Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Erica Staab’s latest book focuses on loss December 15, 2020

AS WE NEAR CHRISTMAS, perhaps you aren’t feeling all that merry. These past 10 months of dealing with COVID-19 proved challenging, resulting in feelings of depression, anxiety, isolation and uncertainty. Even anger.

In many ways, we’re all grieving. We’ve lost our sense of normalcy, of life as we once lived it. Some of us have lost jobs. We’re separated from family and friends. And, for too many, that separation came via death from COVID-19 and the inability to mourn in traditional ways.

The year 2020 redefined the meaning of the words “loss” and “grief” in the context of a global pandemic. Yet, the core meanings remain, as universal, yet as individual as each person experiencing them.

WRITING ROOTED IN PERSONAL LOSS

My friend Erica Staab, director of HOPE Center in Faribault, addresses loss in her latest book, The First Christmas—Finding Your Way After Loss. In this slim 32-page volume, Erica writes from the heart, as a sister who experienced the tragic death of her brother, Mitchell, in 2007. The 27-year-old died of injuries sustained in a fall after stopping to assist a motorist involved in a single-vehicle accident. Any death can be difficult, but especially when the loved one is so young, the death unexpected.

It comes as no surprise to me that Erica takes her personal loss and her life’s work of helping survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault (and their families) to craft this insightful and encouraging book. She is one of those individuals who gives selflessly and with a heart full of compassion. Her words ring with authenticity rooted in experience.

GRIEF: “A WILD MESS OF THINGS”

She calls grief “a wild mess of things that can’t be anticipated.” That seems such a spot-on assessment as we all grieve in different and unexpected ways. Erica advises us to be gentle with ourselves, to allow grief in, to listen to what our hearts need.

I found this statement particularly profound: When grief is invited in…it is then that it loses its power over you, it is then that grief offers itself to share its gifts. It is then that there is space made for joy.

I appreciate that Erica embraces and acknowledges grief in all its pain and darkness. Yet, she writes with the light of hope, of joy-filled moments returning, of strength gained. When I emailed Erica to tell her that her writing touched me and caused me to cry as I thought of losses in my life, she responded, “…that was my prayer…that people would feel heard, understood, and not alone in their grief journey or their choices.”

PERMISSION TO EXPERIENCE LOSS IN YOUR UNIQUE WAY

Her book applies to many losses, not just loss through death. Loss of a relationship. Loss of a job. Loss of financial security. Loss of health and/or safety. And therein lies its even broader appeal, especially in 2020, a year of much loss. Erica wants her readers to realize they are not alone, that no one should try to erase their pain, that they need to experience it fully and in their own way and time.

And if that means you don’t feel like putting up a Christmas tree this year or mailing holiday cards, then don’t. That was me last year. Writes Erica: You have permission to simply make it through.

Her book also offers specific ways to ease loss, culled from her experiences and those of others. That’s helpful, too.

If you’re dealing with any type of loss, I suggest you buy The First Christmas—Finding Your Way After Loss. Purchase copies, too, for family and friends. Every funeral home and church should have copies to give away. The $10 book may be purchased at The Upper East Side, 213 Central Avenue North, Faribault, or online by clicking here. You can also reach out to Erica directly. I am so appreciative of Erica, her writing, her encouragement and her unique way of addressing difficult topics.

© Copyright 2020 by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

2016 Femicide Report: The stories, the stats, the call for action in Minnesota January 31, 2017

The 2016 Femicide Report and

The 2016 Femicide Report and a guide from the Domestic Violence Homicide Memorial, both projects of the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women. Photo by Erica Staab, executive director of HOPE Center, Faribault.

FORTY-FOUR PAGES.

This information about Barb Larson's murder was displayed with a personalized t-shirt as part of The Clothesline Project exhibited during the MCBW Domestic Violence Homicide Memorial on Tuesday. Photo by and courtesty of Sandra Seelhammer, Rice County Blueprint for Safety Cooridnator.

