Robin Karr-a wonderful story of survival
Divorce is a very delicate and complex situation all at the same time, and it could have a tremendous negative impact on the entire family if is not handled properly from the beginning; even more so, when the divorcing couple has children.
Like every other major life change, divorce can be a stressful experience. It affects finances, living arrangements, household jobs, schedules, etc. If the family includes children, they may be deeply and psychologically affected. The children are even more affected, when the parents handle the separation with acrimony and a long list of legal disputes.
Divorces between parents tend to be more ‘heated’, than the ones where there are no children involved. One reason, is the tremendous amount of worry about being a good parent, and shield the children from the harsh reality, of no longer having an intact family; another huge stressor, is the child custody issue.
It is normal for parents to have differences of opinion; but when they do not communicate respectfully with each other, and do not have a good strategy for resolving their differences, the result is ongoing disputes and angry confrontations which erupt and progress every time the parents cross paths.
How do children and adults cope with divorce and family separation? More importantly what does someone do, when the angry confrontations are fast-forwarding to malicious acts of vengeance with false allegations, and how do you protect your children from these vicious acts?
Various studies on children of divorce show that, generally children are resilient and can adapt quite well to changes in the family structure such as divorce and separation. Adults do too. What is psychologically devastating to them, is ongoing and unresolved family conflicts.
Children who are caught in the midst of these never-ending conflicts, will most likely suffer the consequences. They may develop behavior problems, sleep disorders, anxiety, anger, depression, thoughts of suicide, self blame, low self-esteem, fear for their safety and their parents’ safety, etc.
I have recently interviewed a mother-Robin Karr-who went through all that, including domestic abuse, and the alienation of her two younger children-Matthew and Laura-whom she hasn’t seen in nine years, and this is her, and her older son’s-Christopher- story of survival the aftermath of such trauma, in Robin’s own words.
She said that the pain of the divorce is nothing compared with the pain and trauma of false accusations, and losing her children.
“In an instant, my world and my children's world was shattered. We would never be free to love or cuddle again," she said.
She states that her life was never the same after her two younger children were taken from her unlawfully, by her ex-husband who had manipulated the judicial system by working with corrupt family court officials. She said that she fell to her knees in the street, and could not find the strength to get up when she first learned-in Rockwall TX-that her ex-husband was in possession of a restraining order against her, and she no longer could see her children unsupervised.
“I was devastated beyond what I can say with mere words. I told myself that there was surely a legal remedy. I had to believe that. The plane trip back home was beyond difficult. I cried and cried until I became sick. My heart was so broken, it hurt - literally. They say you can die from a broken heart and I believe it. The drive from the airport in Knoxville TN, back home to Barbourville KY, was the longest trip of my life. Memories of me and my three children kept flashing through my mind. It was like a video or movie was constantly running in my mind. I couldn't turn it off.
I could still hear their laughter and I could still see them playing [in my mind]. I had a lot of trouble sleeping in those first years. I would go to Laura's crib and pick up her baby quilt and smell it - just so afraid her sweet baby smell would be gone. I cried a lot; I prayed a lot. I would often sit up all night trying desperately to think of something I could do - something I had not done already to try and get my children back. I've got literally hundreds of e-mails to show where I reached out to anybody and everybody I thought, might be able to help us in those early years.” Karr said.
She admits that the only two things which saved her, was her faith in God, and her older son from a previous marriage-Christopher. She said that she’d taught herself how to use a computer, just so she could reach out to more people.
“Also, I think my anger saved me to some extent. I got angry enough to fight back. People most often think of anger as a bad thing but it can be a good thing sometimes. It's a real human emotion after all. If used constructively, anger can keep a person from sinking too far into depression and hopelessness. I made a conscious decision to fight back. I began documenting everything. I began recording every phone call. I've always believed that God helps those who help themselves so I did everything I knew to do, and I asked God to do the rest.”
She said that the first two years were unbearable; she bought Christmas and Easter presents for the two children as if they’d be expected to arrive and pick up their gifts.
“I kept all of the things I bought for them, in a walk-in closet in Christopher's room. Sometimes, I'd go to that closet and open the door and it would hit me that my children were gone. It would literally take my breath away. At those times, when life would hit me so hard, I would think I could not go on. It was always a struggle - always.
Christopher gave me a reason to live though. He needed a mother. Nobody had taken him away. Christopher was still with me. So baby step, by baby step, I learned to take each day and focus on what I had to do, to survive. When life becomes very traumatic, you have to learn to only do those things truly necessary for survival. In other words, I knew I had to hold down a job so I could take care of myself and Christopher. We had to have money for rent, food, clothes, etc. So, that was number one.
