Into the Woods

I remember the first time, the mug flying through the air. Dad’s favorite. Mom on the ground, she was pushed. I didn’t see the act, only the result. I was 10. Brother 8. Sister less than 1. We were sitting in the sun room, facing the dining room. It was night time and pitch dark outside. The night that our home changed.

The night before our home had felt like a safe place. This was the first time it didn’t feel safe, and never felt safe again.

I sat on the couch, holding my Sister, hugging my Brother. My entire body wanted to run out the door and into the woods. The forest was our safe place, but I wouldn’t leave my siblings to run into the dark. I looked behind me. Out the window and into the forest. Mom always said to stay where we could see the house. I wondered if we could sit at the edge of the grass where it met the trees. I couldn’t leave my Mom when she was sobbing on the floor. This was too much to bear. I don’t know how this night ends; I only remember waking up the next morning.

The sun was bright. I walked into the kitchen, hoping maybe it had been a bad dream. Mom was quiet. Usually she wakes me up by sweetly asking “do you want some cereal for breakfast and watch some cartoons?” while sweeping my hair away from my forehead. But that didn’t happen this morning. I had woken up with the quiet sunshine and gotten out of bed on my own. She didn’t look up when I walked close, and I saw a bruise on her arm. Brother was already awake; watching cartoons in the sunroom and waiting for breakfast. ‘Did he see the bruise?’ I wondered. He was sitting on the couch where we had been sitting the night before. I sat down next to him. Sister was playing quietly on the floor. She was quiet but smiled up at me. Mom brought us breakfast. We ate in silence and she drank her coffee. The world was shifting.

My Mom was amazing, she was like a superhero. She worked all night to come home in the morning and get us ready for school. She brought us to gymnastics and soccer. Mom took us to playdates, and made friends with our friends’ Moms. She always made sure our favorite foods were in the house, and taught us about eating healthy. She put up with us only eating the crusts of the Poptarts, and never eating the crusts of our sandwiches. Mom was a nurse and a volunteer firefighter. I was in awe of her strength. I would sit on the counter in her bathroom right next to the mirror. She would look at her reflection behind my head. I studied her as she would carefully comb her hair and apply mascara. I was convinced she was the most beautiful woman in the world.

My Dad was the superstar. We watched him play soccer and listened while others admired him. To watch him play so precisely was like watching a surgeon at work. Smart, quick, thoughtful and accurate. He had strong muscular legs that would pedal his bike for miles while pulling Brother and I in a trailer behind him. Dad and Mom took us on many hiking, camping and outdoor adventures. They showed us the beauty of the land and water. My Dad was an artist, a woodworker, a musician and an athlete. My favorite thing to do was sit in the recliner with him on Saturday morning. We would watch cartoons, read the paper and he would drink coffee. I loved nothing more than to show him my latest drawing. His praise made my heart soar. I loved when he was proud of me.

My parents were the pillar of strength in my mind, there was no doubt.

When a child sees a parent get abused, it is usually at the hands of an abusive spouse. I remember the cult leaders telling my Dad he needed to hit my Mom. He did, once, and I never saw him do it ever again. His refusal became his weakness. He sustained abuse from the leaders because he would not hit Mom. To watch the grown adults in authority at the church regularly beat my parents changed my brain. It altered things in a way that will never be the same. The light in my parents went dark.

The “church” had control of our entire lives: financial, housing, food.

I tried to do what my Dad did. If there was ever a chance I would choose getting in trouble; take the beating if only that meant that my siblings or parent would not. My plan only worked a few times. No one family member was out of reach because it was systematic. Our family was one unit in the larger body. I watched as other families went through the same system of abuse. Adults, children, able and disable bodied. All were beaten. All were spiritually and emotionally abused. All were stuck under the control of finances and housing.


I’ve watched as the effects of the pandemic have brought down people I have loved and admired. I’ve watched the light grow dim in some of the brightest people I know.

I’ve witnessed the fragility of life and being human.

I watched as my babysitter ran out of the church with blood flowing from her ear, into traffic.

I saw people get beaten over the head with 2x4s.

Stools thrown across the room into a crowd of children.

