The second year was hard because it was the real "firsts" without him. Realizing my life would never be the same was traumatizing. I still hated the new life I was forced to live. Everything started to sink in when the phone calls and messages slowed down. My life was a constant struggle and I felt like a robot. I was tired of being called strong because I would've loved the opportunity to be weak, just for a little while, but life didn’t give me a choice.
I was sick all the time and I started losing my hair. I wasn’t taking care of myself and it was really starting to show. I was exhausted, couldn’t focus, forgot things and just walked in circles most of the time. I prayed for direction but felt like God left me too. Nothing helped no matter what I tried and there weren't too many people that understood the helpless and empty feeling I carried with me EVERY single day. I hated that. I hated depending on people because I was NEVER one to ask anyone for anything. I hated not being able to make things better for my kids. I hated crying all the time and I hated sitting in a cemetery cleaning my husband’s head stone. I think that's when I became angry about it all.
Some days got better but the bad ones knocked me on my face again...back to the day it happened. All those days finally hit me. I struggled and never spoke to anyone about what happened next. I spent more and more nights on my closet floor reading cards and letters from Charlie. I was terrified I was going to forget his voice, so I watched home videos until I cried myself to sleep.
I started spiraling at that point.
That’s when my anger toward God started to escalate. I blamed God for not saving Charlie and for allowing an honest man who did so much good in this world to just gasp for air in the street the way Charlie did. I blamed God for taking an amazing father from our kids. I blamed God for abandoning me and taking the only security and stability I ever had in my life. I remember asking why would a God with so much power allow so many bad things to happen.
I blamed Charlie too. I blamed him for voluntarily taking that call. I blamed him for not seeing the criminal who shot at him seven times in the dark. I blamed for being a cop for twenty-three years with so much training but couldn’t shoot fast enough to save his own life. I blamed him for not fighting hard enough to live. I blamed Charlie for breaking his promise to me that he would never leave. I blamed my husband for dying.
I gave up on everything I believed in - even God. I felt like I was living two lives. I was able to convince everyone around me that I was doing fine, and I was NOT fine. I made myself sick trying to hold everything in all the time. I didn’t want to reach out and seem needy or weak. I tried counseling numerous times with several counselors, but I felt like they were just telling me the same thing over and over and I wasn’t interested. I was consumed by feeling guilty for being alive when Charlie wasn’t.
I didn’t see my life getting any easier like everyone said it would. I couldn’t do a thing to help my kids get through the heartbreaking days of missing their father. I was tired of being a widow and I honestly had no interest in life at all. I was composed at work and in public, but I was a spiraling mess inside.
So, I started to get things together. I set up a trust, paid for my funeral, and did everything possible to plan for the “what if” for myself. But as time went by…. death wasn’t scary anymore. I didn’t know if I was depressed, had anxiety, PTSD or if I was just grieving still. I tried meds and didn’t like the way I felt so I tried more counseling and I just couldn’t get it together. No one seemed to get it.
I realized at that point that I had the choice to make it all stop and give up anytime I wanted to. I wouldn’t have to watch my kids struggle and break all the time. It didn't matter how many people wanted to help. I didn't care. With all the support and people so close to me, not one person knew what was going on or how far I had let myself go. Not one. I finally hit bottom.
I was always the person people called for help with anything and everything. My door was always open and I always had kids in my home who needed help. I was always so good at getting people on their feet but I was no longer the person who could help anymore. I was the one who needed it and didn’t know where to go.
As the weeks went by, I felt numb I guess. I remember staring at the ceiling one night just sobbing until I had no more tears. I was just tired. Tired of being angry and I was tired of hearing things would get better. I felt like I had nothing left and I was scared because that empty feeling was devastating.
The next morning changed my life. I woke up DIFFERENT.
I don’t know how to even describe what I felt but it was peaceful. I felt so grateful and light and all I could do was cry. I cried all day. I remember just thinking, GET UP and that I didn’t struggle and fight through my ENTIRE life to quit now. I started praying and begging God to forgive me for being so angry at him. I apologized for demanding answers that weren’t owed to me.
I don’t know why God didn’t save Charlie, but that morning He saved ME.
It's amazing how something so traumatic can bring so much peace in your life. I wake up now and I'm thankful to be a mom one more day. I'm happy to share what a beautiful marriage and life I had and I'm thankful for the life I’m living. I started realizing how lucky I really was.
From that day forward, I see life in a different way. I appreciate things I didn’t pay attention to before. God didn’t owe me an explanation and I feel selfish now for not appreciating the life I still had – life that Charlie should’ve had. I push myself to make the most of the life I still have. I can hug my kids & do things that have been taken away from so many people. I want to honor my husband, my kids, and MYSELF. l'm trying to live the way I want to be remembered.
As weird as it sounds, I was so thankful for everything that happened in my life.
But 2018 pushed me backwards again. Trial was coming, and I had to prepare myself. I had to force myself to watch the videos and photos from that night and I lost it. I watched my husband die. It brought all those desperate feelings back that I thought I had under control. When I left the police department after watching everything that day, I felt so horrible for not seeing Charlie’s death through the eyes of his brothers and sisters in blue. Just listening to them working on Charlie and talking him through it killed me. Every single bit of their training was used that night but there wasn’t anything anyone could’ve done to save him. I am so grateful they were with him. I’ll never forget the sound of panic in their voices while they tried to save him and I’ll never be able to thank them for all they did. They held Charlie’s hand and he knew he wasn’t alone. That means the world to me.
Then in March 2018, I had to sit in Charlie’s murder trial the exact month he was supposed to be retiring. I had to once again, relive that day and watch Charlie take his last breath during trial. I had to watch my kids fall apart AGAIN. Sitting in the same room with the animal that crushed so many of us was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
All the anger and hurt came back. Reading my victim impact statement to the criminal was a big relief. And as I told him that day, I will no longer give him any more of my life than he already took from me and I meant it. I don’t wish him harm and I don’t think about him ever but I’m not in a place to forgive yet. Maybe one day but not now. This wasn’t an accident so it’s hard to forgive. I’ve always had issues with forgiveness, so I SURE wasn’t starting with him. That’s between me and God anyway because I know that one day he will face the God my husband stands beside and that’s enough for me.
Following trial, I (along with a ton of support) was able to get some pension changes made for widows/widowers left behind. That was the beginning of my accomplishments and drive to find positive things through all of this.