Thursday, June 30, 2011

Healing, Part 3 - Finding Daphne

This is one post I have looked forward to writing. For all the angst and pain and work I put myself through this past year, this is what has made it all worthwhile. Sometimes the universe gives us amazing things.

After the assault Daphne was in the hospital for quite a while. Her parents, from who she was estranged because they could not accept her queerness, had come up to oversee her health care. They refused to let me see her, and then moved her back to NYC when she needed further surgeries. They also packed up our entire apartment leaving me with nothing. Later, a neighbor returned to me three Billie Holiday albums Daphne had lent her. For the all these years they were all I had to remember her. Those and a head full of horrifying, panic filled flashback memories.

Then, this past September, as part of my annual ritual of atonement, I wrote to her parents. I asked for forgiveness, I extended my heart and hand to them, and I asked for some information to help me in my own healing. And her mother responded. No love, no forgiveness. But she told me where Daphne was buried. And that was started me on an incredible path of healing.

Going to the cemetery had to be the single most difficult thing I have ever done. I thought I had prepared myself to see that headstone, but nothing really could prepare me for that cold hard reality. But in what could only be described as weeping and wailing, it was the first time I really allowed myself to grieve. Being there cracked something wide open in me and years and years of pain came pouring out.

Mean while, in therapy, I was working on simple basics of being able to say her name without the horrifying flashbacks taking over. My therapist had me concentrate on one good memory. We would talk about everything I could remember about it, the sights, the smells, all the details. And then I had to try to hold onto the good memory, as she brought up the things that triggered flashbacks. We practiced this over and over, every session. I still practice it daily. And eventually, I could recall more and more good memories, and hold them for longer and longer without the intrusive terror. It was very exciting for me. More and more I found myself smiling when thinking of Daph rather than curling into a painful ball. And that made me smile even more.

Then in February, I received a letter from Daphne’s mother asking if I would meet with her. We met in NYC for lunch but never even ordered. In a few short minutes, she had pushed every button I have and I was incredibly rude in response. She walked out. BUT she did give me a journal Daphne had kept from the time she was hospitalized until the night before her suicide.

The journal has been a very difficult read for me. Filled with Daphne’s pain and isolation. Her anger and her despair. And yet, for some reason unknown to me, I hold that notebook and feel relief. Maybe because for so many years I didn’t know what had happened to her. Maybe because she ended the journal with a private joke that made me laugh. And she knew it would. Maybe because being able to hold something that she held, I in some way, get to hold her again. I don’t really know. What I do know is that in finally allowing myself to grieve I was beginning to feel much lighter.

I once again wrote to Daphne’s mother, this time to apologize for my rude behavior, but also with the ulterior motive to get more of my questions answered. We met again in May and found a way to talk to each other. I do not like this woman. She has made it very obvious that she does not like me. Yet we have this bizarre need of each other to fill in the gaps that have kept us from properly healing. I can work with that.

There was a time when I resisted doing the exposure therapy because I didn’t want to “desensitize” myself to the horror. I thought it would disrespect everything that Daphne had gone through. I was wrong. It has allowed me to respect the trauma, but to keep it where it belongs - in the past.

There was a time when I thought that doing the exposure therapy would be disrespectful to Martha - chasing the ghost of an old lover. I was wrong. Having finally taught my subconscious mind the difference between the past and the present, my relationship with Martha has become more whole and present.

This past year has been a year of grieving for me. Something I should have done a long time ago, but couldn’t. And now I think I’m almost through it. Today I can think about Daphne and remember happy, joyous times. I can go visit her at the cemetery. I can read her last words. I can listen to Billie and Nina and Etta and sweetly remember her singing their songs. I now have three photographs of her I can look at and smile. I have her journal where I can read her last thoughts. And I can look up at the stars and hear her laugh.

Sometimes the universe gives us amazing things.


  1. I have long been amazed at how you could keep putting one foot in front of the other on this journey. I have often been a doubter. But look at you now!

    I am so happy for you and for all of us who knew Daffy and can now share our memories together.

  2. What a beautiful post. What a tremendous relief. I'm so glad you found the trust you needed to undertake this journey.

    With admiration and love,

  3. Sometimes the universe gives us amazing things

    Amen to that and blessings to you and all your hard earned successes.

  4. It has been such a long road for you. We have so much to celebrate next weekend!!!

  5. You can hear her laugh... that made me cry...

  6. Brave brave woman. I still find the mix here. But like you said, it is a daily journey and I am happy for you that you pushed through the most difficult parts to get to the better. Very often I hear people say they are never healed by therapists and hear you saying you are healed makes it easier for someone like me to ask for help have gone through some of the most difficult sessions I have ever read about.

  7. AnonymousJuly 02, 2011

    I have been reading your blog for about a year and never commented. This post has moved me to write and tell you how much hope you have given me (and others in my support group who read you) that I too will be able to get to a place of healing. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

  8. I remember you once told me "hope is all I have to give." You have give me so much more. You have give me strength, and encouragement and a friendship that bridges miles of pain.

    My heart is happy that you have found a measure of peace with finding your Daphne. May you now be able to find your missing pieces too. That is my hope for you.