Loretta had many traumatic experiences as a child leading her down a path of depression for many years. When Loretta was only fifteen, she witnessed her mother being killed in a murder-suicide. The intense scene of holding her mother as she died, left an impression that only God could heal. After many years of depression and hopelessness, she describes what happened to her as a call to action, a call for change. One day the light came on when she realized she could stay in that bed of depression or she could be a voice bring hope and healing to others.
Loretta Smail Story
The story of my mom being murdered. What it was like to live in a home with domestic violence and the after affects in my life.
My parents divorced when I was 11 years old and my mother remarried an abusive man. I also had a brother and sister younger than I was. Mom would tell us that he was raping her. I remember mom drinking alcohol to help with the pain she was experiencing. This was a country scene, we lived way out on dirt roads in a log cabin in the hills. So no one knew what was going on.
At one point we would go see our mom on visitation every 2 weeks and we saw these prison bars in the basement of our home. My stepdad was locking her in. As kids being so young, we did not catch on to what he was doing. When we asked about it, he would say he was protecting her while he was at work. He put them on every window and door of the house w/ locks and would disconnect the phone. She could not get out.
When I was about 14 mom pulled really hard on us to live with her. We never would have went if we knew fully what was going on. At the time we were living with our real father in a stable home. My real dad describes what happened as he put the custody papers on the altar in a church service because he didn’t know what else to do but give us kids to God. The decision was made.
Mom was given custody of us kids. When we went to live with her, my step-dad took the prison bars down, but she would still tell us that he was raping her. They yelled a lot and she seemed afraid when he would come home.
As a child I remember so many times mom would pack us kids and everything we could fit in the car and she would run from this abusive man. Only to go back again because she ran out of money.
We lived in motel rooms, apartments, we had no furniture at times and slept on the floor. One time we slept on someone’s covered porch. I remember times of having no food. We were hungry and remember using my 50 cent pieces my grandma had given me for learning scripture to pay for eggs and bread so we would have food.
We had no money to buy school clothes. As a teenager I remember going to school inadequately dressed and was often cold.
My step-dad had a painful history of being in the war and his entire group was killed except him, he worked as a police officer and also in a maximum security prison/penitentiary. So he had much pain going on in his mind. I learned later that he had health issues that had him on strong medication.
I remember him being angry a lot, one time he went into rage and began to rip posters off my wall in my bedroom.
He took us to church on Sunday and even owned a Christian bookstore in the small town we lived in… and yet all this was going on.
This is where the story gets intense:
This cycle ended one day. My mom and all three of us children were sitting in the upstairs of our home. It was a log cabin so it looked like a loft area. My step-dad had left the house that day and was gone several hours.
This is where the story got so painful and stayed in my mind. The vivid memories of what I am about to tell you took me into a deep depression for years.
When my step-dad returned, I remember he came up the steps and with a very rough is voice he said to my mom, “I want to talk to you”.
As always I found myself saying to them, “mom please work it out with him”, because they would argue and yell so often.
I blamed myself for years that this happened because of me saying “please work it out”. But if I wouldn’t have said that, He may have killed us all that day.
They walked down the bathroom hallway into the bathroom. It wasn’t seconds later my mom starts screaming! I will never forget the terror in her voice….
“Call the police, he has a gun”
This was the day before cell phones and our phone was downstairs on a wall, we didn’t have time to call the police because he started shooting her in the heart over and over again…
As a 15 year old girl I remember the pain and trauma of running down the hallway to save her life… as shots are being fired I am opening the bathroom door. I could have been shot!
As I am pushing the door open, I watch in the bathroom mirror as my step-dad shoots himself in the head. As I open the door I am also pushing my mother’s body out of the way to get the door open. I remember stepping over top of her and lifting her head holding her as blood was coming out of her nose and mouth. I heard her choking. At the same time my step-dad was laying on the floor breathing heavily. Even though he shot himself in the head he lived about 8 hours.
I run downstairs screaming at my brother and sister not to come in the bathroom. I did not want them to see what I had just saw.
My hands were shaking so violently and I was in such a state of trauma that I couldn’t even think to dial 911. The trauma was like 10 times being in a car accident, my hand shaking so violently. I held the phone and all I could do was scream…..I could not think clearly. The operator on the other end started yelling back because apparently I had dialed a zero. She was yelling back, don’t hang up the phone so they could find our location.
My little brother took his bike, he was probably 10 years old at the time and rode on the dirt road to the neighbor’s house to get help. While at same time my sister and I were on our knees in the front yard screaming someone please help us… please help us..
Memories are hard to erase. I still remember it like it was yesterday but Jesus has healed the pain of it. In order to help someone else.
We were then taken to a small house to people we didn’t know and as a 15 year old girl, I sat in a corner of a bathroom and all I could do was cry and rock in that corner for hours till my real father came to pick us up. No one knew what to say to us.
My birth dad drove 3 hours to come get us. On that 3 hour drive home, no one said hardly a word. I couldn’t talk, I was still in so much shock.
I was also questioned by the police because my handprint was on the doorknob and I had held my mom. It was a crime scene and we were not allowed to take anything from it. I remember begging the police officer to let us take pictures of our mom for we had nothing to remember her by… They only let us take a few things.
They said there were holes in the bathroom door and they don’t know how I lived unless and angel protected me. They said statistics say he should have shot us all.
From this, I go home to what I call… burying it under a rug. The only one I would talk to was God. I remember crying at our country church at the wood altar every church service. I would sit in the corner of my room holding a pillow, saying Jesus please hold me. I was terrified of men and would feel panic attacks come on. I would never speak in public and hid every moment I could. I couldn’t look men in the eyes. I had no self-confidence, was afraid of everything.
This turned into years of depression where I laid in a bed as much as possible medicating with sleeping pills and cold medicine to take the pain away. Every time depression would hit me, I crawled in a bed in a dark room, covers up over my face….begging God to please help me.
The pain was so intense I wanted to take my life but I didn’t want my children to go without a mommy like I did.
As time progressed…. My story changes the day I heard God say in my heart:
“I want to help you but you have to get out of the bed”
It was one of the hardest things I ever did, but I chose to get out of the bed that day and allow God to take me down a road of recovery.
My road to recovery:
When I look back, I think one of the greatest things that helped me overcome was talking about what happened. For so many years I buried it. It was there, but no one knew the pain that was going on in my mind. Thoughts of suicide, flashbacks, fear of the dark, and the fear of men consumed my life. I did my best to live a productive life on the outside.
I especially hid my past when I was a teenager, because I had the fear of being labeled as strange or weird. My friends all had stable, happy families. How would this dis-function and horror story ever fit into normal teenage relationships?
After the murder of my mom, for some reason, I never went to counseling. It might have been due to the fact that it was years ago and times were different. But I truly think counseling would have been a huge key to my recovery.
In my adult life, after I married and had two children, we moved to another state. At first it was very hard being in a new place. We moved to attend a Bible College. At church, our pastor would talk about how God was good and it was the enemy that comes to steal, kill and destroy.
I use to blame myself for years, thinking I was in some way responsible for what happened that day. All because of one phrase I said, that plagued my mind. I remember saying, “Mom, please go work it out with him” and seconds later he started shooting her. It would replay in my mind over and over.
But comfort and hope began to flood my heart as our pastor would talk. He would say things like “God still has a plan for your life”. I would listen to him thinking how could good come out of something so bad? How do I get free of the pain and tormenting thoughts that consumed my mind?
I would leave that church and crawl back into my bed depression. But as I listened to the Word being taught every Sunday, hope was going into my heart. I always packed plenty of tissues in my purse, it seemed that preacher was always talking straight to me!
He said that when we give our hearts to God, we are in a whole new blood line, in a whole new family! I began to realize, the painful past I had did not have to come into my future with my children and my family. In my mind I drew a line.
