Today I ran with gratitude but to be completely honest I also silenced a sting. A few days ago was Siblings Day! I have amazing siblings who are alive and well. They make me so proud. But I also sat in silence that day because two of my amazing brothers are dead. They are gone! FOREVER! Part of me was jealous on siblings day because so many people shared their posts about their in tact bond. Truth is, I don’t have a bond. Well I do but it’s different. The two siblings that died by reckless living and suicide were the two that I was closest to as a child and now they are just a memory that lives on in their children and my advocacy against child abuse.
As I ran today part of me doubted I would be able to truly make the difference that I hope to make in this world and the other part of me assured myself that I am a survivor full of hope and passion for change! I will continue to run! I will continue to speak out against child abuse and domestic violence for myself, for my siblings, for my students and for anyone who needs to be encouraged to pull themselves out of bed in the morning as they clear the fog from their terror filled minds! Not long ago I was in those shoes or in that bed! I wanted to sleep until the breath in me faded away and my soul ascended into the peacefulness of passing from this life to the next.
There have been days I truly wanted to die. I am a survivor of many types of abuse. I STAND TODAY AS AN OVERCOMER! Love found me and helped me heal from child sexual assault, parental alienation, parental incarceration, emotional abuse, my mother attempting to murder me, partner violence, emotional control, and socioeconomic hardship resulting in homelessness and social emotional struggles. My birth parents have mental illnesses that has often gone un-treated. I don’t always blame them but I do struggle with the part they played in my violent and terror filled upbringing. I also wish they were paying my therapy bills and college debt but I guess that is selfish of me and I digress.
My sweet (rugged) brothers had it rough like so many. We all did! They are gone forever and I am navigating this world as I heal step by step and try to make sense of this dark void. I know I was made to live. Truly LIVE as a light for many known to me and those unknown. Truth be told I often doubt but that will get me nowhere fast. The thing that I know I am to do is run. Run to fight! Fight to run! Run to live! Live to run! I am made for such a time as this! I will give those silenced, a voice. Even those terrorized to their grave. Death may have taken you but your memory lives on still. In my steps. In my actions. In my life.
My first 5K is coming up and I would like to raise $1000 for Big Country CASA! They help children like my siblings and me have a voice! Will you please consider giving to my run by visiting https://runsignup.com/stephanieellison
I would also love to thank Abilene Christian University for this incredible campaign that I RAN across today while cutting through campus! I felt this in my core! It inspired me to keep running and keep speaking out!
I signed up for my first organized run! There is no better way to kick off my journey than this! CASA helps children have a voice! They literally give a voice to the voiceless! Let’s go make a difference in the world together!
I didn’t deserve to be abused. I didn’t cause it. I experienced horrific situations and not only suffered from broken bones but also a broken spirit! I developed grit and walked with a spirit of resilience and a spirit of rebellion against my abusers. I found people who believed in me even if I struggled to believe in myself! I pushed! I pressed in! I paused! I pushed harder until I started to see greatness that many recognized long before. Beauty from ashes.
I now believe if I can, you can! I will believe in you when you don’t have it in you to believe in yourself. All you need to do is trust me when I say get up and go! Fight for the life you want! Fight for freedom! Beat those odds stacked against you. Walk in authority because you have greatness within you. We all do! Some never choose it. Don’t be that person! Work for it and fight the good fight! #childabusepreventionmonth #childabuseawareness
Here we are in April! I am training for a 26.2 and I have been waiting to discuss my why. Here it is! I was an abused and neglected child. I broke free at 15 but the harsh reality is that many do not ever make it out of abuse alive. I reached a point in my life 23 years ago where I had to make a decision to become a homeless runaway youth and face the unknown or possibly die at the hands of my birth mother who had attempted to murder me. Her addiction had a death grip on her and my birth father had been incarcerated for sexually abusing me and my siblings. After I ran away I filed for and became a legally emancipated adult at 16 and began a journey of pushing through painful emotional experiences in order to attempt to break free and truly heal.
