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“A Heart Torn, A Soul Mended: A Bereaved Parent’s Search for Harmony is the title of a book written by a woman, Tricia Wolfe, whose life has been transformed by tragedy.  She was, before she wrote the book, a vivacious woman, a healthy, happy working mother of three boys (young men)…who was happily married to a successful lawyer. Tragically, one of her sons was killed in an incident with the Holly, Michigan police.  All young adults deal with problems, but Tricia’s son Brad, faced many exceptional obstacles.  He had been described, in what I thought was brutally honest way, as being bi-polar with psychotic tendencies.

Brad

Brad

This book is not a treatise as to how one should deal with a child with mental health problems.  I like to think of it as a primer that may help people, family and friends who are suffering from a tragic loss, like the Newtown, Connecticut disaster that took so many lives.  How do people handle the devastation?  How do they console the grieving family(s)?  Too many times, we are at a loss…we don’t know what to say and we don’t know when or how to say what is needed to be said.  Too many times we say nothing or do nothing because we initially don’t know what the immediate family is going through.  I think that this book tries to help.  Brad’s unexpected death at the hands of the Holly police, made the lives of all that knew and loved him, more complicated. Writing the book was one-way Tricia worked through the trauma of her son’s death and the impact his death had on her life.  Our author has been there and as she worked through her loss, she gathered some wisdom along the way that she is now prepared to share with us.

Writing “A Heart Torn, A Soul Mended: A Bereaved Parent’s Search for Harmony,” was one-way Tricia worked through the trauma of her son’s death and the impact his death had on her life. The book is available in paperback and eBook through Amazon.com or can be purchased from her website: www.AmendedSoul.com.  I would like to thank her for taking the time to talk with me.

Tricia  Wolfe

Tricia Wolfe

First, I would like to extend my condolences to you and your family over the death of your son, Brad.

TW:     Thank you, Arthur. I always appreciate when my son’s death is acknowledged: when his death is affirmed, so too is his life. Us bereaved parents like to know our children did indeed live at one time.

Brad at play!

Brad at play!

Your web page describes you as a happily married mother of three who had a successful career as a physical therapist.  How can you be described today?

TW:     Today I am a part time physical therapist who works in home health care; I am a divorced mom parenting my son Scott, who is a senior in high school.  In the book, I tell some of Scott’s story, as he is my adopted son as well as my great nephew.

I am also an energetic woman who is passionate about dance and I am an author who is seeking a way to cast my message into the world.

How much of this would you attribute to the loss of your son, Brad?

TW:     All of it!

It is not unusual that a traumatic loss will cause a person to take a second or third look at their life and subsequent lead them to make changes.  Is that how you feel?

What about your faith?  Still a practicing Catholic?

TW:     I definitely believe that a traumatic loss triggers individuals to reexamine life itself, which can lead to change. Most certainly, Brad’s death has been the catalyst for extreme changes in my own life.

Ahhh, my faith?  In the book, I describe my journey through various faiths, as I have been a very dedicated and practicing Methodist, charismatic Christian, Presbyterian and Catholic.

I have always possessed a strong awareness and connection to my spiritual energy, no matter what denomination I’ve been a part of.  Today my faith can best be described as new age, not a faith that can be found in buildings or in dogmas.  I believe that God exists in all of us, that we are all in, of and through God. And yes, even the Holly, police and gunman Adam Lanza, the shooter in Newton, Connecticut, are of God. Tragically, however, we humans often block off our connection to God. The results of blocking this connection to God may be a minor blip in our day… or may end in horrific deaths.

Having visited your web page, it is painfully obvious how much you loved your son…all of your sons.  Was it difficult to raise Brad, especially because of his being Bi-polar?  Were there any specific challenges?

TW:     From the moment Brad was born until he sustained the knife injury, which nearly severed his hand that I describe in the book, he was the most pleasant, congenial, fun and easiest of my sons to raise.

After that injury, he became withdrawn, less social, less connected.

Again, as I describe in the book, his bipolar did not manifest until he was a senior in high school.  From that point on, three lives became a roller coaster ride: his dad’s, mine and Brad’s lives were challenged daily. We were constantly searching and helping Brad to find balance and harmony.

Young Brad

Young Brad

What was the first sign of his being bi-polar?  When did drugs (marijuana) enter his life, was it during the time he became withdrawn?

