‘Candice, you’re an orphan now.’ I was pulled out of class at 8 years old to be told my dad had killed my mom, then himself.’: Woman loses parents to domestic violence, finds ‘peace, healing’ 21 years later

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“July 16th, 1998 is the day my life came crashing down. The last 21 years has been a journey of rebuilding myself, coming to terms with my story, and allowing myself the grace to grieve.

The 30th of June, 1998, was my mom’s birthday. As a family, we always went to Spur (a South African franchise restaurant) to celebrate our birthdays as it was kid friendly. This particular year was no different, except that my mom had a big chunk of her hair missing, and a black bruise around her arm.

Courtesy of Candice Goldschmidt

My dad was abusive, and this was not the first time he had done this. My siblings and I lived in a household that was extremely temperamental. On one side was my mom. Through my little girls eyes, she oozed love, she was gentle, and warm. All she ever wanted was to be a mom. She adored us and we knew it.

Courtesy of Candice Goldschmidt

On the other hand was my dad. He was strong, loud, fun, but he was violent and the smallest episode could set him off. He had an anger problem and anything from spilling water on the floor to misplacing the house keys could send him into a rampage. He beat my mom, brother, and sister, but never me. I don’t know the reason for this, but what I can tell you is that just because you never got physically beaten doesn’t mean you are unscathed by the trauma of witnessing the people you love get beaten.

Courtesy of Candice Goldschmidt

A few days before the 16th of July, 1998, my mom packed our bags and belongings in her car and we moved out of the house while my dad was at work. The last beating for my mom was the final straw and she knew she had to get us out before he killed all of us. In our belongings was my dad’s gun and all his bullets – he had threatened to kill her if she ever left and she was not willing to take that risk. We moved into a flat that my grandparents had helped my mom organize and that was to be our new home – one that was safe.

My dad, clearly unhappy about my mom having the courage to leave him and take us with her, laid a case at our local police station to say my mom did not have a gun license and that she had taken his gun. My mom, having just moved out with her 3 kids under dangerous circumstances, was under extreme amounts of stress and fear. So, when she got the call from the police to return my dad’s gun, she just abided. She kept the bullets, returned the gun, and begged the police not to return it to my dad as he had threatened her life…

My siblings were in our new flat. I was dropped at my friend’s house. The plan was that my mom would drop off the gun at the nearby police station, pick up her pressure cooker that she forgot at our previous home (all while my dad was still at work), pick me up at 5 p.m., and return back to my siblings at the flat. Never would we have imagined that 5 p.m. would come and go and we never would we see my mom or my dad ever again.

My grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncle, my friend’s parents spent the evening of July 16th wondering, ‘Where is she?’ and fearing for her life, phoning the police to go to our home and help. My family knew my dad was a dangerous man and their worst nightmare had become a reality.

Earlier that day, my dad had been watching my mom and followed her to the home we had moved out of a few days before. Even though we do not know the full details of the events that pursued after that encounter, we do know that my dad shot my mom 5 times and then shot himself.

It was only on the morning of July 17th, 1998 that the police bashed down the doors and found my parents’ bodies on our lounge floor.

I had gone to school that day, only to be pulled out of class by my family and told the news that would change the course of my life forever. I was 8 years old and an orphan. I was 8 years old and had just lost my mom who I idolized. I was 8 years old and had to grow up incredibly fast.

My Grandparents became our legal guardians. They never wanted to separate us and made the decision that they would do what it takes to bring us up. My gran had recently retired and my grandpa ran his own small jewelry manufacturing business from home. They had just adopted a 14-year-old boy, 13-year-old girl, and an 8-year-old girl. It was a big task in every aspect, especially financially and emotionally.

Courtesy of Candice Goldschmidt

I am so incredibly grateful to my grandparents. They did the best they could for us in a time that was heartbreaking for them too. They had lost their beloved oldest daughter. I am so proud of my siblings, Dax and Tamysn, for how far they have gotten, how they have strived to better their lives, and continue to do so even when it feels tough.

After the death of my parents, we were informed that my dad was adopted, something he never knew while he was alive, but most probably always had a feeling about. I often wonder if this was where all his anger came from.

A question that often comes up for me is do I hate my dad? My answer is no. We all have good and bad in us. We all have dark and light. Yes, he killed my mom, he caused my life to come crashing down – but I do not know the extent of the darkness he was fighting every day. I do not know the hardships he experienced.

Losing my parents at such a young age left a gaping hole in my life that I never understood fully. It is a hole I have been trying to fill for 21 years. It is a hole I have tried filling with money, success, belonging, being liked. It is a hole that leaves me feeling vulnerable and exposed.

Courtesy of Candice Goldschmidt

This is the hole in my life that if I let it engulf me, the essence of who I am escapes and I start living life in survival mode where my defenses are high, my connection is non-existent, and I am a victim. I want to be able to see this hole differently, and I am slowly working towards integrating it into my life.

I almost feel tired of my story, but I cannot deny it as that means I deny the very foundation from which I built my life. Understanding that my parent’s death is part of my story and not my whole story has allowed me space to ask questions, to understand myself in relation to the world. It has taken something that made me feel broken and given me purpose to search for more and be more.

When you have survival in your blood, you know the power you hold. You can either use it to destroy or you can use it to empower and build. For many parts of my life, I played the victim, pulled the orphan card, I felt like the world owed me something, but I intrinsically knew I was more than that!

I had more to give and that is when I opened my business, Loveit Sanctuary, a therapy spa. It’s been part of my healing. It has shown me how important it is to work on yourself and better yourself. I have done this through seeing a life coach regularly. For me, this is the space I felt I belonged to. It was a space I felt safe and could create safety for others, a space where I felt chosen and fulfilled.”

Courtesy of Candice Goldschmidt

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Candice Goldschmidt. You can follow her journey on Instagram here and here. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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