Babies being beaten and starved.




My idea of my parents was shattered, but somehow not broken. I’ve watched them come back to life. Our whole family grew back in a new and different way. No longer holding any roles of what a parent or a child should be. We are humbled and understand that this life is but a thin veil.

Because we are survivors, we understand that strength is an illusion. Yes, we are strong for persevering. While also understanding how little it takes to derail us in this life.

In this way, I am grateful.

Not for the experiences, but for the continued cycle of life and lessons learned. Our family dynamic is forever changed. I hope this culture we build will benefit our future generations. This pandemic is forever changing our society and communities.

May our collective experiences carry us forward.


Do you suppose she’s a wildflower, Pt. 2

Curiosity brought Alice down the hole. She followed the rabbit and found herself in a new and strange world.

My Grandma was a librarian, avid reader and loved stories. She was the best storyteller and reader aloud of books that will ever exist. One of her favorite stories was Alice in Wonderland.

After almost a year of missing her. Sitting with the inner silence and darkness. I found her. She is the curiosity of the wildflower.

Daisy: What kind of a garden do you come from?

Alice: Oh, I don’t come from any garden.

Daisy: Do you suppose she’s a wildflower?

My Grandma is beauty and wilderness, life giving, living and dying. She’s all around, colorful, watching, waiting.


Do you suppose she’s a wildflower

One thing that my grandma taught me was to be curious. She showed me by example to look, ask, and you’re never too old to stop growing.

Since September, I have often missed Grandma, and had a few crying fits. I sometimes have felt like no one will ever love me the way she did. It seemed like even if I screwed up, or made a bad decision, when everyone else was mad at me, she was kind and loved me through it. Grandma never looked at me like I was damaged.

Yet when she left, I felt an emptiness. As if the closeness we had built disappeared with her breath. The emotional and spiritual connection was gone. I tried to think of her and my thoughts were a dark room, I could see nothing. “Where are you?” I would ask to the void. My words fell flat.

In October I went to the East Coast to visit family. This was the first time ever in my life that I have flown or traveled alone. I did things that scared me and I summoned a brave face. I was the most intimated when I drove solo into Washington DC. I drove myself into the city, got turned around in Maryland and eventually found the train station. As I was walking along the streets of DC, I heard an email notification. I checked my phone it was an email from Grandma. An old email from 2017 had somehow attached itself to another email that had just been sent from a teacher of my child. How is that even possible? I smiled while reading the email; feeling the comfort of her words.

March-April 2020 (current day April 13th) I have been curious given the current global pandemic. I often wonder what my Grandma would say. Her patented phrase was “have fun and be careful!” but she was also a worrier and a prayerful person. Near the end of her life, she lost most of her memory and ability to carry out a conversation, but she was still very loving. My Grandma valued prayer, meditation, and reading. She raised three children, and would often offer me stories of her own when I spoke about my three.

In these times of such global hardship, I look for hope.

(unfinished, interrupted blog post, written in 2020 and posted in 2021)


Ten Year Reflection

In late 2010 I found out I was pregnant. By December we were told it was twins. Late in December I started spotting. We did all we could with doctors, watching and waiting, but in the end we lost the pregnancy on January 3rd, 2011. I never know how to quite phrase it. “Lost a pregnancy” feels minimizing to the experience. I was 14 weeks pregnant. I had one child who was two years old. I did not expect I would “fail” at my second pregnancy because the first happened so easily.

This morning (2021) I was laying in bed trying to recall the circumstances of ten years ago.

I remember the cramping, and feeling them leave me. I think it was night time, because I only remember the dark. I feel like I was alone, because I had to tell my husband that they had passed my body. I had wanted to be alone. Once the bleeding and the cramping started to become more intense; I didn’t want anyone with me. I did not long for words of comfort. I had a primal need to weather the pain in my own way. For weeks family had been comforting me; telling me everything would be okay. I wanted to believe them, but I knew what was happening. I needed reality, but refused to go to the hospital.

Today I feel like tissue paper.

