Rising After The Fall

“The greatest glory in living lies not from never falling, but from rising every time we fall.”  –  Nelson Mandela

On December 5, 2013, heaven gained another angel when Nelson Mandela passed away.  Thinking about how this man chose to live his life has offered me some much needed reflection.  Here is a man who served over 27 years in prison because he chose to fight for freedom and equality.  When he was released, nobody would have blamed him for having a chip on his shoulder the size of South Africa itself; however, Nelson Mandela taught us something different.  He taught us the value in lifting yourself up after falling.  While I am not on board with forgiving folks for the sake of forgiving, I do believe that holding a chip based on something terrible that has happened will inevitably leave you feeling as if you have never been released from whatever bad situation led you there in the first place.


In many ways, the past few years I have felt like I have been in prison.  Whether it was the emotional prison created by Luc, the prison of Family Court, or the emotional prison caused by the loss of my son – I have been in some version of prison since February of 2010.  When I first heard the above quote back in 2002, when I as studying abroad in South Africa, I didn’t have enough life experience to really understand what it meant.  I still thought it sounded profound, but until recently I didn’t really know what it felt like to “fall.”

For a while after my son died, I felt a large chip forming on my shoulder.  I thought I had a right to be angry at the world for allowing this monster to take my son’s life.  What I didn’t realize at first was that this anger was causing me to fall deeper into my own prison.  By carrying that extreme anger, I was allowing Luc to keep me in the hell that he had created.  I couldn’t stay angry at the world and still get justice for my son.  I needed to focus my efforts and I needed to “rise” after my fall.

Since my son died, I have noticed how often people say things like, “Oh, he had a bad day.  That is why he is in a bad mood and why he did XYZ (insert terrible thing here).”  If I lived by this idea, I would be able to wake up every day for the next ten years and bitch slap random strangers in the street.  I would be able to do this and then excuse myself by saying, “I have had a bad few years…my son was murdered.”  With his actions, Nelson Mandela taught us to move forward with life instead of getting consumed with the pain.  He taught us to hold those who hurt us accountable and face what they did to us, but to move forward by rising above and bettering yourself (or your country) in the face of injustice.


I used to be a runner.  Running was my stress relief and my form of cheap emotionally therapy.  I have run two marathons, two half marathons, several 10k races, a few 5k races, and an olympic triathlon.  Before recently, the last serious training run I went on was in July of 2010.  In the past week, however, I have realized that in order to rise after my own fall I need to work to get back some of the things that I lost.  I will never be able to have my son back, but I can work on rebuilding parts of myself that I do have control over.

Just last week, I decided enough was enough.  Despite the extreme anxiety I had built up around getting back to running (partly because my postpartum body was now 30 pounds heavier then it was in 2010), I put Stela in the running stroller and decided it was time to overcome my fears in order to rise above my emotional prison.  With every step I took, I felt the pain of the last three years.  As I ran (and pushed Stela), I could almost feel some of the chains falling away.  The run was slow, I didn’t break any records, and I ended up having to walk a few hills.  When it was over, I felt like a hot mess – but the million dollar version of a hot mess.  After 30 minutes of pain, I felt as though I was on my way to getting back something I had lost.  It was going to be easy because I had fallen pretty far, but the reward at the end would be worth it.

Moving on:

While most of you won’t ever have to face the pain of losing a child in the manner that I did (Thank God), we all have situations in our lives that cause us to fall.  Many of you have had the experience (or will someday) of waking up, looking in the mirror, and barely recognizing the person you have become.  I still have many days when I am angry.  I still intend to hold those who are responsible for my son’s death accountable; however, I will not allow what happened to me to destroy who I am.  We all must learn from Mandela and realize that whether or not we rise after we fall is entirely in our hands.  So when life hands you a pot of boiling water, and you have fallen, get up and help that person staring back at you in the mirror.

I still have a long way to go on my own personal road to recovery.  I recognize that it is going to be a marathon and not a sprint.  Just the other day someone asked me, “how often do you do things related to Luc.”  I was baffled at this question as it implied that I devoted significant time to Luc related activities.  My response was, “Despite what you may imagine after watching the news media, my life is no longer centered around all things Luc.”  As Luc awaits trial for the murder of my son, I am moving on to pick up the pieces of my life.  Luckily, I am not the person who has to fight Luc in court.  He is now fighting the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Instead of going into unnecessary detail, I should have simply just told this person, “I am rising after the fall.”  Rest in peace Nelson Mandela.  I thank you for the lessons you have taught us all, and I am glad that my son has another angel beside him to watch over the world.














  1. Vicki Kuper on December 11, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Good for you, Hera! You are making great progress in healing. Your best revenge against Luc is happiness.

    This is how I choose to deal with my situation…when I have a court I let it all come to the surface for that time. After the hearing I put it all away again, refusing to allow it to be part of my everyday life.