Now I am an advocate for children all over the US facing the lonely journey of creating a way where there seems to be none. I run for them! ALL at risk youth and children needing to know they can create their own greatness and leave behind destructive patterns! We can heal! We are not forever broken! We are all part of one big family! You are not alone! I run for my brothers! One who took his own life and the other died by suffering in his own addiction. I will continue to believe they were worth more! Their lives mattered and although I could not stop their suffering I believe I can use their stories to challenge others to grasp onto hope! Run from all that is holding you back from the greatness within you! Rise up!
“National Child Abuse Prevention Month recognizes the importance of families and communities working together to strengthen families to prevent child abuse and neglect. Through this collaboration, prevention services and supports help protect children and produce thriving families.” https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/preventing/preventionmonth/
Today I will start running. I will start training for a marathon! Why? Good question. Stay tuned to see the documentation of this journey. It’s time to run. It’s going to be hard. I cannot emotionally focus my energy there though. Honestly everything in life has the potential to be hard. Even laziness is hard. It’s just a different kind of hard. I will accomplish this and at the same time I will be writing about it.
I am not an athlete. That is what I have told myself over the years. That isn’t completely true though. I have physical strength! I am capable of learning skills that would qualify me as an athlete. If I am honest, I say I am not an athlete because I have never believed I could be great in this area. But the definition of greatness is defined by growing a skill and achieving something! I can achieve my goal of completing a marathon, becoming an athlete, and achieving greatness. It’s a mountain and I might walk part of the way but I am going for it anyway!
Starting today I will take my fist step in training. Today I will continue to write my story! Today I will point my entire life in a direction I have always desired to go! A new direction. A new journey. Go with me.
Subscribe to follow my journey! Thank you Danny Ellison for the support, Renee Booe for the encouragement, and Roy Juarez for the challenge! Challenge accepted!
I am missing my brother so bad right now. An older woman who has brought abuse and trauma towards me and my brother since we were kids recently told me he didn’t love me while attacking me for sharing my story publicly. In reality she is probably scared I will expose her ugly, bitter spirit. Part of me wants to but I won’t. She needs prayer and perspective. She probably has her own inner war.
One thing I do know, my brother and I were bonded and we loved one another fiercely and not one abuser will be allowed to rewrite that.
Childhood trauma affected us and we were left to try to piece our lives together into adulthood. People often lose compassion and empathy for anyone suffering as you continue to grow and cross the threshold from child to adult at 18. It is easy to feel you have to put on your adult pants and move out of the way and navigate the aftermath of the storms alone! 18 isn’t a magical number where you automatically have it all figured out. We all need support, encouragement, and love.
🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼 Today I encourage you to find a young adult to encourage. Ask them what they need. Connect them to resources that may be helpful! Look around and spread love and kindness like confetti. Goodness we all need it! ❤️
Broken together. We were bonded forever. I miss you everyday. Go rest high on that mountain.
Working with children in crisis is something I am honored to do! This group of paintings is so special to me! Find out why here! This book is an amazing Valentines’ book for your special little loves! There is a heart search and a place for you to write a special love letter from you to them! Get your copy from:
Meet my brothers Shawn and Daniel. They both died tragically, one in 2006 and the other in 2020. Like many people in our country they both battled mental health. I included them in my book because their lives mattered and they will never be forgotten.
My siblings and I survived a traumatic childhood but both of my brothers died trying to overcome the grief of generational torment. Suicide took them but I will never let them go or be forgotten.
One way to connect to our babies is by spending time with them. Taking them to the zoo is always a fun way to connect and bond! I placed the elephant behind my brothers because it symbolizes “the elephant never forgets”. I too will never forget them or all that they fought to overcome. As you connect to your babies my prayer is that you find ways to help them heal from any pain that comes their way big or small. Help them see that they matter just as my brothers lives matter.