It has been 10 years, and I don’t yearn for those souls anymore. I feel comfort remembering them residing in my womb. In the short time my body held them, I actively sent them love. I no longer calculate how old the twins would be today. I went on to lose two more pregnancies (very short term) before then having a child in 2012 and another (surprise baby) in 2014. Our house and our hearts are full.

After I lost the twins I spent most of the year in a helpless state of constant mental/emotional breakdown. Losing them released all the trauma and memories that I had held back and denied. I spent most of my days on the couch, not eating or drinking. I felt like I was going to die every second of the day. Sleeping with the light on, the short dreams I had were through a blood-red filter and I’d wake up hyperventilating. Even though I had left the cult in 2007, I did not know it was a cult until 2011 after starting therapy. I did not recognize the trauma or abuse until starting therapy. I only knew that I was not functioning. Physically, my heart started palpitating, it felt like heart break.

I had been hit with a wave of undeniable grief. Once the door to grief was open, it unleashed all the grieving I had been unaware that I was holding. With grief also comes shame. Once we had passed 12 weeks with the twins, we had told everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, about our pregnancy. We had been beyond the moon excited. I would now have to face all these people, and tell the story over and over again. This felt beyond my ability. Because I had opened up this grief door, it all came spilling out at once like a giant mess and I had no idea how to clean it up. I was surrounded. Even more so, when in conversation, I had no control of my grief-filled ramblings. It all came out like a giant bundle for anyone who would listen. Trailing behind the grief was all the other emotions I had denied. For so long I had this wonderful ability to drop the wall on my emotions when I felt sad or mad, or even joyful. I liked the fact that I could turn my emotions off quickly. With the door open now, the emotions were intensified from years of denial.

It took me close to two years in therapy to be able to unpack and unravel the emotions, experiences and memories. I still go to therapy, and will for the rest of my life. Meditation helps to keep my breathing and focus balanced. I acknowledge the privilege I hold to even have had therapy as an option. I started writing at the advice of my therapist. First came the letters to abusers. I would write all the things I couldn’t say out loud, and then rip them up. Next came the basic timeline of events: leaving friends and family, major traumatic events, etc. Followed by a daily journal. I was having trouble telling a summarized version of my experiences, and that is how this blog was formed. I needed a space to be able to write when I felt the need. Through this blog, I have connected with more folks on a more deeper level than I expected. I am grateful.

2020 was the most mentally and emotionally challenging year I’ve had since 2011. My greatest fear (and expectation) was that I was going to slip back into the breakdown of 2011. I did not. I had many panic attacks, but did not disconnect. In fact, I found support and a purpose in many unexpected ways. I am not moving mountains, I am surviving and supporting. 2020 brought the opportunity to become more socially and historically aware of issues outside of my experiences. I started listening. I began standing in solidarity. 2020 was a year of raising awareness and learning. This will continue and grow.

I see the connecting thread over the last ten years. 2011 opened the door to grief. With grief came all the other emotions. I now have the ability to sit with others in their grief and emotions, because I am familiar. 2011 also began raising my awareness. As long as I was shutting down my own emotions, I lacked the capacity to see others. I have learned so much over the last ten years. I will often get overwhelmed. That is when I know I need to return to center.

Thank you for following my past and my journey.


I will miss you

Friday, September 6th, 2019, 6am:

I woke up with the feeling of a gentle kiss, a soft breath on my cheek. I knew my Grandma had passed. Logically I knew there was no way she had made it through the night; spiritually I felt her leave. Emotionally I felt a sadness like a wet blanket. I laid in the clean white bed of the hotel room and watched the sun slowly light up the room. It was not the bright light of summer, but the filtered light through the clouds that arrive in Autumn. I rolled over to watch my oldest son sleep. I knew that when he woke up I would have to tell him that his beloved Great Grandma had passed. I wanted him to sleep a little longer; the sleep of the innocent.

How brave he had been on Wednesday evening when I had told him his Great Grandma was dying, and that I was driving down to say goodbye. He dropped his head and let the tears fall. After a few minutes passed he raised his chin and asked to go with me. I was surprised, and very proud of his insight. He loved his Great Grandma enough to be able to kiss her dying face one last time. I felt like at 10 years old he is ready to take this step.