TW:     I think the bipolar first became evident when he was a teenager, a junior in high school, when his dad and I referred him to the first psychologist.  Marijuana first entered his life the summer he was recovering from his hand injury, when he was in middle school.  His brother, who is four years older, was using and told me that Brad said, “Hey, I want to try some of that stuff.”

How did you and your family, particularly your husband, handle this period?

TW:     In as non-judgmental way as possible, I describe our reactions during that time in my book.  In retrospect, I would say I always had this nagging feeling that something was wrong, but was constantly being told things were fine.  Brad’s Dad tended to deny and dismiss the issues.  Once his dad was on board, though, his energies and efforts to help our son were tenacious and effective.

I have a friend, who is ADD and he says that marijuana helps to slow the world down for him and he can handle things better.  Do you think that your son may have been self-medicating by smoking?

TW:     Absolutely.  I refer to this in my book.  Many individuals with mental illnesses gravitate to “street drugs” to quiet the turmoil in their head.  Your friend has stated his dilemma well.  

 I know that most of this is in your book and it is deeply personal, but please tell my readers what were the circumstances that killed your son?

TW:     The tragedy of Brad’s death is a story that has been told in many other unnecessary deaths. The genre is victims of police abuse. The time and place and specifics of the innocents are different, but the theme of unnecessary police force, of arrogant policemen and women who are rarely held accountable for their misdeeds, remains the same.

 

Rodney King was an African-American construction worker who became nationally known after being beaten with excessive force by Los Angeles police officers on March 3, 1991. Wikipedia

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Detroit police officers shot and killed a deaf and mute man whom they say was “menacing” them with a garden rake. Relatives and neighbors who witnessed the shooting of 39-year-old Errol Shaw Sr. said police ignored their shouts that the man could not hear or speak and their pleas not to shoot him. The fatal shooting is the latest for the Detroit Police Department, which leads the US in police killings. 31 August 2000 wsws.org

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Brad was the victim of police negligence in Holly, MI on March 23, 2003.  The cause of death was positional asphyxiation which means the policeman threw him prone onto the ground and kneed him so he could cuff him.  My son was unable to breathe.  I have no idea at what point he was obviously choking, but apparently the police officers there chose to ignore his obvious signs of respiratory distress.

Three months later, a 16 year old was shot execution style in his own home by zealous officials of the Oakland County Sheriff’s department, the same authoritative body who planned to investigate the killing of my son.  Sort of like sending the fox to guard the hen house, don’t you think?

HIGHLAND TWP. – The shots rang out, one after another, so fast, so angry on June 22, 2003.  Only a few minutes before, two Oakland County Sheriff’s Office deputies had been chatting, pausing to ask the 16-year-old boy downstairs, listening to rap CDs, to come to the stairs.
He did and was shot at 18 times – struck by 10 bullets. One of the deputies even reloaded his weapon.
No one disputes these facts. But why the two deputies shot and killed 16-year-old Christopher Drypen remains a mystery, buried with the boy and locked in the hearts of the men who pulled the triggers.
Oakland County Press

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A 7-year-old Detroit girl sleeping on a couch was shot and killed early Sunday, May 16, 2010 after a Detroit police officer’s weapon went off while he was searching for a homicide suspect, police said.  Assistant Police Chief Ralph Godbee said that Aiyana Jones was hit in the neck by a bullet and died at a hospital.   “This is any parent’s worst nightmare.  It also is any police officer’s worst nightmare,” Godbee said.  The officer involved is on paid leave pending the investigation, Godbee said.

On Sunday morning, she was asleep on the couch in her family’s home when Detroit police, searching for a homicide suspect, burst in and an officer’s gun went off, fatally striking the girl in the neck, family members said.  Her father, 25-year-old Charles Jones, told The Detroit News he had gone to bed early Sunday after covering his daughter with her favorite blanket when he heard a flash grenade followed by a gunshot. When he rushed into the living room, he said, police forced him to lie on the ground, with his face in his daughter’s blood.

“I’ll never be the same. That’s my only daughter,” Jones told WXYZ-TV.

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And at what point did you decide to write a book about it?

TW:     My “writing career” began with sending email letters to Brad after he died.  I’d cry out my heart to him in these emails and then hit “Send.” I had this absolute knowing that he read my messages, that he could read what was on my heart.  And that knowing feeling that I was still connected to my son was like a breath of fresh air from my grief.