This information about Barb Larson was displayed with a personalized shirt as part of The Clothesline Project exhibited during the MCBW Domestic Violence Homicide Memorial on Tuesday. Photo by Sandra Seelhammer, Rice County Blueprint for Safety Coordinator.

Names of 21 known domestic violence homicide victims, including that of Barbara Larson from my community, are printed within those pages. She was shot to death on December 23, 2016, by her ex-husband at her workplace, the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism.

An index lists section titles like Homicide Statistics, Red Flags for Batterer Lethality, Findings & Recommendations, Our Charge to Minnesota Communities, Victim Stories

The 2016 Femicide Report was released at a press conference Tuesday morning. Here Maplewood Police Chief Paul takes the podium. Photo by Erica Staab, executive director of HOPE Center, Faribault.

The 2016 Femicide Report was released at a press conference Tuesday morning. Here Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell speaks. Schnell received a 2016 MCBW Inspire Award “as a community ally for improving law enforcement responses to victims of domestic and sexual violence.” Photo by Erica Staab.

This comprises the 2016 Femicide Report released Tuesday morning by the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women. It is a document packed with statistics, facts, names, stories, educational information and recommendations all related to domestic violence homicides in Minnesota in 2016.

I challenge each of you to read this document by clicking here. It matters not whether you live in Minnesota, half-way across the country or on the other side of the world. If you read this report, you will better understand domestic violence, how it affects all of us and how you can make a difference.

A photo of a graphic posted on the MCBW Facebook page shows photos of all 21 individuals who died as a result of domestic violence homicide in 2016 in Minnesota. Barb Larson

A photo of a graphic posted on the MCBW Facebook page shows photos of 21 known individuals who died as a result of domestic violence homicide in 2016 in Minnesota. Barb Larson is pictured on the left, second photo from the top.

Be forewarned that the victim stories, especially, are difficult to read. But those are necessary to put a face to this violence, to provide clarity, to effect change. This needs to be a collective effort.

HOPE Center staffers and Faribault Police Department Captain Neal Pederson stand united with Barb Larson in honoring her memory. The family is holding the personalized t-shirt designed in Barb's memory for The Clothesline Project.

HOPE Center staffers Erica, left, Olivia, Sandra and Nikki, right, along with Faribault Police Department Captain Neal Pederson stand united with Barb Larson’s family in honoring Barb during the Domestic Violence Homicide Memorial. The family holds the personalized shirt created in Barb’s memory for The Clothesline Project. Photo courtesy of Erica Staab.

I am especially grateful for places like HOPE Center, offering support to victims/survivors of violence (and those who love them) in Faribault and throughout Rice County. HOPE staffers participated in the MCBW’s Domestic Violence Homicide Memorial on Tuesday in St. Paul as did a captain from the Faribault Police Department.

This The Clothesline Project t-shirt honors Barb Larson. Photo by Sandra Seelhammer.

A closer look at The Clothesline Project shirt honoring Barb Larson. Photo by Sandra Seelhammer.

Rather than attempt to summarize more of the 2016 Femicide Report, I leave you with this strong statement published in the Foreword:

Victims deserve to be believed, to be heard, and to be safe in their homes and in public. We still need to invest in resources, effective interventions, and in accountability measures that are victim centered, including prevention efforts. We can also work to end these homicides by being a resource ourselves for victims; as their family members, friends, faith leaders, employers, teachers, and neighbors. Services provide necessary tools and support, but it takes a community to keep a victim safe.

Allow me to highlight what I perceive to be particularly important words in that paragraph: believe, accountability, victim centered and prevention.

And finally: …it takes a community to keep a victim safe.

TELL ME: How is your community tackling domestic violence? What are you doing to make a difference?

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

If you’ve never understood why “she stays,” then you need to read this book April 26, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

IN MY IGNORANCE, I often asked the question, “Why does she stay?”

I couldn’t understand why any woman would stay in an abusive relationship. I expect many of us, if we are honest, have blamed the woman, faulted her for staying with a partner who is verbally, mentally, emotionally, financially, spiritually and/or physically abusive.