During our 5 hour drive, we spoke about how different Grandma would look from what he had known, but there is really no way to properly prepare someone for viewing a person on their deathbed. 5pm: When we arrived, Grandma had her eyes open and my Aunt was waving us in to the bedroom, where Grandma lay surrounded by family members. I stroked Grandma’s face, kissed her forehead, sat next to her bed and held her hand. Her skin was hot with fever, her breathing lacked a regular cadence. I wondered if this was a mistake, bringing my child. I wanted to shield him while also understanding that sheltering him would not do him any favors. I could hear my cousin talking to my son about video games. I had never been good at video games (not super interested) but in that moment, I was eternally grateful that my cousin had spent so much time playing video games, as he could carry on a conversation with my son about something other than Grandma. I felt so loved surrounded by everyone in that room. It was apparent that Grandma would not make it much longer, and I was glad to see her one last time.

8pm: We had spent hours going in and out of the bedroom: hugging each other, monitoring, giving breaks, eating snacks, drinking water, waiting… It felt like we were on a team, and that we felt the need to pass the baton every now and then. My concern was making sure my mom was eating and drinking. I knew it would be a long night for Mom and Uncle. I needed to take my son to the hotel to sleep, he was getting bored and tired. I asked him “do you want to say goodnight to Grandma?” To which he replied “Yes”. We entered Grandma’s room, he was a little shy. Even though I had told him that Grandma wouldn’t be awake, he half expected her to wake up to tell him goodnight. It occured to me that during the hours we had been there and she had been resting, his brain was telling him that she should be waking up soon. I told him that it was ok to tell her goodnight even though she was sleeping. We all watched as he leaned over Grandma, hugged her, kissed her and told her goodnight and that he loved her. I knew this moment was monumental for my son’s emotional growth, and he handled it so bravely. I told him to wait for me in the living room. As he walked out of the room, emotions welled up like a boulder in my throat. I let the tears fall silently and laid my head on Grandma’s feet. We would miss her, we would all miss her so terribly. Grandma had been and was continuing to be vital to our spiritual growth, even in her physical death.

When Grandma left, I felt unclear for a few days. I felt darkness that comes along with big sadness. It was as if she had just disappeared. I even asked her “where did you go?” with no response.

Then I started remembering, and I remembered a conversation we had a few years ago. Grandma and I talked about everything, she was my person, my safe place. We decided on this day (I believe it was a summer day in 2016) that we would talk about her passing. We wanted to say everything we had to say about it, then, while we still had time. “I will miss you Grandma.” I told her to start the conversation. “I will miss you too.” said Grandma. Which I thought was amusing because she didn’t try to comfort me with the things that people tend to say like ‘I will always be with you’ or ‘look up at the stars and I’ll be there.’ She just told me about how she would miss seeing so many things like watching the boys grow and being there for me when I became a Grandma. I shared with her how important she had been in my life. And even though we were kept apart for so long, I knew that if I ever needed to go anywhere, that I could go to her house and that she would not take me back to the cult. In that moment though, I did not care that I had never run away. We talked for hours about anything and everything. She about her life and me about mine. Nothing was left unsaid and we felt at peace. I felt like I was able to accept the love she offered, and I gave her my love back. As a person who spent their whole life feeling unworthy of being loved, this conversation was a step of growth for me.

October 27th, 2019, Grandma’s memorial

While hearing everyone talk about my Grandma, it was apparent that she lived her life lovingly and compassionately. No one who came in contact with her was spared from her compassion. We were so lucky to have her influence in our lives. She gave love willingly, and was always looking for opportunities to help and ask the important questions. My Grandma is an inspiration to me of how to live an honest, giving, compassionate, and curious life. The verse that was chosen spoke about “choose life”. Which is interesting because that was the phrase that came in my head so many years ago when I thought about ending my life. I decided to choose life; my life. And while the pain of loss is great, the joy of life and love is abundant and goes on through family and friends. Just ask anyone who knew my wonderful Grandma Jan.


Grandmother; Ocean

You were breathing

long before I took my first breath on this earth.

Your first sight of me

was in my Father’s arms.


