Monday, August 30, 2010

Many Griefs Observed

Almost fourteen years ago I stood beside a big black hole in the ground and watched them put the only son I will ever have into it. In a moment like that, what happens when you look up to Heaven? C.S. Lewis said it best, " There is no answer. Only the locked door, the iron curtain, the vacuum, absolute zero."

To effectively describe the hole of grief that the mother of a suddenly and senselessly dead child falls into is not impossible. I could describe it for you but it would break your heart. I called it my own personal Holocaust.

The day after I came back home from Texas, and left my son in that hole, when I woke up and went into the bathroom I was confronted with someone I did not know. My hair had turned snow white, overnight. I was 32. That was the last day anyone ever saw my hair again. I sat on the floor of my bathroom in Charleston, Tennessee and proceeded to tear, rip, pull, shave and cut my head until it was gone for good. Gone. When the frenzy, the self attack was over I simply sat there for hours on the floor, keening. And then I spent countless days on the floor of that bathroom after that doing the same. I'm glad I didn't count them.

There is no bottom. People think there is a bottom but there is no such thing. Some people kill themselves rather than continuing to fall deeper in to the indescribable blackness. I understand why.

There is a pain scale doctors use and a pain scale mental health professionals use. The research indicates that the deepest mental suffering caused by grief is withstood, or not depending on their choice, by the mothers of dead children.

I have heard that the worst physical pain is bone pain. The kind of pain that would be described as "excruciating", the kind of pain that will cause a person to lose consciousness.

For a mother to lose a child, especially suddenly, unexpectedly, violently or senselessly is the mental equivalent of someone taking a chainsaw to one of your limbs. But I thought of it as "the great fire".

It took me two years before the free-fall into the blackness finally stopped. And by that time my husband had other interests and my marriage was over, too.

There is no bottom.

"There is no answer. Only the locked door, the iron curtain, the vacuum, absolute zero."

Survival meant becoming something new. I never went back to normal again. I found a new normal but I was never able to go back to being who or what I was before that day in May of 1997 when my son died.

So on November 22 2006, when I stepped into the Baby Land Cemetery in Hildale, Utah, on the same day that Warren Jeffs was having his preliminary hearing in St. George, I wasn't looking at all those dead childrens graves with any measure of lack of understanding for what each of those mothers who left her child in a hole in that junk yard cemetery might have felt.

People have asked me repeatedly why I have dug in like a tick on this whole polygamy issue. It's because I know the lie. It's because when I heard FLDS mothers were generally given 3 days to grieve a dead child, that Warren Jeffs had decreed stillborn children were not to be buried in the cemetery, because they were born without souls and did not need consecrated ground so they were disposed of like dead animals, and I saw for myself a community where 50% of the graves were those of children....well, I didn't need anyone to tell me that there was abuse in Colorado City. The graves spoke for themselves. Each and every one of them was attached, somewhere, to a mother, G-d help her.

I stood in that cemetery surrounded by blood red canyon walls with my friend, Flora, and I looked up, and around, beyond the field of holes full of children and she was right. There was no way out, nowhere to hide. There was nowhere to run.

I didn't need a PhD in psychology to know exactly what kind of carnage the polygamy in Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah has produced.

I've got credentials. I am a human being. One who has walked through that fire.

Move along folks, they'll tell you there is nothing to see here, nothing wrong.

Do you really believe that?

It's no secret that the stars are falling from the sky
The universe exploded 'cause of one man's lie
Look, I gotta go, yeah I'm running outta change
There's a lot of things if I could I'd rearrange


  1. Dear K D After reading your story , am unable to comment , have gone numb.

    On a more superficial level , thanks for posting the U2 video, I remember watching the video " Live at red rocks " many years ago and instantly became a huge U2 fan but then after the joshua tree I kind of lost interest in them
    but after reading your story It opened me up emotionally to the video.

    I remember years ago being in charge of a Sunday morning meeting and news came through that the son of someone who was connected to the fellowship had committed suicide the night before by putting his father's shotgun to his head. What can you do at a moment like that. I just said to the fellowship that we would have to cancel the meeting and instead first spend some time praying for the family and then go home and grieve for them and their loss. Again what else can you do at a time like that, I
    feel the same way after reading what you have been through.
    Sincere Warmth. Steve.

  2. Steve, thank you so much for your kindness. There is nothing to be said when people experience the loss of a child but "I'm so sorry this has happened to you".

    I think G-d used music to keep me alive for a very long time, especially U2. I was too disconnected and wrapped in my own pain for anyone or anything else to reach.

    G-d is good, all the time.

    What I recognized in the victims and survivors of polygamy when I met them was GRIEF, which our modern society has no place for. We are all supposed to be shiny happy people don't you know? I call it the "Prozac nation". Rather than mourning with those who mourn we live in a world which avoids those who have pain we cannot understand.

    I cannot even imagine what the unexpressed grief has done to the insides of some of those mothers.

    Again, thank you for your kindness.

  3. So sad.. as a mother I cannot let myself imagine it completely. Yet my sister and her little boy shared tragic deaths in Mexico where she lived as a plural wife. Her husband was to blame. I knew many other victims of polygamy during my upbringing, and understand your need to speak out. Thank you, I appreciate your honesty and effort.

  4. Kim, I wouldn't ever want anyone to imagine it. Ever. Most people think I'm a pretty tough cookie but sometimes my insides are J-E-L-L-O. Two examples, in 1999 I had a setback when the tragedy at Colimbine happened. For days I cried for those poor parents. Then in 2003, when the media showed pictures of Saddam Hussein's sons who had been killed, it tore me up so badly, because all I could think of was their poor mother.

    I am so sorry about your sister and nephew. But I am so happy that you are out and free. Keep changing the world!