do have a deep conviction that Emm and Camille are on the other side and will be resurrected one day. In fact, I believe that Camille among others were there to greet Emm when she passed.

It has taken me years to come to grip with my own feelings about Camille and her death. Her death was difficult and traumatic, but at the same time a relief. She had Bipolar Disorder which made our relationship very difficult to manage. She would accuse me of things that I would never do and do very erratic things when she was manic. Right before Camille died she jumped out of the van all of us were in, and started running. She believed we needed to move to a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere and demanded that we do it that day. We were out looking for this farm house. When she realized there was no such thing, I believe this is when she jumped out of the car. I later found out that she had a fanny sack packed with medication, toiletries and some food. She had apparently planned to jump out of the car.

The kids were crying. I called the police and they searched for her and found her dead body several days later.

Even though she was mentally ill, Camille gave up. Emmalee fought to the bitter end and I admire that. I still love Camille but I have really had to do some honest soul searching to really understand my own feelings. I don't want to hide from my true feelings.

Thank you,

Steve

Anonymous said...

So your wife bolted out of a moving car, did you stop the car and try to find her? I suppose it would depend on where you were driving how quickly you could stop. Where was her body found? What was the cause of death? How terrible for all of you.

As a therapist I am sure you analyzed my previous post. Your assumptions regarding my relationship with my spouse are inaccurate. We adore each other. We are one of those rare couples that have a fantastic, open relationship the way God intended marriage to be. I am very fortunate for sure. My spouse’s unconditional love and encouragement is what sustains me each day.

Bi-polar is a very hard disease to cope with. I have friends and extended family member s who suffer from this disease. As a therapist, I imagine it was very difficult for you to watch your wife spiral down while you watched helplessly. That had to be terribly hard.

I am assuming Emmalee was sealed to you and Camille, the Lord will reunite you as a whole family in the eternities, Camille and Emmalee will be whole. I am sure there is comfort in that.

Steve said...

Dear Anonymous,

It sounds like you knew Camille? You mention you have read the blog, but you ask questions that I have already posted about. I have shared some very personal information with someone who is not bold enough to tell me their name. Not sure why you want to remain anonymous unless you are fishing for information. It really sounds like you have an agenda with your questions. Even my daughter picked up on that.

Camille jumped out of the car while it was stopped at a busy intersection. The kids were crying. I did not have my cell phone with me because we left our house in such a rushed way. Camille needed to move to a farmhouse right that minute. After she jumped out of the car I pulled into the nearest place that had a phone and dialed 911. They told me they would send a patrol car to that area to look for her. They told me to come in immediately to the police station and provide more details to them and file a report. I did so. They kids were cranky, hungry and tired by this point. The police were concerned and asked me to take the kids home and assured my they would find her. I spent the next several days. Calling friends and family to see if she had made contact with them. I called airports, bus stations and pawn shops to see if she had pawned her wedding ring. The police asked if we were arguing in the car. The kids can verify that we were not and were not in any kind of disagreement.

The reason I tell you this is so you have no misconceptions about what happened. After Camille's death there were people who started spreading the rumor that I caused her death. This was extremely damaging to myself and the kids. Not sure who started this vicious lie, but it was very hurtful.

I am pretty sensitive about this and when you asked if I stopped the car to try and find her, it brought back these thoughts of those people who wanted to believe I pushed Camille in this direction. My kids can verify that I was kind, patient and loving with Camille.

If I know you are you knew Camille I would be happy to talk with you one on one. Here is my # 801 309-6558.

Anonymous said...

My apologies for not replying sooner. I have not been reading blogs as much as I normally do because of being busy.

I can truthfully say that I did not know Camille at all, nor do I know you.

Try to look at the way you told the story from a stranger’s point of view (That would be me). Camille jumps out of the car in a busy intersection; you pull over and call the police as soon as you are able to get off the road. Then the police find her body two days later. You do not mention what you did those two days, did you search for her, or was her behavior so erratic that the circumstances around her death were common from other experiences while she was in a mania state? What was her official cause of death?

Since I don’t know you or her, the only thing I can assume is that you may have dealt with so much emotional trauma while you were together that it’s difficult for you to talk about them. However, as I have mentioned before, for me as a stranger there are major gaps in the story so it is hard to fully understand what happened to her.

