Like many survivors of major trauma, my life has a before and after. The day that changed everything—November 8, 2005—happened six weeks after my 30th birthday, on my one-month wedding anniversary.
I was attending a conference a couple of hours away from home and there was a knock at my hotel room door. When I answered, the police officer standing there said, “I’m not here because someone has died. I’m here about your husband, Jason. He was arrested last night and charged with sexual assault.”
My husband, my best friend, had violated two women at his workplace and then kidnapped them and taken them to our home. To the little house we’d bought and renovated together. To the house I thought I would take my babies home to. It was now surrounded by yellow crime scene tape and splashed on the front page of the newspaper under the headline, “Monster appears in court.” I was completely shattered.
In an instant, the trajectory of the next decade—my thirties—changed dramatically. My twenties had been defined by adventure and learning through travel for education and my work in international development. At 29, I had settled into making a difference through local volunteer work and a dream role as a high school guidance counsellor, with the goal that my thirties would be hallmarked by motherhood and further career growth. Instead, I started my 30th year with tragedy, trauma, stigma and shame. My goal, at least at first, was mere survival. To actually live fully again would mean rebuilding my life in every way imaginable, navigating the complex grief of losing my husband to life incarceration, enduring the pain of being punished for “guilt by association” by my employer and community, overcoming PTSD and coping with the helplessness I felt toward the victims—all while bushwhacking my way through the justice system as both a direct victim of crime (voyeurism) and a collateral victim of crime (wife of the offender).
The landscape of my life was made of broken glass and I had to figure out how to make it safe to walk on again. No one had a guidebook to give me, so I figured it out one step at a time, by trial and error. My resilience was tested at every turn, and over time I carefully placed (and sometimes misplaced) the shards of glass into a mosaic that I could accept, build a new life on and, one day, even find beautiful. When I arrived in a better and safer time, I wrote the book I’d needed in my darkest hour—Through the Glass—and with its publication came a reach far greater than I’d ever imagined. I transformed my voicelessness, vulnerability, violation and exposure to violence, and became vocal, validated, vindicated, valued and vibrant. Then, a new purpose emerged: To help others do the same.
Now, I’m a trauma therapist in private practice helping people to achieve post-traumatic growth. I’m also a forgiveness expert, restorative justice facilitator, mental health advocate, media spokesperson, best-selling author and the mother of twin girls.
If you’d asked me on my 30th birthday if I thought life would lead me here, the answer would have been a definitive no. I wouldn’t wish my story on anyone. But am I grateful to have found a calling out of that trauma? To that, my answer is a resounding yes.
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