Broken by Grief

As writers, we are often told to write about what we know. And I know grief. We lost our sister Peggy to domestic violence. So in addition to dealing with the loss of our sibling, we had our situation further complicated because her death was violent. Add to that the fact we never recovered her body, and we had to attend her murder trial, and you can begin to see how complicated grief can become.

But this book is not just Peggy’s story. It contains the losses we have endured in our family.

Running to our curbside mailbox, I pull the metal lid down. Yes. A letter from my sister, Peggy. I wonder what she’ll tell me about her boys today.

Sister Announced Divorce

Her letter seems light in weight. Bad news often is. “This is going to shock you, but I’m getting a divorce.”

Well, she’s right. I am shocked. I have to talk to her. Pressing the numbers I know by heart, I hate the miles between us. I loved it when we were both in Illinois, talking to each other every day. I hate the army for bringing my family here to Colorado.

My sister blurts out, “I can’t talk now, he’s harassing me again!”

In the background, I hear her husband, taunting her. What is going on? I want to scream. Instead, I hang up, saying, “I’ll pray.”

Those two thousand miles feel like a million. My stomach resembles a six-year old’s shoelaces. I pace, but it doesn’t help.

Waiting for Answers

I run to my friend Cindy’s house two doors down. Once inside, I blubber my news. Anxiety makes me feel that wherever I am, it’s the wrong place. After a few moments, I tell her, “I need to go home, “If Peggy calls, I need to be there.”

Retelling the story doesn’t help. But at least I’m doing something. I have to do something.

Is she alright? Should I call again?

The day drags on. The ten o’clock news comes on T.V., and my phone rings.

I can finally breathe. She talks for ten minutes before she says, “I need to go.” Something about running up her bill. That’s my sister.
I redial. “Okay, now it’s my dime. Talk.”

Abuse Revealed

She bleeds one story after another—stories I’m hearing for the first time. I cover my mouthpiece so she doesn’t hear me crying.

“Anne, he waits till the boys are asleep, and then starts in on me.”

She hardly comes up for air. How did she keep this to herself? “Once we were at a lake. I came out of the water and he said, How was it?’ I told him, ‘Really nice.’ And he said, ‘That’s not what I’m talking about, I saw the way you were looking at the lifeguard.’

Then I said, ‘Please Bob, the family is here.’”

Peggy tells me about her stifled plans to become a realtor. Her tennis outfit cut in shreds. Suspicion and accusations.

She almost whispers, “Anne, one time, while the kids were asleep, he held a knife to my throat.”

While she’s talking, the hairs on my arm stand on end. The knot in my stomach tightens. I can hardly breathe.

He’s Cheating Too

Without pausing, she continues, “Anne, I have to tell you what else he did.”

There’s more? I’m not sure I can take any more. And she’s the one living it.

Peggy continued, “We had an agreement whoever was watching the kids could stay in the house. The other would stay with a friend. I was at Shelley’s house when Bob called and said, ‘You’re not planning on coming home right now, are you?’ The house was quiet when I walked in. On the counter I saw a pie in a plate that wasn’t ours. In our bedroom, he had another woman. I got so angry I started screaming. I picked up the pie plate to throw it at him and he said, ‘Don’t wreck that, she made it for me.’”

Peggy talked till her words ran out. She told me our brother Gus came over; he had a wooden axe handle in his hand. Then the police came, and Bob left.

I was exhausted. She had told me her tragic marriage in one hour. My insides hurt.

“I’ll talk to you later,” I told her. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” she said.

My emotions are all over the place. I’m sad, overwhelmed and relieved—all at the same time. God, please help my sister.

Until that call, I had no clue what she had been going through. My stomach churns as I undress. Will I even fall asleep? Little did I know, once I hung up that phone there would be no more talking.

No More Talking

“Divorce” her letter read.
“Violence” it went on.

A long distance call:
“I can’t talk now! He’s harassing me again.”

Hours later, a phone rings and two sisters talk.
One tells of a hurting heart and years of pain.
The other sobs in silence.

“Calling the police was easy. I wish
I would have done it sooner.”

Days later, another call.
“She’s gone. No one knows
where. She never showed up
at work. Her husband says
she just walked out.” Disbelief
and too many questions:

Why would she leave her kids?
Why didn’t she take her car?
And why not wait for the money
that would be hers the next day?

It has been forty one years
since two sisters talked,
and one still hurts.

Excerpted from Anne’s book, Broken: A story of abuse, survival and hope.  To purchase on Amazon, click here.

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Anne Peterson

Anne Peterson is a Christ follower, a poet, speaker and published author of 16 books. Through the many losses Anne has experienced in her life, she has felt God’s wonderful comfort. Her desire is to share words that will give hope to those who are hurting. Anne's tagline is: Life is hard, I write words to make it softer. Anne has also authored 42 published Bible Studies and about a hundred articles with’s Christian Woman. 
 Many of her articles have been seen on For the past 28 years, Anne’s poetry has been available in gift stores throughout the U.S. as well as in 23 countries.

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