Wilma Derksen talks revenge and forgiveness in new book 32 years after daughter's murder
'I really chose to forgive when we saw how big this was going to be': Wilma Derksen
From dark revenge fantasies to forgiveness, Wilma Derksen has written a new book dissecting what she has learned about healing in the 32 years after her daughter's murder.
Wilma says forgiveness was a choice she and her husband Cliff made the night Candace's body was discovered bound and frozen in a shed.
Candace disappeared while walking home from school on Nov. 30, 1984. Her body was found seven weeks later, frozen on the floor of an Elmwood storage shed. The 13-year-old's wrists and ankles were bound with twine. The man accused of killing her, Mark Edward Grant, is currently on trial for the second time in her murder.
"I really chose to forgive when we saw how big this was going to be, the murder of a child — how traumatic that would be," Wilma said.
In hindsight, a visit from another grieving parent the night Candace's body was found was the wake-up call they needed to choose forgiveness.
That night, a man they didn't know came to the Derksens' door to warn them about how the murder of his daughter had broken him.
"Just his description of what his life had become after the murder of his daughter, and we just decided we couldn't do that. If we wanted to deal with murder, we would have to do it differently."
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While forgiveness was a choice Wilma made early, she admits it has been far from easy. In her book, The Way of Letting Go, she chronicles grappling with thoughts of revenge.
A friend had once asked her what it would take to truly feel justice in Candace's murder. Wilma said what happened next took her by surprise: She envisioned shooting 10 child murderers, one after another, point blank.
"I pulled it 10 times and it felt really, really good," she said. "Then I realized what happens to a broken heart, a mother's broken a heart, and how revenge fantasies can become part of our lives."
Her book explores 15 stages on the journey of forgiveness, she said.
For Wilma, the first step wasn't forgiving the person accused of killing her daughter. It was forgiving sex and men, she said, because after Candace disappeared the thought of intimacy repulsed her.
"All I could think of was Candace being raped and Candace being tortured," she said, adding she didn't allow her husband to touch her for the first six weeks of her disappearance.
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"That was the first of letting go, letting go of all my anger," she said, when she overcame the fear.
The Way of Letting Go is Wilma's sixth book. It launches Tuesday Feb. 21 at McNally Robinson Booksellers at Grant Park mall.
She hopes her experience and research helps others find forgiveness in their grief.
"I would love them to feel less lonely in their pain," she said. "That I, as an author, understand how deep pain can go and that they will feel comfort ... and just encouragement to continue to take the best out of life."