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Tag: grief

My Son was Murdered by his Mother

“When will the pain stop?!”

That was my first question when I went to my first support group meeting, Parents of Murdered Children (POMC).

The answer, almost to my horror, is never.

The pain never goes away. I heard a man speak who lost his daughter to murder over 30 years ago. He is still dealing with his pain.

Initially, this made me recoil.

Never? The pain would never go away?

The pain of the first year is almost unbearable. The idea that this pain would go on forever was unthinkable. Over several years of meetings, I have learned the rest of the story.

Yes, the pain of a traumatic loss never goes away, but it softens. Survivingvictims of homicide are trying to save another life — their own. They are on a quest to find “the new normal.” We aren’t trying to “move on.” We will never move on from our tragedy. Instead, we “move forward” in spite of it.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me go back to the beginning.

My Story

I’m a big fan of motivational speaker. Mainly because… they motivate me.

My latest is Mel Robbins.

She said something in a speech that really stood out to me.

She said:

If you are doing something new, you might tell yourself that you’ll succeed or fail. –Mel Robbins

She goes on to say that we should tweak the saying. In our modern society, there is little chance that we will fail (or die). In ancient times, failure could mean death. Today, failure means we get a sternly-worded memo from HR.

Instead, she said, we should tell ourselves, “We will succeed or survive.”

I like this, because I’m a survivor.

To understand my story, we have to go back to 2013. I was living in Hood River, Oregon. I though I was living a pretty good life.

I had good friends. I had a good job. I had a good family. I had a beautiful little boy. He was autistic and non-verbal, but he gave really good hugs. I wish I could have heard him say, “I love you,” but both of us knew.

The Crash

That’s when my whole castle began to crumble.

I got a brain tumor. It was in a very sensitive part of my brain. I couldn’t feel the left half of my body. I could not walk. I was confined to a hospital bed.

I got good care at the local Providence hospital. My friends and family rallied around me. It boosted my spirits.

I was going to buckle down and recover!

Two months later, I was diagnosed with a rare form of MS. I spent a month in rehab relearning how to every common task you can think of. Standing up, walking, brushing my teeth, and dressing myself.

In the two months I had been confined to my bed, all of my muscles had atrophied.

I was starting as a baby again at the age of 40.

I’m used to tears and humiliation and hard work. You haven’t lived until you’ve messed yourself in public (that’s a joke). It makes a person humble, though.

A month later, I returned to my home in a wheelchair with a walker.

I wasn’t deterred. I was going to keep at it, work hard, and recover!

Life wasn’t done dealing me blows.

The Continued Fall

Then my wife had a “nervous breakdown.”

I’m not making light of mental illness. It’s a serious thing. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, get help immediately.

I am saying that my wife didn’t have a real nervous breakdown. At least, the later police investigation didn’t come to that conclusion. Their opinion is that she was pretending to have a nervous breakdown. Why? Maybe she didn’t want to deal with a special needs son and a special needs husband?

It’s all speculation. We may never know.

What I do know is that she was a master of manipulation. You thought of her what she wanted you to think of her. She wanted everyone to think that she was a poor victim of a “nervous breakdown.”

She entered the mental health system of Hood River. We bounced around from therapist to therapist. No one really did anything. Of course, nothing would have worked. She was allegedly faking it and showing different symptoms to different people.

When they started talking about putting her in an institution, my aunt and uncle came to the rescue. They offered up a room in their house for her to stay. Yes, she has a name, but I prefer not to use it… ever.

We’ll call her The One Who Won’t Be Named.

Now I didn’t have any support at home. My wife had been the primary care-giver for my son. I had come a long way, but I wasn’t yet up to the task of parenting a very energetic, special-needs boy.

My mother-in-law extended her vacation and stayed with me two weeks. My mother took a vacation to stay with me two more weeks. She was the one who said this wasn’t a long-term solution. She had life and job back in Newport, Oregon.

“Pack up a few boxes. You’re moving in with me.”

It was like quickly leaving a disaster and grabbing only what you need. There were so many things that I left behind. Years later, I don’t miss most of those things. It was forcing me to become a minimalist — and fast!

Normal Life?

Life continued like this in Newport — maybe a month or so?

I worked on daily exercise. I was still determined to “get better.”