There were days when all I could do, was get up, get dressed, and get to work. On those days, I learned not to even try to do more. I told myself that it was okay to not be able to do more. When Christopher turned 16 and could drive, he did the grocery shopping for us and he ran other errands. He was a big help to me. Together, we survived. We held onto each other tightly.
By Christopher's freshman year in high school, I managed to find a fairly decent job and an apartment. We didn't have much but we still had each other and we knew that was a lot. Christopher and me, both, described losing his brother and sister as the 'end of the world'. ...It was. To this day, we both get over adversity fairly quick because we remember we've seen the end of the world. No matter what happened to us, Christopher and I would say ‘We've seen the end of the world and this isn't it’."
Karr said that she didn't want to go on without Matthew and Laura, but -hard as it was-she had no other choice.
“They were always in my thoughts - always. Anytime I'd eat a meal, I would wonder if they were hungry. Every time I would go out into the cold, I would wonder if they had warm coats. My mind never stopped wondering; I felt guilty if I enjoyed a single second of my life without my precious babies. This, of course, was not fair to me or especially Christopher. This was a very big hurdle I had to overcome. I finally came to a point where I had to say to myself that I didn't give Matthew and Laura away. They were taken from me. I reminded myself that I was doing all I knew to do, to try to get them back. In order to survive, I learned not to focus on what I couldn't change. I gave the things I couldn't change to God. I had to.”
Karr said that she bought a picture frame with the Prayer of Serenity inscribed on it, and put Matthew and Laura’s first supervised visit picture in the frame.
“This served as a constant reminder to me that no matter how horrific things might be, no good can come from me dwelling on the things I can't change. I still have this picture inside the same frame. It's wasted energy to focus on things we can't change. We all only have so much energy. I knew if I was going to survive, I'd have to learn to use what little energy I had left on things I could do something about.
Documenting things was actually something that helped me. It was within my control to document and collect evidence of corruption. It was within my control to eat right, exercise and take care of myself. It was within my control to take care of Christopher - the only child I had left. When you lose something as precious as the right to parent your own children, you lose so much control. In order to bring some sense of balance back into my life, I knew I had to begin controlling things - even if only seemingly small insignificant things like eating right, showing up for work on time, etc.
I often have people ask me what I've learned from my horrifying experience with the family court and the loss of my children. I've thought about that a lot. Ed was abusive. I lived with a lot of abuse; it's well documented. The last strew though came when Ed 'tricked' me into sending Christopher to my mother's for a 'visit'. After we returned from taking Christopher to the airport, Ed advised me that Christopher would never be allowed to come back home. He told me he hated Christopher. He said I had two choices. I could either be a mommy to Matthew and Laura or a mommy to Christopher. He told me he would not allow me to be a mommy to all three of my children. Further, he warned me that if I decided I wanted to be with Christopher, Matthew and Laura would never step foot outside of Rockwall TX. At that point, I did the only thing any mother would do. I left Ed, taking Matthew and Laura with me. No mother should ever have to choose between her children and no mother should have to live in abuse.
I don't regret the choice I made because it wasn't really a choice at all. I did the only thing I could do. What I regret is not knowing how corrupt the family court system is. I had no idea until it was too late. I obeyed all of the court's orders. In hindsight, that was a mistake. I'm not exactly sure what I could have done different. Hindsight is always 20/20 vision. No matter how you look at what happened, it's wrong. My children had their birthright stolen from them. They lost the right to know and be loved by their own mother. I lost the right to parent my own children. There's no way any of this is right. Christopher suffered a lot too! Me and all three of my children have suffered so much - too much. The courts should protect a parent and/or children from being abused but that doesn't happen in reality.
I would advise anyone going through a divorce to try to work things out before going into court. Parents and children lose every time when the court makes the important decisions. Family court is big business in this country. The more parents fight over custody, the more money is wasted on lawyers, social studies, mental exams, etc., etc. Nobody wins but the court system. It's best for parents to work things out for the sake of the children. That is what's best. Sadly, in cases where there's abuse, this isn't usually possible. And, the family courts take full, shameless advantage of that.”
Sometimes, Robin said, that she expressed her pain trough writing; she wrote stories in her journal telling her children how she felt, and hopping that one day when they will come home and would be old enough to read her stories, they will know that she fought hard for them; unfortunately that, was never going to happened; below is one of the poems she wrote.
Today ~ A Tear Fell
I rode by our old house by chance today
And I just happened to look that way.
