Our Story

yoheportraits2013-4Our journey has exceeded ten years now and it’s taken us to many dark places we’d never have imagined.

Self-harm, mental illness, substance abuse, suicide attempts, panic attacks, rape, psychiatric evaluations, hospitalizations, rehabs and relapses were never part of our plan for our daughter.

We Can’t Do This Alone

When we were going through our most difficult times we felt isolated, lost and paralyzed. We knew we couldn’t get through this on our own. We needed tons of wisdom, comfort and strength from other parents who had walked this path.

We looked for help in our community but found very little. This made us feel even more discouraged and alone. Because of this we decided when we felt strong enough and had experienced a good bit of inner healing, we’d reach out to help others who were hurting like we were.

An Unexpected Twist

But we were awestruck at what God was about to do. Renee’s story became very public! Indirectly then, our story became public. It was never our thought or desire to have a spotlight shine on our family problems, who wants that! (NBC Nightly News coverage here.)

However, since it was known and out of our control we accepted it and gave it to God. It has allowed us to be open and honest with you and give a larger platform for the pain and hurt of parents in similar journeys. Renee has also given her permission to share relevant parts with others if it will help them.

Our desire is to offer comfort, encouragement, and hope to parents who suffer the pain and grief of having a child whose decisions and choices are breaking their hearts. This includes mental illness which is outside their control.

Dena Shares her Story and the Beginning of Hope for Hurting Parents.

Update on Renee

Thankfully, Renee is no longer where she once was. Another surprising twist to her story, the genesis of the movement To Write Love On Her Arms (twloha.com), is in the spring of 2011 a movie was made about them both. The movie’s title is: To Write Love On Her Arms and was released by Sony in March 2015. It’s available to rent or purchase from Amazon or other digital sources.

Renee published a book, Purpose for the Pain. It’s a collection of personal journal entries chronicling several years of addiction and cutting, into the early months of recovery. In her book she boldly stated,It wasn’t my own strength that helped me stop drinking or slashing at my flesh. It was God….it’s all about Him!

She has done some singing and song writing performing under the stage name of Bearcat. They are available on iTunes. Singing her emotive songs are now the way she shares her message with eager audiences of all ages.

She has a jewelry business promoted on Facebook at Maudeduam. A ring she designed just for TWLOHA can be purchased through their online store when they’re in stock.

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33 thoughts on “Our Story

  1. Hello, I’m wondering if you have a “fan page” for your blog on facebook? That’s the easiest way for me to follow blogs (well, maybe not the easiest, but it’s the way that best helps me remember to check them) so thought I’d ask. 🙂

    • No I don’t have a “fan page” on facebook . . . yet! Maybe I should set one up! It would be easier, wouldn’t it? I just posted something new tonight (just to let you know). If I do that I will post it on my blog to let people know. Thanks for the suggestion!

        • That is interesting! I didn’t even notice it! Welcome and glad you are here, but so sorry you have the need. May God comfort and encourage you today.

      • Comfort and encouragement (and peace) are definitely my greatest needs today. I’d love to share more with you, but hesitate to do so in such a public manner. I will say this.. even a mother’s unconditional love can not compete with addiction. I would greatly appreciate your prayers for my family. Thank you for being here to encourage us hurting parents. You’ll never know this side of Heaven what a blessing you are.

  2. I would like to subscribe to your blog as I have a 15yr old bi-polar son that just got home from a treatment center. He has a dual diagnosis with drugs/addiction and bi-polar and he also has a history of cutting. We have 3 other children and feel like we have been thrown in another world. Thank you for posting your blog, it gives me encouragement and hope.
    Much love,Karey Kollar

    • I am so glad you found my blog and that it is giving you encouragement and hope. That is the very reason I am writing! I am new to this and as far as I know you just come to my blog page and check it anytime you want. I will work on finding out if you can subscribe and will let you know! I did just post something new tonight. I am so sorry you are going through this with your son. You are Not Alone! I know exactly what you mean about being thrown into another world! I felt that way, too! One thing that helped me was learning all I could about those issues. It’s a lot, so start where you feel the greatest need and go from there. There is a lot of good information on the internet and also at the public library. The more educated and informed you are the more it will help you. God bless you, Karey!

  3. Hi Dena

    Thank you for your amazing blog, for sharing your insight & wisdom with such transparency. You truly are an encouragement to those of us who are travelling the dark & often lonely journey of loving a prodigal.
    God bless you!!


    • I appreciate your comments. They really mean a lot! It’s not always easy to be transparent, but I have found it’s worth it in the long run. Yes, it is often a dark and lonely journey. I hope to inspire more parents to be more transparent about the difficulties of their journey, too, so more will know they are not alone!

  4. transparency is being who you are. what people think is by the bye. i think the lives of realists r so often confliced t with those who are intent on portraying an image of their own making. Oftentimes its the realist who steers clear for their own peace of mind and sanity. Reminds me of Christ.- being true sees you punished and persecuted. So much easier to join the dissident gang of persecutors who really lack consolidation of purpose and belief, because who will join with the persecuted let alone stoop to be one of them.

