Diary of…A student who suffered loss and gained hope after the Haiti earthquake

Rosemonde Menard-Webb is a third-year doctoral student of marriage and family therapy in the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences. She enjoys going on road trips, going to the movies, watching the sunrise and sunset at the beach, playing board games with her children and listening to music. Her philosophy on life is to acknowledge and honor the existence of others in any way possible, with a smile, a hug or words of encouragement that generate hope. She is a member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and has her own consulting practice called Planting Seeds of Life.

My decision to join the marriage and family therapy program began to be useful shortly after my enrollment. In January 2008, my 5-year-old nephew was kidnapped for ransom
after a home invasion while his mother and siblings were gagged and restrained with electrical wires. He was held for four days and was released after my family paid the random.
A year later, on Jan. 11, 2009, my father died unexpectedly after suffering complications from cranial surgery. He went into a coma and was gone within three hours. My sister and I never left his side during his short hospital stay. We both helplessly and painfully witnessed his death. We were not ready to say goodbye, at least not like that. So many words were left unsaid.

That June, my uncle died on my sister’s birthday after battling Alzheimer’s for seven years.

Yet, another death followed. In September 2009, my ex-husband was shot and murdered in the streets of Haiti. He was my high school sweetheart. After college, we got married and had a precious little girl, Farah, who is enrolled in NSU’s criminal justice program. The loss of her dad was unexpected and difficult to process. I was not emotionally prepared nor equipped to be there for her. Watching Farah crumbled and wrapped in such a heavy blanket of pain was atrocious and nearly immobilized me emotionally. It was a crash course in grief and loss. While recentering my life, I thought I would finally be granted the opportunity to seek balance, even in the midst of a storm of unplanned sorrow. Unfortunately, the storm waded over us and served its biggest and hardest blow.

The most shocking passing of all was that of my only sibling, my sister Nancy, who died at work as a regional bank director in the earthquake, which savagely demolished Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010.

This is the kind of news that makes your knees buckle, makes your heart skip a few beats, but, mostly, makes you lose touch with reality for a few seconds, a few minutes, a few hours or even days at a time. It was a serious overflow of despair and I urgently needed Divine intervention. Just a few days before, I was involved in a car accident, which could have been fatal. Regardless of my physical limitations and bodily injuries due to muscle spasms and shoulder contusions, I traveled to Haiti to rescue my niece and two nephews.

Also during that time, my son was recovering from knee surgery after tearing a ligament while playing basketball at school.

I returned to the U.S. within five days with my niece and nephews. I quickly retained a lawyer to start the adoption procedures. Some faculty members of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences were very involved in ensuring my emotional well-being. Dr. Ann Rambo remained in communication with me from the day she heard the news, until we returned safely to the U.S. The children have received ongoing grief therapy at their school, provided by NSU interns and supervised by Dr. Rambo.

My family size increased over-night, and it was a blessing for all of us — more laughter, more joy to fill our hearts, more hugs to give and receive. I enlarged our circle of love by inviting other close relatives into our system to form meaningful relationships. As a family, we have enjoyed many road trips, which opened doors to healing and strengthening through conversations. We often dine out, go to the movies, attend Miami Heat basketball games, shop and participate in fundraising events. My active involvement in their school has been helpful as well in their adjustment process.

All the above, along with leaning heavily on God’s shoulder, reporting and conversing with Him daily, and the love and affection we unselfishly share with one another, have been so pivotal in our recovery. When I hear “Grief shared is grief diminished,” it makes sense now. Resiliency has prevailed and allowed us, in unison, to hope and wait for the rays of the sun to pierce through the dark clouds and shine over us again.

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