Then, my wife’s condition “got worse.” She made some very angry, violent threats toward my aunt and uncle. The police were called. She was taken into state mental care. Quick hint out there for those of you dealing with mental illness. The police that came to the scene would sooner have just left things alone. That wouldn’t have been a good thing. You can tell when somebody needs mental care. In this case, she was allegedly needing serious mental care, but that’s beside the point.

My uncle insisted that she be placed in state care. He threatened to take legal action if they didn’t. Bravo, uncle! Between you and me, I think you dodged a bullet there.

Lesson: Make the public officials do their jobs, even when they don’t want to.

So, the unnamed one was placed in a group home in The Dalles, Oregon. Six months later, they requested a phone call. Apparently, she was “cured” (she wasn’t) and she was good to “come home” (it wasn’t a good idea).

Lesson: Even if a mental health professional tells you someone if “cured” don’t believe them. Get a second AND third opinion. Set up a meeting and see for yourself.

That may not have helped in this case, because she was acting “crazy” and acting “normal” based on her needs at the time.

The Crime

She came home to Newport and lived with us for about six months. I shiver when I think about the kind of danger we were all in.

I regularly got out of the house to practice walking or go swimming at the local pool.

On the evening of November 3rd, 2014, I went out. She said that she was fine to watch little London (she wasn’t).

I was gone for about two hours.

I noticed a bunch of emergency lights on the Newport bridge (the Yaquina Bay Bridge). I assumed there had been an auto accident. I was stuck in the slow traffic as it crawled across.

I kept my eyes forward on the slowly-moving cars ahead of me. This was for several reasons:

  • One of the reasons traffic goes so slow is because people slow down to look at an accident. I told myself I wasn’t going to be a “lookie loo” a long time ago.
  • Sometimes people get into fender-benders by looking at the accident and not at the road. I definitely don’t want to be one of “those” people.
  • I was fairly fresh to driving again after rehab. It’s like riding a bike, but it still required focus.

If I had been looking, I would have seen my wife’s car.

I got home and watched a movie with my dad. I still can’t stand the Transformers movies for that reason. That’s a whole bunny trail we won’t go in to here.

A couple hours past. It was dark. I was starting to get worried.

I called. I texted.

Nothing.

Then there was a knock at the door. It was a group of police and a chaplain. They asked to come inside. They asked me to sit. Then they told me what had happened.

She had driven London to the Newport bridge. Parked the car. Walked him out to the middle of the bridge. Picked him up. Threw him off the bridge.

When the police told me, I started to cry.

I cried non-stop for about three days. I cried so much, it felt like I broke. I have trouble crying even to this day.

When you hear something traumatic, your mind instantly goes into shock. This is not a good time to be talking to anybody.

Lesson: Do not give a statement to the police while you are still reeling from a crime. You aren’t thinking clearly. You don’t want to be “on the record.”

But that is another bunny trail.

The very next day, friends from Hood River began to arrive. This is about a three-hour drive. I was surrounded by shared grief and support. While I had been in the hospital, London had lived with many of these families. To them, it was also like losing a son.

Honestly, the first year is mostly a blur.

I think it’s a self-protection device of your brain. While the pain is fresh, the brain can’t compute. It mostly shuts down.

Witnessing all of this love, generosity, and support softened my heart. I gave my heart to God and his son, Jesus Christ. He has been putting my life back together ever since.

Some homicide victims are angry with God. If so, that’s OK. He’s a big guy, He can take it.

I never blamed God for what happened. I think He was the first one to cry.

I’m not here to convert anybody. I’m just saying that embracing faith has helped me on my journey

That began my nomad life. I began to wander aimless. Newport had too many memories. I moved up to Portland, and have been staying with one friend after another. I didn’t know where I was going.

An Exotic Beauty

A year later, I was still going through the trial. People ask if a “successful” trial brings closure. It does not. The legal process is a different kind of pain. As a society, we should be ashamed. We take a person who has been through a traumatic situation and put them through another traumatic situation (a trial). So, to answer the question, the end of a trial is just a relief — regardless of the outcome. It could be good or bad.

I just wanted it to be over.

I wanted to learn how to breathe again, instead of gasping for life.

When I needed a friend at the end of the trial, Malou reached out to me on Facebook. That’s an amusing story, but yet another bunny trail. She didn’t know anything about what I was going through. She just knew I was a Christian and she thought I was cute.

I’ll take that. I needed a friend as the pressure-cooker of a trial was underway.

She lived in Rome, Italy. She was a private chef.

We started to chat every day. In one of our chats, I mentioned the trial. I thought everybody knew because it was such a huge story. She had no idea.