Your gentle breeze was welcoming.

And reminding,

that the world revolves around

the breeze,

the moon,

and the tides.


You laughed in wonder

As I splashed in the waves

(Now a child)

And marveled along side me,

As we explored sea life

During low tides.

Quietly teaching me to observe.


The rhythm of you has guided my steps,




Carrying my own children on my back.



I feel beautiful in your eyes.

I am part of something

Bigger than me,

And beautiful still.

I am a reflection of you.


You have taught me:

It’s ok to fall down, (you were there to dry my tears)

It’s ok to be happy, (and throw my hands up in the air)

It is ok to run on your shores (when my heart is breaking).

To lose my breath,

feel my heart beat again.

Take the time to live,

By the rhythm of the tides.

I am free.


The tides have overseen life

And provide all the beauty

and storms.

The weather

and waves;

tides can be unpredictable.


Though I can’t see it

I can hear

the tell-tale crashing,

The heartbeat of life.

Ebbing and flowing.

The tide is getting low,

the water shallow.


Your hand in mine,

we crest the sandy hill.

We feel the familiar breeze of the ocean.

The clean air fills our lungs,

and tousles our hair.

The Ocean reminds us:

we are all just a part

of the moon

and the tide.


And as long as we observe the rhythm,

the waves,

the moon,

the breath,

We will always be together.


Let us marvel at the beauty in each other,





Trying to sleep


Pat, pat, pat

Cough, spit, mucous


“that means you’re getting better”



Coughing again

Bloody underwear

A scream


“it’s part of growing up”



Blood from Mom’s face

Where the coffee cup struck

I closed my eyes, but not soon enough

Now that’s all I see when I close my eyes



I held it inside,

Let them do what they want

It stayed inside me for years, like poison

‘The blood-curdling scream’



I lost the babies

I couldn’t keep them safe

They floated away

In a river



I can’t sleep with the light off

Because in the dark

Everything is red.



For many years, I stifled my grief. I grieved over a lost childhood; for growing up too soon. I grieved as a teenager; lost and alone. I grieved as a mother; wondering if I was really meant to be. I would push down my feelings, tears, screams, and thoughts. I tried to move on. I had a breakdown. For years I dreamed in red, like I was looking through a screen. It scared me to dream this way. I felt anxious in my waking hours, and fought sleep. This poem came to me, and I wanted to honor that part of my life: the depths of grief. I have been through this deep grief, and it no longer haunts me daily. I will confess, if I am having an anxious day, I will sleep with the light on. I feel more secure in the light when anxiety is hanging around. Thank you for reading. I honor: self, the light in me, and the light in you.





It wasn’t “just the rape”

It wasn’t just the rape.

It was everything surrounding the rape.

Do you know what the plural of rape is? Rape. So when I refer to “rape” I’m not referring to one instance. It was many instances over the course of two years (from what I remember)

I got braces this week (2018)

What does that have to do with rape?

I’ve wanted braces since I was 15; when my teeth went from being nicely spaced out to being crowded and crossed. They were as confused as me. They were being squeezed together by the pressure of my wisdom teeth; besides the overall structure of my mouth. No one knew this. We couldn’t afford a dentist, so I wouldn’t find out about my wisdom teeth until I was in my twenties and a chiropractor would see them on an x-ray after I’d been in a car wreck.

Over the years I was glad I had crooked teeth, and a big nose. Maybe if I was ugly enough then Ted would leave me alone. But he didn’t, and he wouldn’t. I remember sitting on the bench at a church baseball game, waiting my turn for bat. He was behind me, talking to someone else. He said “I like it when girls have braces, because it shows that they care about their appearance. That they want to look nice for men.” I knew he was talking about me. He wanted me to hear. Statements like this were meant to keep me under his thumb. If my parents could barely afford to keep the water in our house running, how could I ever ask for braces? Besides, did I want to be a pawn in his game? Hell no.