For a moment, I saw myself pregnant holding my baby son in that front porch swing.
However, that vision did not last for long.
Soon I remembered my baby son and daughter are gone.
Just when I thought I was doing so well,
Before I knew it ~ a tear fell.
Then on Sunday as I sat in church I looked around and missed you so much.
I saw other girls in their pretty dresses and boys in their Sunday suits.
And I remembered my little babies were just as cute.
People all think I'm doing well; They don't know today ~ a tear fell.
When I am reminded of what might have been, when life catches me off guard,
That's when I seem to be hit so hard.
It seems all thoughts lead back to you,
Matthew and Laura I take each day and try to get through,
They say time makes it better, but I cannot tell; I only know today ~ a tear fell.
She said, she thinks it's really important to talk about how traumatic it could be, and how it impacts other siblings and even the extended family. She said that she required medication because she was sad and crying all the time. At times she felt that she could not go on, but she had to be strong for Christopher.
She said that Christopher also had a hard time; first, he had witnessed violence in his home; when his mother divorced his stepfather he witnessed the acrimonious disputes between them, he even witnessed his mother being arrested and thrown in jail for crying in court; ultimately he witnessed the tactical alienation of his younger siblings. That much trauma is a lot to take on, for anyone, let alone for a 13-year-old. Karr said that Christopher also liked to write.
“Being able to express his rage via writing is what saved Christopher's life. I have no doubt about that. He wrote chilling accounts of what we lived through. He even wrote letters to his friends in Kentucky when we lived in Texas, telling them about what was going on and about how Ed's dad hurt Matthew.” Karr said of her son.
The following are a poem and a letter which Christopher wrote to his brother, after an encounter were the paternal grandfather had shaken and thrown Matthew to the floor. In the letter Christopher is expressing his, pain, his anger, and blaming himself for not doing anything to protect his brother.
The letter says: “I get so angry. At myself, at Neil, your Dad, your 'Grandmom', at just about everyone but you and Laura. There was so many things I could've done that night, but didn't. Things happened so quickly...I got weak and froze up...I could've made a scene, I could've ran and told a neighbour, I could've called the police...There were a million things I could've done but didn't. I didn't call anyone or run to anyone or even make an attempt to stop Neil. I ran into the back room crying like a helpless dog...Anything would've been better than nothing. Nothing is exactly what I did. I know that it hurt you physically, but it hurt me emotionally. You actually were defenseless. I wasn't...Sometimes, if I thought it would bring you two back to Mom, I would do anything. By anything, I mean kill, be killed or anything. Once again, I'm sorry.”
Christopher also wrote a screenplay describing the scene when his little brother and his baby sister were taken away by their father and a police officer who came along as a 'favor' to Robin's ex-husband. The following is a poem Christopher wrote about his feelings towards the entire ordeal.
A Light for the Blind
I heard it from the midnight sun
I learned from the hotel room
All the mirrors are telling me to go home
But I keep returning to the morning moon
A little fire between souls will never hurt a body
The scars in her eyes will never make you sorry
I suppose that’s the breaks when you grow cold and hard like clay
I guess our eyes are shadowed by all the things we say
The sky was vanilla when she drove away in her little red car
I just told her that I loved her, but I didn’t get that far
The stars are actually dead and all the songs just don’t make sense
I’m always looking over, but I’ll never jump the fence
I wanna read her mind and know just what I’ve got in this new thing I’ve found
I’ve been ready to jump out this window for years, but I’m too scared to hit the ground
We, the people, are this poem
Random, inarticulate, blind and drunk with love
Idealistic, contrived, for sale, can’t get enough
Maybe I’m these lines and maybe they brought out the truth
Maybe I’m the prophet, or perhaps I’m only uncouth
Brothers and sisters, hearts and souls alike: comprehend the lies
You’ve got nothing to lose, but you’ve got to open your eyes
“Sometimes, I still can't believe that in a matter of weeks, I would be served with a restraining order taking my children from me and that I would never get them back. We were all completely devastated. I believe ‘A Light for the Blind’-Robin said referring to the poem-is how Christopher and I both felt.
...all the songs just don't make sense; ...and the stars are actually dead; ...nothing is as it should be anymore and nothing makes sense; ...just as there is no such thing as ‘the midnight sun’ or ‘the morning moon’; there is no such thing as ‘normal’ anymore for us.”
Robin Karr is an extremely strong woman. Her faith, her wisdom and her motherly instinct helped her survive those horrific and traumatic events; though, there are many other parents who can’t find that strength to survive and turn to alcohol, drugs, and perhaps even suicide.