I have sat on this post for four days. Not only has this story left my heart shattered, but it is just too important for me to speak on without giving it the proper due diligence that it deserves.
You see, I know Kelli Stapleton, and not just from the mug shot you are now seeing on TV. I know her to be a wife, mother, friend, colleague and a warrior…she is so much more than the media will ever portray.
This past week, Kelli attempted to not only take her own life, but also the life of her fourteen-year-old autistic daughter.
But the story doesn’t start there…this is actually the ending to a very long, hard road Kelli has been traveling on for a very long time.
Kelli has chronicled her journey with her daughter, Issy, through her blog called The Status Woe. I will not share Kelli’s journey with you…it is not my journey to share. But I do invite you to educate yourself prior to throwing stones.
What I will share are my observations and my own personal story with Kelli. My hope is my story will paint a different version of the person we are seeing in the news.
Let me be clear that by no means do I condone what Kelli did – this is not about making excuses – but I also know and understand that the person who tried to kill her daughter, is not the same person so many of us grew to know and love.
She was a warrior for so long. She was tired. She was broken.
I first met Kelli back in March at a parenting expo – in typical Kelli style, I immediately became an instant BFF.
To meet Kelli, one cannot help but be enamored with her energy.
We became Facebook friends and I began to follow her journey with her daughter, Issy.
It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with them both.
Her Facebook posts and our private interactions always left me wallowing in sheer and utter amazement. Kelli’s dedication to her daughter, Issy, and to the rest of her family went unrivaled.
Many times I would look at the schedule she kept and I would wonder how one person could keep going at such a pace while never showing anything less than a smile.
In my 43 years I have never seen a mother dedicate herself to a daughter the way Kelli did to Issy. She has been to hell and back trying to get Issy the help and support she needs.
The mom side of me looked at Kelli with respect and adoration. The human side of me knew that she could not possibly continue at the pace she was on. I was also becoming increasingly aware that we all have a breaking point – even Kelli.
I began to sense the unraveling of this journey last week. She was sad – she was tired – she was at her breaking point.
When I reached out to Kelli, I know she read my message but she never responded. If only I would have reached out one more time.
As this story is breaking nationwide, I can’t help but ask – where was all of this news coverage when Kelli needed them to help her daughter? Where were CNN, FOX News and People Magazine?
I happen to know she reached out to several media outlets and was turned away.
Why are we now faced with looking at a mug shot of a sad and oppressed woman, as opposed to the picture of a loving and caring mother holding her daughter in her arms as she has for the past 14 years?
Why are we now faced with reading the headlines, “Kelli Stapleton, Michigan Woman, Accused of Trying to Kill Autistic Daughter” instead of “Kelli Stapleton, Michigan Woman, Walking to the End of Earth Trying to Save her Daughter and Her Family?”
Since this story broke with Kelli, I have seen families coming out of the woodwork in support of her; families sharing their own personal struggles, their defeats, and their own brokenness.
And what I’ve quickly realized is Kelli is not alone on this journey. There are many families who are in need of additional support to properly care for their special needs kids.
They are voicing their struggles now more than ever; finally having a platform and permission to speak their truth.
It’s not that I didn’t know this existed, but it just never seemed to be my problem.
Many have us have seen parents struggling with their autistic child in a restaurant, yet instead of offering a smile or a sign of support, we continue to be annoyed by the interruption of our dinner.
Many of us have hoped that “their child” doesn’t end up in class with our “normal kids.”
Many of us have judged; if only they would…if only they did…why can’t they control…if that was my kid…
I am guilty.
Shame on me – and shame on all of us who are so quick to judge a situation without fully understanding the life these families lead.
This situation with Kelli is awful but it is also an opportunity for us to do something different – to support these families as opposed to turning a blind eye.
Kelli and Issy have given us a face to associate with this cause. Sometimes that’s all it takes to make it more personal for all of us – to help us understand and empathize – to make the situation human.
It’s not enough to say we understand. It’s not enough leave it to the government to fix this.
It’s not okay for us to go back to our every day lives and pretend that this is all okay.
I don’t have all the answers, but I do know something needs to change.
The change starts within.
As I still try to catch my breath, my hope is that the full story of Kelli’s journey is disclosed through the media…her struggles, dedication and endless love for her daughter.
I continue to pray for peace and light for Issy, Kelli and the entire Stapleton family!
May this tragedy continue to bring awareness to us all; we must remember and honor the many families who care for our children with special needs.
May the situation continue to give everyone a platform to speak their truth and may it offer hope for much needed change.