Gratitude can be expressed in remembering. Remembering often causes grief. Revisit, Rework, Release
This example is so very real. The arrow on the right is a very accurate representation of grief, at least it has been for me. I ran across it a while ago and decided to share. Many are grieving. May we all be mindful.
Grief is a process that may lead to a final destination of acceptance but I would argue that you may never truly reach the tip of the arrows head. Acceptance rarely, if ever, completely finds its way to you. It is possible for you can find meaning and champion a cause in honor of those you have lost but to truly be accepting that someone you deeply love has so very tragically and permanently departed from your life is hard to comprehend.
The voyage of working your way through grief at its genesis starts with denial and your grasping for straws often tangles your innermost being into knots and with every twist and turn it gets messier. Many days, months, and even years are spent attempting to make sense of it all. As you begin to feel like you are making progress, a stage that you carefully unpacked last year revisits and squeezes your heart causing it to feel as though the organ, responsible for keeping the blood flowing through your body, is going to explode again. You will be forced many times over to accept the reality of the loss even while you are begging God for just one more moment or dream with them. Revisit, rework, release.
Grief interrupts your life and a smell as sweet as chocolate pie with mountains of whip cream, decorated with little chocolate chips, has the potential to flood your eyes with burning tears causing a blurry fog to remind you what your new reality looks like. That sweet smell encapsulates a memory that makes you want to talk to someone who is unable to talk back so the burning tears begin to fall. Revisit, rework, release.
As you move past each stage of grief something happens to the hopes and dreams that died with your loved ones, in my case my beloved brothers. Often times as you move past a layer of hurt you will be met with an unraveling of sorts and those knots seem even more tangled. Detangling hurts. Searching for new hopes and dreams can feel like a nightmare. Revisit, rework, release.
The darkness of child abuse and trauma is that it is ingrained into the body, mind, and spirit and although you want it to just leave, it is always there, interrogating your life, causing you to question your purpose. The grief of not only death but the loss of a “normal” life here on earth is constantly tripping you as you attempt to move forward. It’s as if every few steps you take are met with a pit that you trip and fall into and you constantly attempt to get back up and work your way out of the pit. You know the only way out is up so you keep trying and as you slip and fall you continue to try and get a good grip on reality. Sometimes you want to give up, but you stay and climb anyway. Revisit, rework, release.
As the journey unfolds and as you are moving the best that you can through this grief, have grace with yourself. It is easy for others to say “be grateful” it is much harder to see through the messy line between the memories and loss of those you cherish and loved so deeply. Before you walk from threshold to threshold revisit the good memories and the good that you experienced with your loved ones, rework the reason you will choose to celebrate, release all that is holding you back from the joy of the present moments you are living in.
If you know someone walking through a season of grief, I would like to ask that you not be afraid to sit with them as they eat their chocolate pie and cry. Grab a piece of that pie and ask them to slam it into your face or you can let them wipe a little smidge of whip cream on your nose. Caution, this may cause laughter as food fights always do. Go ahead and make a mess outwardly and laugh together as you clean up the mess you have made. I promise the outward mess met with laughter will be worth it. Create new, fun memories during this time. Hearts may be burdened but your love and joy makes all the difference. Be patient as they/we continue to revisit, rework, and release. Who knows, maybe you can help rekindle a brighter future with new hopes and dreams.
Dear Daniel and Shawn (bubbas), I love you both so very much. You were amazing brothers and given the childhood that we had I would dare to call you superheroes. I know I am not responsible for the abuse that we endured but I truly am so sorry for the pain we have suffered. Your lives were cut incredibly short and I will always feel the pain of that fact.
I know this would not surprise you but I have decided to continue being your stubborn little sister. I refuse to give up on making memories here on earth. A piece of me died with you the day that each of you died but there is still something burning within me. I can hear you now saying it’s heartburn, no it’s not heartburn lol. It’s a WILL to live and live life to the fullest. I want you here but I cannot continue to feel stuck without you. I will revisit but refuse to stay. I will rework but I refuse to stay, I will release you and remember all of the joy you brought to my life and the lives of others. I will keep your spirit alive with chocolate pie, gratitude, and love. I miss you. I miss you both so damn much that often times it hurts to breathe. I will breath though. I will continue to try and live the remainder of my life with no regrets. Revisit, rework, release with no regrets!