Why does she stay?

 

She Stays by Erica Staab

 

Erica Staab, director of the HOPE Center in Faribault, answers that question in She Stays. This self-published book is an absolute must-read for everyone. You. Your friends. Your daughter. Your niece. Your sister. Your brother. Your pastor.

Why?

Because you likely know someone who is a victim of domestic abuse. Maybe even you. And you need to know why she stays. It is only when we educate ourselves that we understand. And when we understand, we begin to make a difference.

Long before I read Erica’s recently-released book, I became educated on domestic abuse. Off the top of my head, I can list 13 women, by name, who are survivors. I don’t know the stories of each of these women. But some I do. They were in relationships with men who convinced them they had changed or whom the women believed they could change. These men professed their love. These men were initially charming, loving and attentive. Until they insidiously evolved into monsters who shoved, strangled, smothered, isolated, verbally-destroyed, brainwashed…

Margie Brown Holland and her unborn daughter, Olivia, were honored at The Clothesline Project display this summer in Owatonna. The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women coordinates the project to honor victims of domestic violence. Redeemer Lutheran Church brought the project to Owatonna this past summer.

Margie Brown Holland and her unborn daughter, Olivia, were honored at The Clothesline Project display in the summer of 2015 in Owatonna. The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women coordinates the project to honor victims of domestic violence. Redeemer Lutheran Church brought the project to Owatonna. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.

I can also personally list the names of three women who were murdered by the men who supposedly loved them: Kay, Becky and Margie. Erica dedicates She Stays to her friend Margie Brown and unborn daughter Olivia. Margie’s dad once lived across the street from me. She also dedicates her book to Julie Carroll, another victim of domestic violence. I didn’t know Julie.

Becky Kasper's portrait.

Becky Kasper of Northfield was murdered in April 2013 by her former boyfriend. She was a student at Arizona State University. This portrait was posted by her father, Dan Kasper, who spoke about domestic violence at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Owatonna in January. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo January 2016.

But I know that too many women are suffering and dying every day. Too many women are trapped in abusive relationships—whether because of fear, financial worries, even because of hope that the abuser will revert to the loving man he seemed at the beginning of the relationship. I doubt a woman ever enters a relationship thinking the man she loves will abuse her.

Reasons she stays, published on page 18. Text copyright of Erica Staab.

Reasons she stays, published on page 18. Text copyright of Erica Staab.

Erica lays out the reasons she stays in this compilation based on real stories of real women. And she writes in a way that is direct, honest and to the point. You can read this slim 42-page book in less than a half hour. It’s simplistic, state-it-like-it-is understandable.

Erica's book also focuses on reasons she leaves.

Erica’s book also focuses on reasons for leaving. Interspersed throughout this volume are Erica’s photos, primarily nature themed.

But this author and experienced advocate doesn’t end with she stays. She also writes about why she left. Therein lies another reason you must read this book. You will learn that listening, understanding and believing can make all the difference to a woman in deciding whether she stays or she leaves. You can offer hope.

On the final page of She Stays, Erica pens four powerful words: You are not alone.

A victim of domestic abuse should never feel alone. But all too often she does, because we continue to ask, “Why does she stay?”

Statistics on a The Clothesline Project t-shirt from the Minnesota Coaltition for Battered Women..

Statistics on a The Clothesline Project t-shirt from the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, displayed this past summer in Owatonna. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

FYI: To purchase a copy of She Stays, click here. Use this discount code to get $2 off: WCPXLKQS. All proceeds from the book will benefit HOPE Center, an advocacy organization in Faribault. Copies may also be purchased directly from HOPE Center.

If you are in an abusive relationship and in immediate danger, call 911 now.

Or contact a local crisis resource center for help and support.

You can find additional information through the following resources:

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women

NOTE: Men can also be victims of domestic abuse. But because the majority are women, I use that noun and the pronoun she. Just as Erica does in her book.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling