Moving On

Leslie recalls the tragic accident that has haunted her since high school, and is now affecting her marriage:

"I heard this screeching crash... I could see this blue convertible that had just smashed... It was the girl who had lived down the street... She was also a classmate... The windshield was completely shattered, but with these chunks of hair stuck in the windshield... The car almost twisted around her body... There was blood everywhere... Something I could never get out of my mind is the smell... I don't know whether it was blood, but it was this awful, haunting kind of smell... Later I found out that she was dead on impact. It wasn't until I was engaged that I'd wake up in the night with dreams that [my husband] Matt had just died."

Leslie explains that because of the accident, she now lives in fear that something terrible is going to happen to her husband and children. "I can be driving down the street, I'll hear a siren, and I'll find myself in tears as if it is my child that's hurt ... Nothing really appeases me until I call home, and I check to make sure everyone is OK. That might mean that I have to call Matt ten times a day just to check."


Leslie acknowledges that her fear is controlling her life and is putting a strain on her marriage. Matt admits he is fed up with Leslie constantly checking up on him. "I give up friendships and opportunities to be social in order to be home with her. It does make me angry and resentful. What am I supposed to do?"

Dr. Phil asks James what sort of support he received after the incident: "At the time that this happened what did people do for you? Was there not an adult around with enough sense to understand that a young boy had gone through this and had seen this terrible thing?"


James answers: "No one. Not a coach, not a teacher, not a counselor at the school. Not even my parents. I pleaded with them and they thought it was best to go along with the minister [and lie]. I pleaded with the minister on several occasions, and he said, 'Keep living with the lie, it's the best thing for the parents.' No one ever reached out to me, not one person. I started my sophomore year of school and nobody talked to me, it was like it was taboo. They just didn't want to bring it up."

Dr. Phil asks James: "Look back at that time and tell me what you needed and didn't get."


"I just need the truth to be told," says James. "I just needed it to come out. I wasn't sure both of the parents knew the truth and I wanted them to know it."

James' son, Jay, is 13-years-old, about the same age as James when his friend committed suicide. Dr. Phil asks: "If this were to happen in your son's life right now, if he were to be at a friend's house when the friend committed suicide, what you would say to him?"


James answers: "I would tell him that I went through something similar. And if someone was trying to cover up the truth in any way, I would put a stop to it immediately ... I would reach out to him, I would get him a counselor ... I would do whatever I could to get him through it. I was never able to deal with it correctly and no one ever reached out to me ... I guess that's why I got into a pattern and a process of going down this path [of anger and bitterness] for thirty years"

Dr. Phil tells James: "When you carry that anger and bitterness with you, that's nothing more than a symptom of hurt and fear. It's not fair what was done to you, but it won't be over until you decide it's over. It won't be over until you say, 'I'm not going to carry that anymore because I'm tired of my wife, I'm tired of my kids, I'm tired of the people in my life paying for the ignorance of these other people. I will not be controlled by them another day in my life.'"

Dr. Phil asks Leslie about her fears: "How is it when it is the absolute worst for you? Describe for me those moments of stark terror when it grips you and you think Matt's lying dead somewhere or your children are in twisted wreckage somewhere. What happens with you at that point?


"I feel like I experienced it as if they have just died," replies Leslie. "And I am just looking at them in the car. And, it's ... it's ... terror."


Dr. Phil asks: "What kind of companion do you think that makes for your husband and for you daughter? Think about that. What must it be like for Matt to be with someone who every day is in the first day of shock and grief?"


Leslie replies: "Probably lonely for him because I'm either experiencing things as if he's dead or I shut down so I don't have to feel it. And I don't do that very well."

Dr. Phil explains to Leslie that what she's doing is not fair to Matt, to their daughter, and certainly not to herself. "You are punishing yourself in some way here... Why is it so hard for you to say 'No, it's not fair to me that I suffer every day'? Finish this sentence for me: 'It's not fair for me to suffer every day of my life because ...'"


Leslie searches for an answer: "I can't say it's not fair for me to suffer every day of my life because I think I do deserve it... to suffer or to be punished because when I met Matt he was married... I think I had a part in him not staying married. In my heart I think that was wrong."

Dr. Phil asks: "Did you meet him with the idea of wrecking his marriage?"


"No," Leslie replies.


"Did you lure him and entice him out of his marriage, or trick him or deceive him?" asks Dr. Phil.


Leslie replies, "No, no."


"People serve less time in prison for manslaughter than you have sentenced yourself to for this real or imagined issue," says Dr. Phil.

Dr. Phil tells Leslie: "What I want you to do is claim the right to forgive yourself. Make that life decision right here. You don't have to tell me. You have to tell him. Look him in the eye and tell him, 'I am sorry that I have not been there, but I have hurt long enough and I have paid long enough, and I want you and the children back.'"


Leslie complies: "I have hurt long enough. And I have paid long enough. And I want my life and my family back...I'm sorry that I've made you all pay."


Dr. Phil adds: "Tell him: 'You're going to get me back because I'm going to forgive myself.' Forgiveness is a choice, and you can make it right now. Look him in the eye and say: 'You're getting me back.'"


Leslie replies: "You're getting me back...Because I'm forgiving myself and I'm going to let it go."

"I had a really good marriage when we first got together," says Laurie of her her soon-to-be ex-husband. "As time went on, we kind of started going our own way.


Laurie says her husband stopped coming home at night and says that he later admitted to having an affair. "When he told me that, I thought it was the end. I didn't think I could honestly go on without him. It's hard because I had so much love for him. I am so scared to even think about getting involved with someone else ever again. I still wear the ring because I think if you loved me this much, to buy me something like this, why did you let go? I filed for divorce and didn't push the papers through in hopes that maybe he might change his mind and come back home to where he belongs." Laurie asks: "Dr. Phil, how I can move on?"

Dr. Phil starts: "You know, I've been doing this for about thirty years, and I have a rule: 'If you get out, stay out!' There are exceptions. I've seen couples that get a divorce and get back together and live happily ever after. But, that and winning the lottery have about the same likelihood of happening."


Turning serious, Dr. Phil asks: "Are you not just kidding yourself? Have you not just set up this fantasy of this wonderful guy that so tragically left you? Aren't you just mourning and pining away for something you didn't have to begin with?"


"Oh, it's probably true," admits Laurie. "He wasn't what I made him out to be or wanted him to be ... I'm just scared to get into another relationship ... there was so much hurt. I'm scared that it's going to happen all over again."

"You know what? It might," says Dr. Phil. "Particularly if you get some man while you're in this frame of mind. Have you ever heard that old joke, 'I wouldn't join any club that had me as a member'? I mean anybody that would want to deal with you in this frame of mind would not be someone that you would want to deal with, right? So what you fear you create."


Dr. Phil addresses Laurie's fear of getting hurt in another relationship, explaining that there are no guarantees when it comes to relationships: "You don't get any guarantees that your partner won't leave you. But let me tell you something about trusting people: How much you trust people has to do with how much you trust yourself to deal with their infallibility ... Everyone has problems, and the question is whether you trust yourself to deal with their problems or not, because you won't find the perfect mate. You will have challenges, but you will deal with it."

"Growing up, I had a best friend named Johnny. We did everything together. On July 4th, 1972, he asked, 'Can I spend the night at your house?' He went upstairs to pack his bag ... five minutes later, I hear the crack of a rifle going off ... I found him lying at the top of the steps, right in front of the doorway to his room, with the rifle between his legs, pointing up at his chin ... blood draining from his body."


James recalls that he went to a minister, who encouraged James to cover up his friend's suicide. "He told me, 'The family does not need to go through this embarrassment of suicide. Just tell them that Johnny must have slipped and fallen.' So I lied. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about the cover-up and the scene ... He was my best friend, and I'm mad he committed suicide. Dr. Phil, it's been thirty long years. What can you do to get me past what I've gone through?"