The day arrived and I was filled with so many emotions. I did fine controlling them until I walked into the courthouse and immediately saw the perpetrator and their family. All of a sudden I felt shaky and extremely nervous. Then I got mad at myself...I reminded myself that I was allowing this person to have control over my emotions again and it needed to stop right then and there. I was in charge. Not the perpetrator. Not anymore. I needed to be brave like Elsie had been all along. A friend texted me this that morning:
and I knew that's exactly what needed to happen. I needed to be braver than the hard thing and I knew I could. We waited patiently until it was our turn to be called into the courtroom. And then it was time. The judge asked me to read the letter I had prepared and I did it. My mouth was dry and my body was shaking but I got through it. I was emotional, of course, but I was steady and strong, and said all the things I had been waiting to say to the perpetrator. I talked about the struggles Elsie and our family had been though as a result of this person's selfishness...about how our life will never be the same...about how this person damaged our ability to trust and had left us broken and devastated. Four pages later, I sat down. Finished. Done. And relieved. Then it was the judges turn. He gave the perpetrator their sentence and then had a stern little talk with them. The judge said "Did you hear what the victim's mother had to say? Did you take it all in? She talked about choices...well guess what...you made some really BAD choices." It was validating to hear him be so harsh with the perpetrator. Once the judge spoke, it was all over with, the legal aspect was finally finished.
Once home, the adrenaline wore off, and I was exhausted and actually really depressed. We had obviously longed for this day for such a long time...the day where the legalities were behind us and we could focus 100% on our family. But then here it was and I was left with this feeling of sadness and despair. We still had a difficult road ahead of us...healing takes time. Lots of time. There would continue to be ups and downs. And it just didn't seem fair. Were we happy the legal process and taken its course and was over with? Absolutely. Were we relieved that there had been a guilty plea and Elsie didn't have to testify at trial? Of course. Did we recognize that we really had the best outcome for a situation like ours? 100% yes. But at the end of the day, the punishment just didn't seem like enough for what Elsie had been through and would continue to go through. Like my sister had told me months ago, no punishment would feel like it was enough and she was right. I felt that more than ever immediately following the sentencing. It's like Christmas...there is so much anticipation and preparation for that big day, but then it's over so quickly and you look around and all you see are empty boxes and wrapping paper strewn from here to there and everywhere in between! And that's pretty much how I felt...we were still left in the same place as we had been all along...we still had work to do with Elsie and our family. Lots of work. No punishment could change that. And it wasn't fair! I allowed myself to feel down and sad for a day, but then encouraged myself to feel happy and blessed the next day. It was over. That was a good thing! We could now focus on rebuilding our family without the worry of a trial hanging over our heads. We could move forward and put this behind us for good. And now that it has been several months, I can happily say that we are ALL doing really well. There are still bumps in the road, but they are fewer and further in-between and for that I am extremely grateful. I can see how far we have come in just over a years time and know that when all is said and done, this whole ordeal will truly have been but a moment in time.