At that time, I was on high anti-depressants, I did a lot of binge eating, and gained an extra 50 pounds on my small frame. When the pain got too intense I would simply take sleeping pills and go to bed.
One day in this intense sorrow, I went in my dark room, pulled the covers up over my head like I had done so many times before. As was my normal prayer, I begged God to help me. But this time, I heard in my heart “I want to help you but you have to get out of the bed”. You see, I had given into depression for so many years, it was a way of life. It was like my destiny was standing right in front of me. Was I going to get out of bed and allow God to help me? I can say with all honesty, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but I chose to get out of that bed of depression that day. I describe it like my leg weighing 10,000 pounds.
I always thought when I prayed God was going to magically zap me and everything would be better. But in my case, it has been a journey. God has been leading me and I have done my best to follow his gentle impressions. Have I missed it at times? Yes, and even went back to bed at times. But the cycle was being broken the more I replaced the depression with other things. Every time the depression would try to hit me, I learned how to be prepared and counter attack it. I began to walk a lot, instead of crawling into that bed. It was huge for me to get out of the house during that time. I often visited neighbors, went to church, or went shopping. Positive choices began to replace the negative that was trying to pull me back into that bed of hopelessness.
I had tried to get off anti-depressants so many times before with no success. It would put me in a worse depression. But this time, I had a knowing in my heart to get a pill cutter and take a tiny sliver off the pill at a time. I wouldn’t take any more off the pill unless I had an impression to do so which was usually every few weeks. It took about 6 months and I was completely free of the medication. I encourage anyone thinking along these lines, to talk to your doctor first.
I also started getting involved at my church. I became a greeter. Greeting others at a door would seem like a simple task to most, but to someone who has been in hiding, it was a step of faith. At first some of it terrified me. But what started as one day of greeting, turned into 8 years. God used greeting to build my confidence again, and I am now able to look at people in the eyes, including men. Never underestimate the small things that God asks you to do. Another level of healing came as I interacted with people.
Another life changing moment was the day I felt in my heart to video my testimony. I had never done anything like this before and it seemed so scary and big. But I followed through on the prompting. I got a webcam and sat at my computer for 20 minutes telling my story on video for the first time, tears rolling down my face.
I felt in my heart to give it to my pastor, but I was so scared I held onto it for 6 months before I finally gave it to them. When I finally gave to my pastor, a ball started rolling and they encouraged me to share my story on stage and with their TV department.
I also became part of a worship group, and it has been great healing for me to soak in the presence of God on a weekly basis at that group. We are also encouraged to share in the group. I been doing that for about 7 years now.
I have had several life changing moments. On another day, I was in my kitchen and it was as if God and I were having a conversation. In my heart, I was seeing opportunities I had missed because I feared so many things. This particular day about 1-1/2 years ago, I prayed a simple prayer that changed my journey all the more. I asked God to forgive me for any missed opportunities and asked him to give me another chance. I remember surrendering 100% to God that day and to His purposes.
From that day forward God has opened door after door and keeps reminding me of my YES. I have had the amazing opportunity to share my story on 3 TV programs, recorded the music album “We Will Stand” and the “We Will Stand” music video. We now have website and I have been blogging about my journey of healing. I have also been traveling sharing my story. A talk show is also in the making where I will be interviewing others who have tremendous stories of overcoming.
I thank God for his constant and patient love for me and that He can take such a broken life and restore it. I believe surrender and obedience to God has brought me out. His ways far exceed our efforts. So many small things that others could deem insignificant, God has used in His divine plan to bring me into freedom.
My word of encouragement to you or anyone who has faced trauma or severe depression would be this: Reach out and begin to share. You are no alone. The enemy wants us to hide. But God wants to give us an abundant, joy filled life.
I encourage you to pray a simple prayer and commit 100% to God and take his hand. I believe just as he took me on the journey of healing, he will do the same for you. I personally believe we all have our own journey. And the healing process could be different for you, but allow yourself to walk with God. Even if things are new, be courageous and step out as he prompts your heart, and know that with every step, you are walking in more and more freedom.