Out Here On My Own
We were married a year and a half, but we were together for four years. I was a loving mother and wife until Aug. 20, 2007. One that day, I became the victim of a violent, horrific crime committed by the man I loved and trusted. My husband, Chad Payne, 32, shot and killed my son, Kevin, 7, and our daughter, Chasmin, 2. Then he killed himself. I was told they were found with him cradling them in my son’s room. I was devastated.
The death of a child is like no other. I couldn’t believe God would allow this to happen. Everything that defined me was instantly gone. I no longer had any titles. I was just Monika. Immediately, I became the center of unwanted attention. People wondered why I survived. Why did I not save my children? And then the ultimate allegation: Was I actually the murderer? It was surreal.
When everything happened, I was a functioning zombie. The God most would run to, I found myself running away from. I turned my back on my family and friends who tried to comfort me because people didn’t know what to say. I filed for bankruptcy because of the debt left by my husband. It seemed to continue to get worse. My loneliness led me to excessive clubbing, drinking and meaningless relationships. There was no way I could talk about it. I would do anything possible to stay busy so that I wouldn’t have to be alone with my thoughts. Body piercings and tattoos were an outlet to inflict pain upon myself. I didn’t realize this until someone told me, but whenever there was a birthday or the anniversary of the deaths, I would get a tattoo. I felt insignificant, confused and guilty about what happened. I didn’t know how to hate [my husband] for what he did because I still loved him.
My turning point was on Jan. 8, 2011, when I went to my mother’s home and found her dead in the bed with my son’s Spider-Man action figure and my daughter’s Dora doll. I had spoken to her the day before, and she was telling me how much she missed her grandchildren, and her heart was hurting from the loss. They said she died of natural causes, but she grieved so much, I thought it killed her. It was at that moment that I realized my husband had killed four people, and if I didn’t change my ways and start living again, I would be his fifth victim. I wasn’t about to let that happen.
My mother died on a Friday, and I went to church on Sunday. It was at that point that I began going out and venturing into the world. I began to travel, socialize and mend relationships with family and friends. I started sharing my story with anyone who would listen. Have I found total redemption? No. Have I gotten past the pain? Not at all. Do I believe that God placed this on me for a greater good? Yes. I truly believe my life’s purpose is to use my story to provide support and inspire others who face adversity. Every day, I’m learning something new about myself. I won’t ever get over this, but I’ll get through it one day at a time.