The next day, she had done some research. She apologized. She had no idea.

We became closer and closer. At this point, I still didn’t know what she looked like. Her Facebook profile picture had photos of her children (adorable). Turns out she was a widow. She was working overseas to support her kids back home (in The Philippines). As I got to know her, she was a beautiful person. I admired her level of self-sacrifice for her kids. We started to talk about the possibility of getting married.

It was a lame proposal, but she agreed.

Maria Luisa Vispo Dela Cruz

It wasn’t until after the proposal that she sent me a photo of herself. I almost dropped the phone. She was gorgeous!

A year after that, I went to meet her for the first time in Rome, Italy. When I met her, she was surprised. She had seen my photos online of me at rehab in a wheelchair. She didn’t expect me to be walking. At that time I was walking with a cane. Now I walk without that.

Family, Wedding, and VISA

The whole Philippines family

I travelled once to The Philippines to meet the family and kids. She has SIX kids and one grandkid! We saved up for another year and then travelled again to The Philippines to get married.

More bunny trails there.

Now we are working on the VISA application. Holy Cow! Talk about pulling your fingernails out! My 1st application is about 80 pages long. Notice that I said “1st application.” There will be many, many more hoops to go through.

Six Years Later…

It has been six years since the murder. I am now a totally different person than I was. I am remarried. I am writing again.

If I had any advice for somebody going through traumatic grief, it would be this:

Do what you have to do. There are no rules. Stay busy and try new things.

Peace and may God bless you❤

Matt McCabe
January, 2020

A Parent’s Pain: Finding Hope After the Murder of a Child

It is the worst nightmare of a parent. It is the death of a beloved child. Murder makes it that much worse.

Once a child is born, a parent would do anything to protect them. A parent would even sacrifice their own life so that his or her own child would live.

The tragic death is the worst pain imaginable, and it comes with months and years of anguish. I hope that none of you experience this pain, but if you do, here’s some things that helped me. You aren’t alone.


When Does the Pain Stop?

When I first started attending support groups,
this was my first question:

When does the pain stop?

I really wish the answer were different, but the
answer is ‘never.’ When someone is fresh to their grief,
this can be a punch in the gut, so it’s important to quickly get to the next point. Over time, the pain will get softer and possible to bear.

In the first year, the pain is quite severe. This pain is not endless. You will eventually find a new normal.

Your old life is dead. Many parents live their lives for their children (me included). When the life of a child ends, the life of the parent ends. Not literally, but all hope and joy can drain away. It is important for the parent to begin to live a new life. They need to come to terms with a new normal life. This is the new normal.

You never intended this, but you are now on a mission for your own self-preservation.


It’s Not Your Fault

This was not your fault.
You could not have prevented it.
You are worthy of life.

These are very important statements. For those of you that have not experienced traumatic loss, you would be well served to memorize the above. The parent in pain needs these three important points. At first the parent won’t believe it. He or she is in shock. You must repeat it until he or she believes it.


  1. This is not your fault. A parent feels responsible for the health and welfare of their child. They couldn’t stop the murder of the child. They feel guilt. They need to be released from that guilt.
  2. This could not have been prevented. The tragic events are playing over and over in the head of the bereaved. He or she is wondering if they had done this or that. Would their child still be alive?

    This endless loop will try to drive a person insane. Put a line in the sand early. Any of us could play, “What If?” games. What If is no longer allowed.
  3. You are worthy of life. It is very unlikely that this statement will be agreed upon. The surviving victim will be very hard on themselves. Even if he or she does not yet agree, they must accept the fact. Other ways to prove his or her self-worth is to have a close friend talk about the impact the survivor has made in his or her life. Affirmation of this point might be a full-time job while the tragedy is fresh.

‘You are worthy of life.’


Survival Steps

Here is a list of things that helped me. I have been on a quest for recovery. I found out that this is a life-long quest. The only other alternative is to give up. I refuse to give up.


1. Talk About Your Pain

I recommend finding and joining a support group. A great organization is the Parents of Murdered Children (POMC). There are many chapters across the United States. Talk to your victim’s advocate about the nearest chapter. These people have been through similar circumstances, and will let you talk. They know how important it is to talk.

The story of your tragedy is unbelievable. Your brain cannot process it. Talking about it makes it real in your head. Only then can you begin the process of rebuilding your life.

