Author shares tale of tragedy and triumph

YWCA Connections hosts Theresa James

By Sam Wildow -

PIQUA — Author Theresa James shared a harrowing personal story detailed in her memoir, “Healing Tears,” during the YWCA Connections lunch meeting at The Cornerstone at the Upper Valley Career Center this week.

“Healing Tears” is an account of her personal tragedy from July 1998, when her ex-husband broke into her house and murdered her three children before killing himself.

James shared her story and journey of grief and healing with the group of approximately 40 or more women involved in YWCA Connections, which she said was the largest audience she had spoken to about her memoir.

“There are so many stories out there,” James said, encouraging the group that everybody has a story.

James was born and raised in southern Indiana, graduating in 1983 and joining the U.S. Air Force.

“I was young and naive,” James said. She said that she was first based in southern California. She met her first husband, Mike, while serving in the Air Force. The marriage was rocky from the start, and after three years and the birth of her first son, Sean, she got out of the marriage.

She moved to Evansville, Indiana, in 1990, taking a job at a staffing agency. She also met her second husband, John. “We got married right away,” James said.

Their son, Jarod, was born in December 1991, and three years later, they moved to Jasper, Indiana, for a career opportunity for James. She and John had their daughter, Brandi, in July 1994.

James and John grew apart, as John would spend months away due to his job as a brick layer taking him out of state. After over six years together, they got a divorce. She said that she began journaling as documentation of John’s behavior during the divorce, which she said was “very long and very ugly.”

“His hurt quickly became frustration and anger,” James said.

On July 10, 1998, shortly after their divorce was final, her ex-husband broke into James’ house with a gun and murdered Sean, who was 12 years old, Jarod, who was 6, and Brandi, who was two weeks shy of 4 years old. John then killed himself.

“He killed all three of my children. He left me alive to live hell on Earth,” James said, adding that her ex-husband “had evil in his eyes. Pure evil.”

James discussed the stages of grief that she and her family went through, saying that she felt like a “robot” in the days after her children’s deaths. James also discussed processing the pain and guilt of their losses and the anger and hatred she felt toward her ex-husband.

“The ‘what if’s’ will destroy your life,” she said.

James continued journaling and writing, which became like therapy for her and forced her to deal with every emotion she had. James also had to work through depression and deal with her flight response after the events. By that time, though, her now-husband, Todd, was already in her life, and was there for her during this period.

Through her grief and mourning, James eventually promised herself that she would live a life of joy and happiness, if not for herself, then for her children.

In 2000, she and Todd moved to Columbus, and in 2008, they moved to Chicago. After living in Chicago for nine years, they moved back to Indiana to Fort Wayne.

She began writing “Healing Tears” in 1998 from her journals, but she did not decide to publish her memoir until 2016 with the hopes to inspire or give hope to other going through their own pain.

James also has three children’s books honoring each of her children, including “I Love and Like You!” in memory of Sean, “Ornaments of Love” in memory of Jarod, and “Precious Time” in memory of Brandi.

“Be brave, and share your story,” James said.

James’ books are available wherever books are sold. For more information about James or her books, visit
YWCA Connections hosts Theresa James

By Sam Wildow

Reach Sam Wildow at

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