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Rebirth: After A Home Invasion
By Chris Shin

One day when I was about six years old, my uncle, my mother’s younger brother, was murdered and my brother, three years older, attacked with a knife in our house by the same perpetrator. We were living in Korea at the time; my father was in Vermont alone, pursuing a master’s degree. Miraculously, my mother and I were spared as we had left the house in the morning. Earlier that morning, my mother had gone over to a friend’s in the neighbourhood. I wanted to go with her but recall being afraid to ask for fear of being scolded. After she left, I mustered the courage to ask her if I could come over too. She said, “Of course you can” with such warmth and welcome, I wondered why I was afraid to ask.

Later that day, while my mother and I were protected in a neighbour’s home, a deranged man rang our house, pretending to be a salesperson, entered, demanded money from my uncle, stabbed him in the back and then attacked my brother. By a miracle, my brother managed to defend himself, escape and find us. I recall a lot of commotion in the neighbourhood, then standing out on the street and seeing my brother run towards us, crying and screaming, covered in blood. Everything else is a blur.

My brother survived with some cuts to his upper lip and left wrist. It was a miracle that he only needed stitches; the trauma, however, was and is immeasurable. My uncle, unfortunately, passed away. I had grown up with an aunt and five uncles on my mother’s side. Other than two uncles, my aunt and other uncles were unmarried and without kids, so my brother and I were given lots of attention and love. I was close to every one of them, each having a special place in my heart. Losing my uncle so suddenly, and to horrible violence, was devastating to our family and had a deep impact on my young heart and soul. I had loved him very much.

As a young child, I did not understand death and grief; how could I have? All I knew was that my uncle was suddenly gone and there was a lot of sadness around me. I took on so much of other people’s grief. For thirty years I was still carrying that grief, not just my own, but that of my extended family.

In my young perception, the people I knew and loved had suddenly abandoned me. How was I to understand that they were all dealing with their own grief and that it had nothing to do with me? My brother was in the hospital, my mother suddenly became emotionally unavailable, my father was in Vermont, my beloved grandmother was grief-stricken and bedridden, as were my uncles and aunts. In one day, the people I had loved the most were gone, no longer available to me, both physically and emotionally as they were grieving themselves. I was terribly heart-broken on so many different levels from the tragedy.

In the end, the police caught the killer. As if the murder wasn’t traumatic enough, they brought the criminal over to the house; they wanted to recreate what had occurred and take pictures. My brother was still in the hospital so the police had this grand idea to get me to stand in for my brother. They didn’t use a model or even one of the police officers to play the part. They gave the murderer a cardboard knife and took him from room to room, asking him to re-enact the murder and attack on my brother. I had to sit where my brother had sat, defend myself as my brother had done, as the perpetrator pretended to stab me with a cardboard knife. I was terrified and begged my aunt, (an uncle’s wife), to be spared from this ordeal.

Because I had developed many abandonment issues as a result of my uncle’s murder and the aftermath, I learned several survival tools: one was to be “a good little girl”, to be perfect so that people I loved would not abandon me. If I hadn’t been a “perfect” little girl, I would have run away and disappeared when the police showed up.

My mother, my father, my brother, my grandmother, my uncles and aunts – no one was around to stop the police and rescue me. In fact, most of my family had forgotten about this post-murder episode. So despite not having been present at the time of the murder, I have vivid and exacting memories of how he stabbed my uncle repeatedly in the back, then attacked my brother on the couch. When I reminded my mother of this a few years ago, she was horrified. She said that had she been there, she would have never allowed it. It’s what I needed to hear.

Therefore, as I grew up I learned to rescue others so that they would come to my rescue, in return. This rescue pattern was a part of me that needed to die, this part that prevented me and others from being self-empowered. And I came to realize that instead of giving in to the energy of rescue, I could choose to have compassion and do things out of love, out of heart. Helping others out of compassion is completely different from helping others out of co-dependency. I needed to heal both aspects of the rescue pattern.

For thirty years our family tragedy haunted me. A few years back, during an healing session, I felt my uncle’s presence as he held my hand tenderly. He then let go of my hand, told me it was time to say goodbye and that he had to go. I realized that I had never said goodbye to him and never grieved his death. I cried for a week, finally grieving.

Our family story is tragic, sad and traumatic. But it is also a story of miracles, resilience and forgiveness. My mother told me she couldn’t face her mother after the murder because of the guilt she carried, her brother having been murdered in her house. When she finally did, my grandmother told her that she still had four sons and two daughters; if it had been my mother who had lost her only son, that would have been a worse tragedy. Many years later, my mother went to visit the murderer in jail to tell him that she forgave him. I come from a line of incredibly resilient, forgiving women of faith. I honour them and am grateful for their strength.

In addition, the tragedy opened up our worlds in ways we could not imagine; it provided opportunities to forget the past and embark on new adventures, across countries and continents, ending up in Canada, our new home. First, my mother, brother and I joined my father in Vermont, a beautifully quaint and lovely place – I have fond memories of our year there. After Vermont, we moved to Montreal where I was exposed to Quebec culture and to the French language and education. Montreal was my home for twenty years. As a result, I am fluently trilingual and multicultural. Then ten years ago, I moved to Vancouver where much of the healing began. I am exactly where I am supposed to be and I believe my uncle played a big role.

Then recently, I attended a workshop and saw a painting for sale, among many others, (by the artist Loraie Nichols) that caught my eye. It was that of a mermaid being born in the ocean and it was entitled “Rebirth”. It was as if the painting was made for me and of me. I could not stop staring at it, so I bought it. Now, it is sitting at my bedside table as a reminder, every morning and every night, of my rebirth experience. In fact, the more I look at the painting, the more I am convinced that the artist painted me, with long flowing dark hair, almond eyes, and that I am indeed the mermaid in the painting.

Healing happens in layers, when we are ready and willing. You think you have dealt with it and let go after a layer’s been peeled, and surprisingly another layer surfaces. A friend ended our friendship, which was initially hurtful and triggered abandonment and deep-seated pain, but also another layer of healing. Now I see that clearly. And though I know that the friendship ending was and is necessary, and a welcome change in my life, I hadn’t realized how much it had affected me. I have her to thank for allowing another layer of healing in my life, and in my rebirth.

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“Rebirth” by Loraie Nichols
Loraie can be reached at loraienichols@gmail.com, her facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Inspiritactions/309026962483348

Chris Shin Bio:

Chris Shin is a former lawyer, now writer, coach and consultant in Vancouver, BC. She is also founder of Clear & Calm Compasshin Solutions. Her mission is calling for justice and building a community worth promoting so that we can all embody and live in truth, love and freedom. She awakens, inspires, challenges, uplifts, transforms, creatively propels those who are destined to lead to new levels of mastery. She coaches and teaches with heart and discernment.

She also wrote “Meet Joe Black” in the December 2012 Thrive in Life E-Magazine:
http://www.thriveinlife.ca/index.php/meet-joe-black/

She can be reached at shin_chris@hotmail.com or on LinkedIn (https://ca.linkedin.com/in/chris-y-shin-97140164).

She has been a kitten foster parent with Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue (VOKRA: http://www.orphankittenrescue.com/) for a decade and also sat on their Board. VOKRA is a registered charity and is driven 100% by volunteers and donations. Donations can be made: http://www.orphankittenrescue.com/donate/

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COMMENTS (6) | enlightenment, healing, spiritual, trauma
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Comments

6 Responses to “Rebirth: After A Home Invasion”

  1. Allen
    April 13th, 2012 @ 2:40 pm

    I never heard this before from you Chris. My thoughts are with you and your family, even 30 years later.

  2. Chris
    April 15th, 2012 @ 8:56 am

    Thanks, Allen. I think it’s no coincidence that I was drawn to criminal law in law school and started my career doing criminal defence. Perhaps it was my way of trying to make sense of things.

  3. AMAllain
    April 15th, 2012 @ 4:03 pm

    WOW, Chris! Such a courageous and inspiring story…so proud and happy for you that you are in a place of healing and continued inner-peace now. Miss you!!!

  4. Chris
    April 16th, 2012 @ 9:23 am

    Thanks, Andre-Marc!! It’s so good to hear from you! Indeed with sharing such a deeply personal experience come a vulnerability and discomfort I am working through. But I believe that it is a necessary process to grow and heal – and come out the other end, stronger and with more to give. Much love!

  5. yeong shin
    April 24th, 2012 @ 7:40 am

    What a vivid tragedy it was to hear, even it happened long time ago. I couldn’t imagine how deep and how unceasingly it has hurt you. I can’t console enough, Chris. But I am proud of you, who have overcome all the fear and hardship and stand as you are now. May God cleanse your heart of all layers and give strength and renewal day by day!

  6. Chris
    April 25th, 2012 @ 7:17 pm

    Thanks, dad. Your acknowledgement and words of support and encouragement mean a lot. I know it was also difficult for you to be away from the family when it all happened. All these years I accepted you were in Vermont when it happened and thought you chose not to come back to your family – I had no idea that you didn’t know because the family decided to spare you of the news for your well-being. It’s also tragic that you had to learn from the Korean grocer in Vermont who read about it in the Korean newspaper and asked if it might be your family in the news. My heart goes out to you.

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