  5. Hallo,

    I am so glad I can follow this blogpost. They are so helping for me. Google translate helps me 🙂 After a few weeks of pondering, I decided to write for Dutch parents. I think it’s God’s mission for me. My blog will certainly not be a copy of your blog 🙂 But I will, like you, write about hope in hopeless situations. About the God who seeks the lost. I am a beginner and … my ‘prodigal son’ has not yet come home.

    Hoping for the best.

    • Thank you for your comment! We are so glad to hear that our blog is helping you. How wonderful Google Translate can do that for you. And how wonderful that you are writing for Dutch parents! God wants to call many to offer words of encouragement and hope to those who hurt. Feel free to re-blog or use anything we write to help others! All we ask is that you give us credit for anything we wrote.
      Thank God he is always seeking the lost, offering help to the helpless and hope to the hopeless. It’s what He specializes in, isn’t it? We pray your “prodigal” will come home soon. And while you wait, may God grace you with grace and peace to trust them into His hands. He is their Maker and the Lover of their souls. He will never stop seeking them. Never.

      You may want to check out our website, too. http://www.hopeforhurtingparents.com We offer more words of encouragement there when you click on “blog”. You’ll see “Daily Encouragement”. We post these 5 to 6 times a week. Anyone can sign up through our website to receive these words of encouragement via email. Just click on “Contact Us” and follow the directions.

      Keep holding on to hope!
      Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

  6. Hello! I run a blog called More Than Skin Deep, for those who struggle with self-harm as well as raising awareness and information for parents, friends, relatives who have loved ones who struggle with self-harm. I would absolutely love to have a parent’s perspective (guest blog perhaps?) on walking through that journey with their child, and am wondering if this might be of interest to you? If it is, you can email me at hopeinhealingrecovery@gmail.com
    Blessings, Val

  7. Our adopted 21 yr old daughter is home right now with her 2 young sons whom we love very much. She started running away at 17 to live with a boy and has since gotten a govt subsidized apt with a number of boys coming and going. We did our best to raise her to know God. Now she is going back to an apt where her sons will be exposed to things a child shouldn’t be exposed to. She is breaking our hearts and I know I am attached too much to the whole situation. She doesn’t care properly for the boys leaving dirty diapers around not washing bottles or bathing them. I don’t know why God sent her to us and I am to the point of wanting to commit suicide to end the pain.

    • Dear Anna,
      My heart breaks to hear your story and how much pain you’re in. But please know you can survive this. It feels unbearable but your heavenly father will help you bear this burden. Please call the following number if you are serious about taking your life. It is a suicide prevention hotline. It’s private and confidential and you can call 24 hours a day any day of the year, including holidays. 1-800-273-8255(TALK). Talking to a counselor or your clergy Monn will also be helpful. I’d also like to urge you to find a support group. Being with other people going through similar things,Who understand and have found ways to cope could be a real lifeline for you. What helped me the most when I felt like you are now, I wished that I had died to end the pain,was reading the Bible every day. One of my favorites that comforted me was Psalm 23. Someone recommended it to me as a spiritual prescription. I read it at the beginning and the end of the day every day for 30 days. It was the first thing I read when I woke up and the last thing I read before I went to sleep. God spoke to me through His word and helped me in ways I could not have imagined.

      Thinking about your grandchildren, if they are not being properly cared for have you considered reporting your daughter to Children and Family Services? I know it would be very difficult but I have numerous friends who had to do this for the sake of the children and for their own sanity.
      Heavenly Father, please show Anna what you want her to do about this situation. Comfort her deeply today. Speak to her through your Word. Give her hope that she can revive this. Connect her with others who can help her find strength courage to go on one more day. Convince her that her life still matters no matter what is happening. Lead her beside still waters, cause her to lay down in green pastures and restore her soul for Your Name’s sake. May Your love and mercy be with her all the days of her life. And may she know that in all her trials You are WITH her. She is NOT alone.
      In Your Son’s life-giving Name.

  8. Thank you so much for your courage and transparency as you shared your story about the struggles you have faced with your daughter. I can very much relate to it. I have been following the Facebook page. The scripture and words of hope and encouragement have helped me. I discovered the FB page because Tamara Bolthouse had liked your post about The Envoy group…God led us to her in 2013, as we realized our daughter, who was 14 at the time, needed more treatment than what was available here at home in KY. Olivia also had a lot of secrets and was not open to change or doing any emotional work with her therapist. She spent 1 year at Clearview Horizon in Montana, which is a Christian therapeutic Boarding School. She came home in March of 2014 and despite changes in my husband and I individually and as a couple, she has continued to struggle. Her cutting continues, she started using IV ketamine, has stolen her brother’s concerta and has off and on variations of bulimia. There are positives in that her grades are good, she has working friends, she chooses not to go to parties, her twice a week drug tests are negative, she attends NA once a week and she is looking at her college options. My biggest struggle has been accepting her for where she is at right now and trusting the Lord completely with her. I know I cannot be her Holy Spirit. My anxiety and worry will often take over as well as anger, sadness and various stages of grief. It is tough having that healthy detachment. I did not realize how messy recovery is or that relapses would be such a part of it. These unrealistic expectations have made it very confusing and difficult to understand Olivia’s choices once she got home.

