By K.J. WEBB
POIGNANT AUTHOR: Monica Epperson with her book, “A Heart with Two Homes,??? which covers the trauma of an early childhood with five fathers.
After listening to Monica Epperson’s story, most would say that she is a survivor. They would be wrong. Monica Epperson is an over-comer, a vivid example of how a child can overcome the trauma of divorce. Epperson’s story is particularly compelling.
She was not a child of one divorce. The first divorce happened when she was only one year old. Four more would happen before she reached the age of 12. It is the sum of these experiences that led Epperson to write “A Heart With Two Homes” to help children living with divorce. Her personal experience has made her keenly aware of the issues and problems that children of divorce confront, and the impact it has on them.
One issue Epperson describes is the mistrust of men that developed at an early age, “The revolving door of men in my life deeply impacted my ability to trust them. My experiences as a child taught me that people you care about, especially men, leave. This just seemed normal to me.”
Another issue Epperson had to confront as a child of divorce was intimacy. “Attaching and detaching from men so frequently made me automatically self-protective and defensive,” she says. “You learn that you should not get close to someone because they’ll just leave and it will hurt you.”
This defensiveness and avoidance of intimacy created a peculiar kind of loneliness and distance. “I went to Union schools from Kindergarten through senior year. I was a cheerleader, I was involved in school activities and the community, I had consistency in my friendships, but, despite this I had this fearful interior self.” She explains, “I was the happy, cheerleading, active and involved student, but at the same time I was distant. I developed a false sense of intimacy and projected this into my relationships. “Everything looked fine on the outside, but things weren’t totally right on the inside; there was fear and mistrust. I was so used to losing the people I cared about. I figured ‘why get close if I’m going to lose this person anyway’?”
However cautious Epperson remained about developing close relationships as a child and young adult, and despite her problems with trust and intimacy, she was unusual because, even as a child, she was acutely aware of these issues and how they were manifesting.
Epperson grew up firmly rooted in faith and was blessed with maturity and insight far beyond her years. At the age of 12 she began journaling. “Journaling defined me,” she says. “At the age of 12, I began to lay out absolutes regarding relationships with boys, what would be acceptable behavior and acceptable treatment and what would not. I wrote how I felt about things in order to define what made sense about relationships and what didn’t. I laid out absolutes about things and it helped to define me.” Epperson’s journaling provided a way for her to process and understand her feelings about relationships, about men and about herself. Her years of journaling have led to what she calls empowered journaling, a topic she is currently writing about. She says, “Empowered journaling is defining your grievance story. It’s saying what you hoped would happen, what you hoped things would be like. Then its saying how it actually is, then accepting it, learning from it and moving on.”
She adds, “It’s about choosing not to be a victim. It’s about facing and accepting the reality of your life in a healthy and productive way. We all need to be able to accept our circumstances, however unfortunate, if we are going to be able to transcend them.”
Epperson has transcended her past and the result, the story she says she has been writing since the age of 12, is “A Heart With Two Homes.” The book, Epperson says, is her story and addresses a fundamental problem that children of divorce face: being two different people.
In a beautifully simple and accessible way, along with wonderful illustrations, the book tells the story of a young girl named Elizabeth; “Lizzie” to her mom, and “Beth” to her dad. “Lizzie” is a girl who is a “girly-girl” when at home with her mother because she and her mother spend time doing girl things, and she wants to please her mother. “Beth” is a tomboy when she is at her dad’s house because they spend time doing sports, and she wants to please her dad. It’s a story about a young girl who moves from being “Lizzie” to “Beth” on a regular basis, who feels increasingly distressed that she is being dishonest about who she is because she had two “different selves,” and who eventually is able to integrate “Lizzie” and “Beth” and just be a girl with a one heart named “Elizabeth” who has two loving homes.
Epperson says the Lord has blessed her with the ability to articulate things from a child’s perspective. She describes “A Heart With Two Homes” as “bibliotherapy,” helping children of divorce to feel connected and understood and know they are not alone. “I hope I can be the voice for children of divorce. I always wanted someone to speak up for me so I wouldn’t feel so alone. I wanted to be understood.”
Epperson is passionate about being the voice for, and helping children of divorce. Every single royalty from the sales of “A Heart With Two Homes” goes to Blended Love, the non-profit organization Epperson founded in April, 2008 that is dedicated to helping children of divorce. Blended Love’s Board of Directors is comprised of accomplished local people who are equally as committed to helping the cause: Dr. Brian Epperson, co-founder, Idea Gateway; Michael Willis, senior account executive, Schnake Turnbo Frank PR; Dr. Chris Wright, president and CEO, Reliant Live; Allison Starke, senior account executive, Schnake Turnbo Frank PR; Teri Hausam, LCSW, St. Francis Health Systems Laureate; Dr. Nancy Merritt, St. John’s Hospital; Christy Beasley, PA; Stacey Zahn, CEO, Zahn Travel; Todd Grieco, DP Tax and Accounting and Brook Grieco.
Despite her own revolving door experience and challenges caused by her mother’s multiple marriages, Epperson harbors no bitterness. She describes herself as blessed. She says her mother handled things the right way, “Starting when I was very young my mother told me that I always had and always will have a Father in heaven. Consequently, even though I experienced five divorces before I was 12, I have never felt fatherless. I have always known that I have a Father, that He has always loved me and that He will never leave me.“ In fact, Epperson is already busy writing her next book, “Never Left Fatherless.”
For more information about Blended Love, call (918) 639-8883, or visit www.thechildofdivorce.com. For more information about A Heart With Two Homes, or to purchase a copy of the book, visit www.aheartwithtwohomes.com