In March of 2020. Everything in our city, state, country, and world was shifting into a place of uncharted territory as a pandemic seeped its way into every part of the globe! People were unsure of what was happening and uncertainty coupled with job loss, business shutting down, and insecurities started to plague many. Sickness began to creep into our community and spread fast. We were not only losing a grip on everything as we had always known it to be, we were also losing people to this invisible enemy. All of this loss was happening during isolations and lockdowns. Doors began to lock and security began to be tighten its grip in our hospitals and even our nursing homes. Our schools were shutting down with no real promise of when they would open. The chaos was just beginning to set in.
Shock and Fear
One day during lockdown my little family and I were hanging out at a beautiful outdoor work of art at a local University here in Abilene, ACU’s Jacobs Dream. We were enjoying the beautiful weather outside and talking to one of our precious daughters about what she means to us❤️. We were wrapping up a tough week and quite honestly had already been placed in a spot of humility at the realization that life is so valuable and connection to all of our daughters is priceless and worth being patient for!
I ignored my phone as two calls came through by the same number, because we were having a family moment. We had our feet in the water and we were hanging out. Those moments are rare with teens! A voice message was left on my phone and for some reason I felt that I needed to check it. I stood up and walked to the car and called her back as the lady on the message said she was a nurse and had a patient that she believed was my relative and she needed to talk to me.
I wasn’t prepared.
The moment that I heard “we can’t tell you much but you need to come quick your brother Shawn is with us and we need family here”, my heart sank into the pit of my stomach and I felt instant fear. I knew deep in my spirit the heart wrenching truth was that the prognosis was not good.
I fell to my knees. I cried. I wept. I prayed.
We made it home quickly and worked out plans for the girls because the hospitals weren’t letting people in and the hospital waiting areas were shut down. Our daughter Willow is one of the most empathetic children in the world. She was 4 at the time and had no idea why mommy was crying. She noticed I was trying to pack a bag. She thought I didn’t like packing a bag so she came over to me, asked me to sit down and gave me a big hug. She said “mommy I love packing, I will help you, don’t cry momma.” She hugged me, wiped my tears and brought me her little stuffed lion to hug while she packed my bag with my husband.
I needed her empathy.
We drove and my mind raced with things like, “this isn’t real, they got it wrong, he will be fine, there is no way that God would allow both of my brothers to die so very young”.
When I walked into his room I grabbed his hand and begged God to save him. I promised to never do a bad thing again in my entire life (I know perfection may be impossible but I was desperate). I promised that I would do anything if he could just please perform a miracle and WAKE Shawn UP! Please, I would cry out! I opened his eyes with my own hands and they wouldn’t move. His hazel brown eyes were no longer alive. I touched his feet, squeezed his knee (he hated that when we were kids) and grabbed his hand again and sobbed!
He was gone. I asked to see evidence and they showed me all of the scans and carefully explained all that they could. I made them show me all of the tests that they ran regarding reflexes and responses. I asked if we could keep him on life support just to see if God would bring him back. I looked for any silver lining. I was desperate for him to wake up. I couldn’t say goodbye. I just couldn’t. His heart was beating but only because of life support. His brain stem had no activity.
Forced goodbyes are no fun.
After three days of staying by his side, talking to him, praying for him, singing to him, brushing his hair and begging him to wake up, it was time for me to say goodbye. I just wasn’t ready. I knew that I would never be ready. Oh how it hurt. I cried the hardest that I had ever cried. It was a cry that arose from the deepest part of my soul as if part of me had decided in that moment to escape from this shell of a sister to unite with her Irish twin brother. I begged them to make sure someone held his hand and asked them to please never leave him alone.