    While reading your post I realized that you truly are rising from the fall. Only someone who is truly healing can write about the thoughts you wrote about above.

    I hope you have a joyous holiday with your new baby, Stela. Stay strong and keep choosing happiness!

  2. sophia on December 15, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    I have just read a little of your story. Words can’t even begin to describe how I felt reading it. Horror, inspired, deep, deep sorrow, joy when I looked at the pictures of you and your little prince and saw the absolute pure love you had and still have for each other.

    Your strength takes my breath away. I have my little 2 year old snoring next to me in bed right now and the thought of losing him fills me with so much pain. I know my heart would not allow me to forgive or move on.

    I have suffered tragedy, my mum was murdered by my father when I was 10 yrs old. I have forgiven my father and moved on with my life. I would not be able to do the same if my son suffered the same fate.

    Your child, your little princes time here was made so special by you, he was incredibly lucky to have you as a mother and your little girl equally so.

    I am 38 years old and you and your little prince have moved me like no one else, I just can’t find the words. Your spirit and that of your little prince is a beacon of light. God bless you and your children xxx

    • cappuccinoqueen on December 15, 2013 at 6:39 pm

      Sophia, I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your mother. I know that must have been terribly painful. I am glad that my son could be a beacon of light. That is my hope for his legacy – that he might save others. As for forgiveness, I haven’t forgiven the man who killed my son. Forgiveness is not possible if the person who committed the crime is not capable of empathy and understanding. That said, I have chosen to forgive myself and forgive many of those involved – particularly those who have expressed understanding of their role in what happened. I think the most important thing that people need to understand is that letting go of anger can sometimes be different than forgiveness. I hold enough anger to see that my son gets justice and continue to be a child advocate; however, I am going to make sure the anger does not consume me to the degree that would make it impossible to have a happy life.

      • sophia on December 16, 2013 at 9:16 am

        There is evil In our world and I like you have been touched by it, however my mother’s goodness was so radiant and strong, it almost negates the horror that was my father. Is this the same for you? Is this why you are able to continue to live a good life? Your son’s light was so powerful the memory of him is able to blot out the deformed human being that did this to you both? If so, then I understand how you are able to continue.

        Keep spreading your story angel. Your son’s legacy, his story and his spirit can make the world a better place xx

        • cappuccinoqueen on December 17, 2013 at 7:51 am

          Sophia, sort of. My son’s memory is what allows me to choose life. I have work to do here so that my son can have a powerful legacy. I regret having met the monster, but will never regret having the opportunity to know my son. that sounds like it’s a bit odd bc you can’t have without the other. Holding onto anger tears you apart inside. To hate someone or be angry takes too much energy.

  3. Kim on December 16, 2013 at 7:42 am

    I read your story this morning in the Washington Post. I have to say where you wrote that you were 30 and really looking for and wanting a soul mate and ect. rings so true in so many Women’s lives. I can’t tell you how much pressure I feel like society put’s on Women over 30 to have a baby or be married that we all have jumped into a relationship to quick or for the wrong reasons. I hope so many Women take at the very least that you can go thru the worst possible tragedy and come out on top. I am so sorry about your loss but your story is so inspirational in the fact that you had a baby all on your own. I hope and wish the best for you and your beautiful baby girl.

    Keep being an inspiration for other Women.



    • cappuccinoqueen on December 17, 2013 at 7:54 am

      Kim, thank you for your comment. I find it terrible that so many people read that article and assumed I was desperate. wanting a family and being ready to settle down is a normal feeling. And yes, society puts so much pressure on women. We end up feeling as though we need things to happen on a specific timeline. I have learned from this situation that forcing something just bc society says it should be is dangerous.

  4. Gui Nóbrega on December 17, 2013 at 5:54 am

    Hi Hera,
    I’m sorry to hear what happened to you over the years, but I’m glad to hear you’re rising again. I’m praying that you will overcome it all and that justice will be served.
    -Gui Nóbrega, US Embassy, Brasília, Brazil.

  5. Kyra on January 16, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    Hera, your story has haunted me for a long time. I cant imagine the devastation that this has wrought on you. And I have been amazed at your strength, spirit and endurance for Prince, and I am so happy now that finally something wonderful has come back to you.
    Keep on keeping on. You are an inspiration. Shame on those bigots, because even for one second could they even imagine to live what you have lived through, and to survive and still fight- it takes a great amount of resilience, power and love to come through it. They haven’t lived it. Their empathy atrophy says more about their own state of being than it ever will about you or your ability. Which you haven’t needed to prove, but that everyone with any sentience and ability to see can know that you have walked through hell and stood tall, with grace and resolution through out all of this.
    Bless you, Prince and your daughter, wishing all the wonderful and good things you deserve.

    • cappuccinoqueen on January 16, 2014 at 7:33 pm

      Thank you Kyra.