Friday, October 30, 2009

"Running on Empty"

By Susan Murphy Milano

I stood on the neighbor's front steps watching as the officers carried out the large black body bags lifting and placing each one into the paddy wagon for transport to the county morgue. In a sigh of pain and relief I exhaled thinking to myself it was finally over.

I prayed my mother was in a peaceful place where anger and violence do not exist . And I hoped my father was rotting someplace in the belly of hell.

I believed that by assisting other women and their children from living in violent households or meeting the same fate as my mother I could erase my own years of childhood trauma and violence. Neatly I packaged my life and placed my feelings in the furthest corner of my mind barely giving them a second thought, always placing the needs of others first. Yet somehow, with each new candle added to the birthday cake, my hope for happiness diminished within my own life.

After 20 years my life's gas tank was on empty. Peace and hope seemed like a far away ship always sailing without me. I was wonderful at giving others what they needed but somehow I was unable to figure out the way do that for me and my own needs.

This past year I had run myself down and fell ill with a deadly flu virus and nearly died. When I awoke to the glaring lights of the hospital emergency room I overheard the doctors say it was a miracle I survived the ordeal. It would be a long two months until I recovered.

With time on my hands I continued to ask myself why I had survived? Surely by now I had more than fulfilled my life's contract. And although I was ready to go home, it was obvious God's plan was for me to stay awhile longer.

Six months later while working on a new book project, unleashing old demons, I realized after all these years I was still punishing myself for not being able to come to the aide of my mother prior to her murder.

Those of us who survive the horrors of family homicide never really get past the guilt and pain associated with the traumatic event. Often we are too proud to seek out professional services from clergy or mental health professionals. Instead, we walk around as if we are carrying 50 pound suitcases in each arm filled with the weight of our deep dark guilt. I have discovered in order move past the pain I must acknowledge it exists and ask God to sprinkle my path with peace and hope.

From the Bible there are many words of wisdom and power. One verse has always held special meaning when I need strength, Psalm 18:6 says:

"In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him into his ears."


  1. The Lord has the power to heal anyone whom is open to receive him and you are a witness for others. God has placed you on this journey although at times painful the lord never gives us more than we can handle.

    I appreciate the strength and insight in which you tell your story and shed light for others.

    Denise Del Marsus, M.S.W.

  2. Ahhhhhhhh, but you are coming to your mother's aide. You are representing her in your work and bringing attention to all who are in situations who are lost and cannot find their way out. You are your mother's daughter. Her spirit and knowledge lives through your work. As you know, God's plan is much greater than any plans that we could hope to create, make...or change. You should not fret over the past of what you didn't do or couldn't that is not part of what God's plan was for you. (Else it could have been done.) So step back from the self guilt because you have nothing to be guilty over. Your mother is in the safest place the presence of the Lord. Your mission is to continue the beautiful work that you do in helping others and you will heal yourself through awareness and rest. If I were a murdered mom, I would have wanted you for my daughter. Keep up the wonderful work that you do....and sure to get the needed respite for yourself, as well. Hugs.

  3. You are Gods Warrior Woman who is loved and blessed!

  4. Your work with women & kids is a testament to God and all his grace. You are loved not only by our Lord and everyone you help because we see your divine beauty. Always keep your head up knowing your mother along with the angels are keeping you safe.

    Bless You, Susan.

  5. I had no clue you were a crime victim until I read the powerul post. I thought you were a social worker or therapist.

    It is important that you take time each day for yourself and not work yourself into the ground trying to save the world.

    As someone who volunteers at church and in my community often I am overwhelmed in deciding who needs my time. You are a courageous and talented with whom the world would be lost without so take care of you! And know that your mothers is in God's safe and warm care.

    In Christ,
    Sylvia Culvers


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