The decision to actually write a book came about as I emerged from my self -imposed cocoon after Brad’s death. Thanks to the friendship of a Steven minister, I began attending book clubs and thought, “I need to write a book so people will open up and talk about the untellable: what it feels like to be a mom whose child has died.”

Trish walking along the shore...

Trish walking along the shore…

Do you still miss your son?  In what way?

TW:     Yes. Until our spirits reunite in the next life, I will always miss him. There is a hole in my heart.  Does an amputee always miss a leg that has been severed from their body? This is the way I miss my son.

Brad at sunset

Brad at sunset

I have watched the video interviews on your site that you have posted, www.AmendedSoul.com; have most of the readers you have found, reacted along the same lines as the people shown in the videos?

TW:     Well, the first video is of a man who did not know me when Brad was alive and yes, I would say that people who read the book “cold” have told me they cannot put it down.  They want to savor each chapter and many have asked me if I’ve written any other books or plan to write more.

The second video is of a beautiful young woman with cerebral palsy, whom I treated as a child.  Her reaction is similar to others who knew me when I was a “happily married mom”.  She had no idea how much pain I was experiencing, and wished she could have been there to support me.

Happier times...

Happier times…

Were you looking for or expecting that reaction?

TW:     No … and no.  I wrote the book because I believe we are a world devoid of compassion. We are a world that does not know what to do when a friend or family member is experiencing grief. I sought a reaction of pain, which would hopefully trigger empathy and a sense of compassion in the hearts of the non-bereaved.

Mostly, I hope for a reaction of deep sadness coupled with a sense of hope and humor.

How does that make you feel?

TW:     Intrigued and affirmed by readers who want to read more. Glad if I have been an inspiration.  And touched by readers who knew me before Brad died and tell me they wish they could have done more for me.

This is a difficult question, but did it impact your marriage or were changes underfoot anyway?

TW:     My book did not impact my marriage or the subsequent divorce.  Brad’s dad has still not read the book, nor did he read any of it while I was writing it during the marriage.  Brad’s death gave me the courage to divorce his dad.

Why do you think he hasn’t read the book?

TW:     I think it is too painful for him.

So, understanding the fact that everybody had to deal with the loss in their own, personal way, was the book therapeutic for them also?

TW:     No, my book was not therapeutic for my family…

Your bio says that you were raised in Ohio, that you went to the University of Michigan and subsequently you taught at Oakland University.  Did your scholastic and professional experiences have anything to do with your living in Michigan now?

TW:     As I talk about in my book, Ford Motor Company brought me and my spouse, who was employed by Ford, to Michigan.

Where are you mentally and spiritually now?

TW:     Mentally I like to think I’m as alert as I always have been.  Both the aging process and Brad’s death cause me to pause more, to think before I speak. 

Spiritually, I’m in a very different place than I used to be. As I write about it in “A Heart Torn”, I’m spiritual now, but not religious.

Sounds like a good place.  Any new goals?

TW:     I am like most folks; when the new year arrives, I set new goals.  This year for the first time, I attended a “Burning Bowl” ceremony on New Year’s Eve.  What I came to appreciate in this ceremony is it is equally important to throw out the old, to get rid of useless baggage that is weighing us down.  I discovered that some wounds and relationships and journeys from the past, needed to be burned in that bowl, freeing me up to more fully engage in my goals.  One goal is that of promoting the message in my book: I would like anyone who knows a friend or family member whose child died, or has mental illness, to read my book. Oftentimes, friends and family feel powerless, even fearful, of knowing what to do or say to the bereaved parent.  For example, now that the media dust has settled somewhat after the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in Connecticut, those parents may be emerging from the initial phase of shock and numbness in their grief journey.  As a result, the sharpness of their pain is more acute now.  It is my hope that the non-bereaved folks who care about the parents whose children died, will become knowledgeable about grief, will become aware that their support and compassion are even more important now, and in the days ahead, than ever before. 

Great! I hope that you achieve all that you set out to do and more!

TW:     Thank you, Arthur.  I so appreciate your diligence and persistence in enabling me to step forward with this interview and with helping me to bring my message out of the closet and into the eyes and ears of the public.

Booksigning!

Booksigning!

As mentioned, “A Heart Torn, A Soul Mended: A Bereaved Parent’s Search for Harmony” can be found on Amazon.com or at www.AmendedSoul.com.  It costs $9.98 plus shipping and handling.

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