Because of COVID my husband couldn’t be there with me. They wouldn’t allow more than one person with him. No children were allowed to come say goodbye. My heart sank. I wondered if I had done enough. I could not think of anything more that I could have done but I was still beating myself up because my prayers, my pleas with the medical staff and my love could not save him here on earth. He was on his way to the Father in heaven and perhaps he was already there watching as I was trying to keep him here.
Life after Death
He was an organ donor. His brain was dead but most of his organs were still vital due to the medical staff getting him on life support quickly enough. I am so thankful they didn’t just let him die. This is a miracle to me. They were able to find three recipients, one for his heart and lungs, one for his kidney and liver, and one for his other kidney.
After returning home, I called the Southwest Transplant Alliance team and emailed often to see if the families who received my brothers organs were recovering well. I was nervous for them. I began to pray for them the moment they took Shawn into the operating room . Wondering how they were consumed me through my grief and it also allowed me to feel hope. Devestation turned to hope. I kept praying for weeks and months for these families. Finally on September 10, 2020 I received a letter from two recipients. 😭😭🙌🏻🙌🏻❤️❤️. They didn’t give their last name but Scott and Gabriel were the two that I was able to now put a name to! They both were both healing. Praise God!
I received another letter from the transplant team that included phone numbers and addresses for the recipients. It took a while due to having to get permission from the recipient families. I waited a few days and finally mustered up the courage to call. It was special to hear stories about their lives. My brothers gift provided an opportunity for a second chance to live life to the fullest. Their story is not mine to tell but I can tell you that I am so grateful that they have allowed me to be a part of it in some way. I cannot imagine not knowing who they are and how they are doing!
A special gift for me.
Something sweet and simple that truly makes a difference in my life at this time is that my brothers heart and lungs recipient heard me say the nickname that my brother called me and he now calls me by the same name. Eppie. I feel my brother every time I get a call or message with that name in it.
Yesterday I participated in my first of many 5K’s for Southwest Transplant Alliance. I had only heard about it a few days prior so I quickly put together a team. #HisLifeMattered. I ran. I set a goal to try and do the entire run in 35 minutes. I ran. At 35 minutes I had a tenth of a mile left and I began to struggle hard. I felt like I couldn’t go further. As I was trying to convince myself not to quit, I looked up and tears filled my eyes as a girl name Kari McQueen was running in my direction. I hesitated for a second but then decided to be brave and ask her if I could run with her for that last tenth of a mile. She said yes! I felt like a blubbering idiot because I was run crying 😂😭😳. I couldn’t stop. Through broken, shallow breathing, I said “I am running in memory of my brother Shawn who tragically died in 2020. I just found out about the 5K a couple of days ago and since it’s virtual I am running alone and I didn’t train. People all over the world are doing it just not in the same place.” She let me join her and I finished!!! 🙌🏻🥳🎉💪🏼
The reason I am celebrating.
Right when I was almost finished with my run when I realized that I was running at ACU. I had intended to run at redbud park but made a last minute change because a friend wanted to meet there afterwards. I seriously hadn’t thought about the fact that I was in the same spot that I had previously been the moment I got the call from the nurse about my brother. I had somehow blocked that out until the last tenth of a mile when I was running towards that outdoor work of art called Jacob’s Dream 😳. I felt the pain. I felt that I could not go on and just then God sent an angel runner to run with me!
When I finished, she kept running but she looped back around as I was heading to my car. She asked if she could pray with me. What a sacred moment as she grabbed my sweaty hands and connected with me. I fell to my knees and wept. She prayed and cried with me. Her compassion and love was piercing my tender heart. I felt the love of her humanity as it connected to the spirit of Jesus. It was a powerful moment. One I never want to forget.
Be brave. Ask. Be kind. Give.
When you cannot go further look up and ask for help! When you can, look around and give! We all need connection! We all need compassion. We all are going through different seasons and need one another now more than ever.
Be Confident and Kind as you carry on. Register to be a donor. It’s not only life saving but it is also life giving to those left behind to grieve.