Your pain is a sharp bundle of razor-blades inside you. If you bury it, the pain will make you sick. Many victims of homicide develop horrible diseases. Grief and stress, if not treated, can do a lot of damage.

Friends will often reach a point where they no longer want to talk about the tragedy. In some cases, they might even ask you to move on. They do not understand that there is no ‘moving on’ for you. This is another reason to find a support group. They will never tell you to move on. You can tell them the same story as much as you need to.

Your story may have tears. It may be angry. Any and all emotions you feel are all right. Give yourself permission to feel what you feel.


2. Stay Busy

It’s time to break out the to-do list.

When you dive into a project head-first, you can lose yourself and forget about the pain. Don’t worry about forgetting the pain – you will never forget the pain. This is just taking a temporary pain-reliever.

This is also a good time to start a new hobby: Art, crafts, writing… you name it. You never know what you will like until you try it. Grab a catalog from the local community college and sign up for a class or two (or three!). Not only is this a distraction, this will help you in creating that new normal we talked about before. You may discover a hidden talent that can help form your new identity.



 

3. Help Others

One of the best ways to lessen our pain is to help others. Volunteer for organizations. Be on the look-out for way to help your fellow man (or woman). Reach out to others that are really hurting. You can help others. In so doing, you will help yourself.


This can be combined with Step #2. You can volunteer to help with the manual labor tasks of others. Digging a ditch or cleaning a house will keep your mind busy AND help someone else.



 

4. Find Someone (or Something)
to Love

You still have the capacity to love, perhaps even more now than before. You have a deeper sense of empathy for others.

If you are single, the exhilaration of a new relationship can lift your spirits. Just be cautious of falling for a person that is less-than-perfect.
Use your friends to vet your choice, if you need to.

If you are already in a relationship, work on strengthening that bond. Do things for your beloved. He or she is your lifeline, now more than ever.
Spend close time with that person.


Consider getting a new pet. An eager puppy nuzzling your face can make you smile. You need to smile and laugh right now. Deep sobs or deep laughter can move the rock that is sitting on your chest.

You could show love to a dear, close friend. This could be a time to create strong family relationships. You have love building up in the dam of your heart. You need to find a release for it just as much as you need to find a release for your pain.


5. Enjoy Life

You have just received a very bitter reminder
that life is short.


  • Pamper yourself. Take yourself shopping. Eat out at good restaurants. Eat dessert before your main dish.
  • Be silly. Where purposely mismatched clothing. Wear your pajamas and go to the mall. Learn and tell some lousy jokes. Talk to strangers. Take yourself a little less seriously!
  • Enjoy peaceful things. Look hard at the sunsets. Breathe the fresh air. Pick a flower or two. Visit a garden or a forest. Go to the zoo.


 

6. Avoid Harmful Habits

You may be tempted to crawl into a bottle (pills or alcohol). You may want to eat ten gallons of Rocky Road ice cream (a pint is ok). We might want to sit on the couch and power-stream everything on TV.

We know what is harmful to us. We could make a list.
You may be tempted by all kinds of things that promise release.
The sad truth is, no physical pleasure will help your pain. It will make matters worse because you will feel bad about yourself after you have indulged.

Let’s flip those urges on their head. Make a list of things that are good for you and do those things. Go for a run. Check. Write a long letter by hand to a friend. Check. Make a very healthy meal from scratch. Check.

You may not feel like doing any of those things (and believe me, we’ve all been there). Do them anyway. You will feel better about yourself afterwards. Plus, the act of doing something with meaning is healing for the soul. Try something with your hands, or something that uses your muscles—it is cathartic.

P.S. Go out of your way to eat dessert, just limit yourself.



 

7. Find Religion

I’m not going to preach to you here. There is a reason every 12-Step program wants you to find your higher power. It gives you perspective, and it helps. Do it. Stick with it. Practice it. Take it deep in yourself. Let it heal what hurts.



 

8. Improve Yourself

Go on a massive quest for self-improvement. Lose weight.
Start going to the gym. Take some classes. Learn public speaking. Learn a new skill.
At the very least,
you will be distracting yourself and keeping yourself busy. At the most,
you’ll be a healthy, well-adjusted human being.


Reward for Reading

Thanks for taking a few moments out of your life to read my article. As a reward, here’s a cute
kitten.


 

Image Credits:
Divider Image
Google Images


Avatar Image
Flickr user Arielle Fragassi


Gravestones
Flickr user m shaff


Cute Kitten
Flickr user Juco