    Thank you again for sharing your story. Grateful that God is using you to minister to other parents.

    Blessings, Maria Taylor

    • Maria,
      I just wanted you top know I prayed for you, your husband and your daughter, Olivia, today. Lord, help Maria accept her daughter as she is. Help her let go of the hopes and dreams she had for her; to detach with love. Help her focus on all there is to be thankful for. But please bring about the deep healing that’s needed in Olivia so that she can overcome her need to cut, to abuse substances, to steal or abuse herself with any kind of eating disorder. Bless her with an awareness of Your unconditional love for her, and a healthy self-love. Bless her with the ability to receive Your forgiveness for how she’s hurt herself and those she loves. Only You know what she needs and only You are able to do it. Holy Spirit, move her closer to her Maker. Show Maria how to have realistic expectations; how to be victorious over fear and worry, anger and sadness. Equip her to cope with this journey You have her on. Use it to make her the woman You want her to be.
      In Your Strong, powerful and mighty Name.

    • Hello Gerald. I’m so sorry we overlooked your email until today! What city do you live in? We are in Orlando and there are a few other groups here and in only a few other states right now. We hope that changes this year. If you are not in my area I will send you a sample of our materials to see if you think you’d like to start a group. We’d be happy to help in any way we can.

  9. Hi Dena. I’ve followed Renee’s journey right from the start of TWLOHA. I relate to her pain all too well. I found your site today after a friend that I had just lent a copy of Renee’s book to mentioned seeing your book in a shop here in Australia. (I have multiple copies I share with friends). I just wanted to say I think it’s great to see what your family has done. Thank you for turning your experiences into something good. One day I would love to meet you and Renee. She is one of my biggest inspirations.

    • Jacinta,

      First I want to say I’m so sorry that you can relate to Renee’s pain, but I’m so glad she’s been an inspiration to you. I hope you’ve found help and healing like she has. I also sincerely hope you’ve seen how your experiences have shaped you into the person you are today. I believe our suffering makes us stronger, richer people (in our soul) who are able to help others from what we’ve learned – hence, the reason for my book. That’s awesome you found it in a shop in Australia! How wonderful that you’re sharing it with others. God Bless you for that! I sincerely thank you for your kind comments, too. They really encourage me. Yes, it would be great to meet you one day. You never know! I have a good friend who might move to Australia (Sydney). We were just talking about me visiting if she does.
      **I have an idea. Friend me on Facebook. Take a picture of yourself with my book, someplace that makes it obvious you’re in Australia or just say where it was taken – city, etc. Post it on your Facebook page and tag me. Then I will share it on our Hope For Hurting Parents page. Does that make sense? Did you know about that page? If not, please check it out and if you like it, please “like” and “share” it so others can find more encouragement, too!

  10. I heard about you on the radio-focus on the family-I couldn’t get over the similarities between your daughter and my son. he is 28 now and has been through so much. he started with drugs in his last couple of years in high school. he has severe OCD- this came on at about seven years old. he was incarcerated and spent two years in an awful place. I still have a very difficult time dealing with that even thoigh he has been out three years this month. so much pain there. going every weekend to visit and having to leave him there.he finally got a job where I work,i work on heavy equipment.he did great for a year and a half ,I thought it was a miracle to look out in the shop and see him with our work uniform on learning a skill. but he started getting on drugs to the point he couldn’t do his job very well. he got in an accident with one of our trucks and we have to go get drug tested after an accident.he lost his job. he also cut himself regularly,he is never happy,he would rather sleep than be awake-I wanted to make sure he could make a living when im gone-Im 64 and I am afraid he cant make it without me-prayers are good ,but after all these years I don’t know. like you ive been to the rehab places and doctors- parents are complaining about doing their kids laundry when they are home from college from spring break and im waiting for visitation day at a rehab place or worse. anyway it was good to hear on the video that your daughter is doing better, I hope it continues-

    • Doug,
      Thanks for sending your comments. We’re sorry for the long journey you are on with your son. At times it’s hard to hope and we wonder if they will ever get healthy. It helps us to realize that ultimately our daughter and all our children are a deep concern to our Heavenly Father. We do not carry these burdens alone. Our Heavenly Father can and does work in our child’s life even when we are apart from them. We also came to realize that the only person we have control over is ourselves. We can’t let the destruction taking place in our child become our destruction as well. We learned to ask, “what are the healthy things we, my wife and I, can do to help us navigate these painful times.” We can only take one day at a time. We hope you have some “trusted” friends to share your burden with. This can be hard as you mentioned, if they don’t have this problem it’s hard for them to understand or keep from giving un-solicited advice. You are not alone however and please keep in touch.