My sincere rest apologies for upsetting you or your daughter that was not my intent at all. I assume you were judged harshly in your Mormon community and so you are defensive about my questions.
God Bless and Good luck in dealing with your grief in the death of your daughter.

As far as not revealing my name, I have told you my reservations of why I prefer to remain anonymous, Rest assured, we don't know each other nor will we likely ever meet.

I really wish you and your family the best.

Sincerely,

Charles

Steve said...

Charles,

You have never mentioned to me your reservations about revealing your name. I would like to hear them so I can make sense of where you are coming from. Are you a Mormon or just know a lot about the LDS church? Honestly, I don't think the church had anything to do with the harsh judgment of me by some people. I think that is the unfortunate reality of human nature. People make judgments based upon limited information.

I guess you did not fully read my last post. I am really confused about your confusion with looking for her. In my last post her is what I said,

"I spent the next several days. Calling friends and family to see if she had made contact with them. I called airports, bus stations and pawn shops to see if she had pawned her wedding ring. The police asked if we were arguing in the car. The kids can verify that we were not and were not in any kind of disagreement."

Here is more background. Camille's two brothers disappeared as well for days at a time. Here mom would disappear as well when they were young. We looked for one brother for days with no luck. If someone does not want to be found it is impossible to find them, especially in a busy city. Camille's family did not even do anything to come and help. They were all in Texas. Did I formally go and look for her, no. I had three young kids and decided to try and keep their life as normal as possible. I stayed with my parents at the time and they lived even further from SLC, where she disappeared. I had to go to work. There were things going on at work I needed to attend to. My boss was very supportive and during spare moments allowed me to make phone calls to numerous people and places. Camille's family was probably used to these actions and that is why they did not bother to help.

You are the only person who has grilled me over looking for her. Her family, my family, my boss, people in my ward and the police knew it was fruitless to look for her. She disappeared 30 minutes from my home and I had three young kids who were already traumatized by her jumping out of the car. I really don't know where you are coming from and why you are so intent on digging into this one piece of information? You say you have family who have Bipolar, so you would hopefully understand the erratic nature of someone who is manic? They do not make decisions that are based upon logic. What made Camille's situation worse was that she was delusional and psychotic at the time. Again, I had already had experience looking for her brother who disappeared. Tell me why you are so fascinated with this one detail and not other pieces of information ie my kids, my own adjustment, extended family, her family. The impact this has had long term. You seem to just be fixated on this one piece of information. Over the years you have been the only one who has been fixated on this? If you say you have this mental illness in your family it seems you would have more understanding?



I knew that you could walk 4 miles an hour and as each hour passed the search area radious expanded. I even thought she may have gone to the mountains, as that is where her brother disappeared several times.

The cause of death was exposure as ruled by an autopsy. Ironically, her body was found several days later about a couple hundred yards up the highway in a drainage ditch. Her medication bottles were empty all around her. I talked to several MD's who told me that even if she took all the meds she had with her it probably would not have killed her. The autopsy did not find sufficient levels of medication in her system to rule the cause of death a suicide. My theory is that she took the medications which made her very sleepy and she basically died from exposure to the elements. It was July and very hot around that time.

You are still welcome to call me if you really need to know more specifics.

Anonymous said...

I choose not to reveal my name because I have been a victim of an online stalker. Since then I never reveal who I am to anyone online, period.

My sincerest apologies again for upsetting you.It was never my intention to make you feel I was "grilling" you about such a horrible and awful tragic even in your life and the lives of your family. Thank you so much for providing more information so I can completely understand just how sick Camille was.

Mental Illness and addiction destroys families more than anything else I have ever witnessed. It sounds like your current wife is of sound mind and even temperament, good for you. I will not pretend to know all you endured with Camille. I am glad for you that you and your surviving children are well.

May God bless you and your family with peace and comfort. I am sure Emmalee is near you as much as possible.

Yours in Christ,

Charles

Anonymous said...

After re-reading my posts, it appears that I came across very accusatory. That was not my intent WHATSOEVER. We live in a crazy world and it is a rare thing when you fine a decent and kind person as yourself. I am a very skeptical and UN-trusting person by nature and I realize now that I was too harsh with my questions.

I am not sure if I would have taken the questions I asked you offensive like you did.

This will be my last post. It is obvious this caused you a great deal of pain and I am deeply sorry about that. If it makes you feel better, go ahead and delete my posts. I meant you no harm nor had malicious intent in my questions.

Again, God Bless.

Charles