In public I was ignored by him, and if I wasn’t ignored, then mocked. In private he wanted me to be nice, and when I fought him away, I was threatened, then abused. Once even drugged. I was at his mercy, and he knew it. I woke up the morning after having the date rape drug put in my drink and thought, “What would happen if I stopped fighting? Would remembering what happened to me be worse than not knowing what happened to me the day before?” It was scary as hell waking up in my bed and wondering who and what had happened to me. I couldn’t stop fighting, but I did lose my will to fight. And when I lost my will to fight, then my spirit went to a scary dark place.

I stayed in the dark place for a long time.

Every time a public rape case is in the news I think about my rapist out there somewhere. Enjoying his life, juggling oranges for his children. He thinks he got away with rape, and he’s probably right.

It’s been too long for me, I have no case (according to the lawyers). I don’t want to confront him, I don’t want to see him. I don’t want him to look at me, to see I have braces. I don’t want him to know me now. I don’t want to know him now. I have a choice. Some might choose to believe that I always had a choice. But I’m here to tell you:

I never had a choice.

I have a choice now. I’m making the choice to share my story. I’m making the choice to be vulnerable again, in a new and healthy way. Not everyone has experienced this abuse, not everyone will understand. I have made a promise to be open with my readers, however raw, angry, or hurt it may read. It will always be my truth.

Yes, I am hurt when I read stories about rape. I can relate with the victims. I have promised myself to live life with arms and heart open. Sometimes when you live that way, the hurt gets inside. The low feelings drag me down for a while, but when I keep my arms open, I will soon begin to soar.



The Confusion

Re: questionnaires given by health care professionals

When love means:

A slap in the face as affection

Being slammed against a wall as a wake up call for your bad behavior

Molestation is your fault

Being raped as being taught

An insult as a compliment

Being ignored means you haven’t learned your lesson

Deprivation of sleep and food and affection is used as a tool for growth


When that is the picture of love,

How do you answer the question:

“Have you ever been (or are you currently) in an abusive relationship?”




Pathways of Life

I have written about my suicidal thoughts and idealization in the past. One post I called “Tree of Life” is about the day I had planned to commit suicide, and drove around looking for the tree that would end my life the fastest. I would like to say that since that day I changed my mind; that I haven’t thought about suicide. But it doesn’t work like that. Suicide for me was something that was inevitable. I simply knew that one day it would happen, and I was okay with that.

Then one day last week (2018) it surprised me to think that now I don’t want to die. I take measures to keep myself healthy. This surprised me, and in a good way. I don’t remember my last suicidal thought. I take this as a good sign of life.

For me, suicide was partially about control. My life felt so out of control. I felt like less than a person, I wasn’t a being. I thought that if I could have control over one thing, it would be my death. I didn’t have tragic thoughts that I thought were strange or that I even needed to get help. I was stuck in a situation from which I desperately wanted to be free. I was made to feel like I couldn’t leave. I had myself convinced for a while that death was the only freedom.

The other part of my suicidal thoughts was that suicide was the ultimate destruction. I hated myself. I hated my body. I hated what other people did to my body without my permission. I hated my personality. I longed to tear away every part of myself until there was nothing left.

The day I decided to drive my car into a tree, something kept stopping me. The day I failed the suicide attempt, my aunt and grandma got into a roll-over crash and walked away without a scratch. Do you believe in second chances?

My suicidal thoughts were by my side as a constant companion for years. They would comfort me in an odd way.

2017: Art class at community college. This quarter is about culture; specifically each of our family cultures. Dear God I did NOT want to think about my past. We were told to do self portraits in a unique way. I had no idea what I was going to do. I took a piece of watercolor paper and soaked it with my skin tone color. I was desperately trying to find inspiration. Finally, I thought, “okay, I’ll do something about stretch marks, an ode to having children”. So I drew my abdomen on a giant-sized piece of paper. I used colored pencil and watercolor, but it was missing something. I decided to collage. I ripped and tore up the flesh-toned watercolor paper. The act of ripping that paper was so satisfying. It was the feeling of destruction that I had longed for all those years. I could feel the “old me” melting away. Next, I applied the ripped pieces of watercolor paper to the large drawing of my abdomen. I put myself back together. When the work was finished, I felt that I had healed something inside of me.

Art heals.

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“Pathways of Life” Erica Knapp 2017