Did you ever really love Joe, Marie?
That’s the question I was asked not long ago as I began sharing the truth of living with and helping this man I loved so much to heal and deal with his trauma. I understand the desire to remain silent and not talk about the truths that are sometimes just too hard to hear. But at what cost? The sexual abuse of children is a silent epidemic, and it took my husband’s life. I can tell you– the cost of staying silent is massive! Silence is no longer an option for me. Speaking the truth will always take us higher. I have nothing personal to gain and only one hope–helping others–by talking about my experience and living through the aftermath of his depression, the cause, and ultimately his death by suicide.
One study, appropriately titled “Deep and Almost Unbearable Suffering: Consequences of Childhood Sexual Abuse for Men’s Health and Well-Being …None of the men disclosed their abuse until well into adulthood when they hit rock bottom and faced the truth of revealing what had happened or taking their own life. According to the study, one of the things that kept victims silent was the myth that men who endured sexual abuse as children will become sexual offenders themselves. Each man was convinced that people would assume they were primed to begin abusing children someday. Still, despite this intense fear as well as their fear of not being believed, each chose to disclose his abuse rather than kill himself. This finding begs the question: How many abused men have chosen the alternative?Dr. Kelli Palfy- (Her book: Men Too)
I loved Joe more than I could ever express in words. We’d spent nearly thirty years together raising our family, starting our business, and traveling the country with our (made with love) soy candles. I thought we had had every up and down imaginable, blending our two families and starting that business. But when the memories of childhood sexual abuse began to surface, it got worse than I could have ever believed.
Joe was a man that was full of life. He had a passion and a drive for excellence in everything he did; nothing was mediocre, and work always came before play. We were rarely apart. We worked, lived, and played together. There was still nothing more exciting for me after all of those years than to hear the sound of his truck rolling into the drive. I was absolutely giddy when he was home! Our marriage wasn’t perfect and I don’t want to portray that it was, we had our moments, but it was the best I’ve ever seen between two people, and even more so in our later years. All of our decisions were made together. We shared in all household responsibilities and duties (except for mowing the lawn… but I’m getting my turn, now.) I’m not putting Joe on a pedestal and pretending he was a perfect human being, either. He pushed people away, including, and especially near the end, his own kids. But he was a great man!
We were worried that we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves after our youngest son, Lane, moved away. Would we drift apart without the kids there as a buffer? But six kids and sixteen grandkids later, I am happy to report that we grew closer and closer through our last five years together. I remember Joe saying to me just weeks before he died, “How is it possible that we keep getting closer?” I think that’s what hurt the most and one of the reasons I was so stunned and taken off guard with his final decision to walk away.
But the truth is the abuse that haunted him changed who he was, especially in those last two weeks of his life. It wasn’t Joe that made that decision. He had become someone I was having a hard time recognizing. Being so close to the situation, and guarding Joe’s secret, as I had promised him I would, has given me many regrets. But I didn’t know then what I know today. Since that day, I have been researching and reading (and still am) about male sexual abuse, the trauma, and all that follows it. 1/6 men and 1/3 women have been sexually abused- and some believe those numbers are still too low. If these numbers are correct- what family isn’t affected?
I am using my voice to share my experience of this tragedy and help others not make the same mistakes. Help is out there, but you have to know where to go. We can heal. There is only one person that’s responsible for Joe’s pain, and that’s his abuser. Had I known what to do, where to seek help, or how to help him deal with the shame he felt -that wasn’t his to carry- I could be telling a different story today.
Helping others recognize and know the signs of childhood sexual abuse is now giving purpose to my pain. Standing idly by is not an option. In those last weeks of his life, Joe told me that he wished I understood that “he just wanted the pain to stop.” To know the love that we had for each other is to understand, in hindsight, just how deep that pain was. Not even a love like that was enough to numb it.
I am now making it my mission to help others in the best way possible to know the signs, know where to go for help, and end this epidemic. Right now, that’s raising money for The kNot Today Foundation. Their mission is also my mission. The numbers don’t lie. But without sharing our stories and shining our light, how will the world ever know?
I loved Joe. I will always love him. I miss him every day, and I’m grateful for my time with him and the lessons he taught me. I will continue to do all I can to help spread awareness and find solutions to break this unbreakable silence.
I hope you will join me in supporting kNot Today and its mission by purchasing an Unbreakable candle. 100% of the proceeds will go to the kNot Today Foundation. Free shipping ends today (July 5th, 2021.) If you’re not able to donate by purchasing a candle (and even if you are), please consider contributing by sharing with friends and family. It all helps!
Thank you for your love and support over this past year. It’s meant everything to me!
Romans 8:28– And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
To your healing, and to mine.
xo, and peace.
If anything I’ve said feels right (or wrong)… share some ❤️ ⬇️ (and thank you!)
Call: Lifeline 1 800 273 8255 (USA Only)Text: CNQR to 741 (741 Crisis Text Line (USA Only)
I just want the pain to stop… (video)
Suicide is not a selfish act. It’s a desperate act.
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