Dr Oz: Woman Loses Daughters, Parents In Fire
Dr Oz started his show with an update on the story of Madonna Badger, the mother who lost her three children and parents in a tragic Christmas fire at her home. Her story and how she dug herself out of unimaginable grief, is truly remarkable.
It was Christmas Eve 2011 in Stamford, Connecticut, when Madonna Badger and her family prepared for Christmas in their new home, a picturesque Victorian. Madonna’s three daughters and their grandparents go to sleep as Madonna finishes wrapping gifts before heading to bed in the early hours of Christmas Day. But Madonna soon wakes up, choking on thick smoke as flames rip through her house. By the time the sun rose that morning, Madonna was overwhelmed with an unspeakable tragedy. Her three daughters, Lily, age 9, and her twins Sara and Grace, age 7, were gone, after perishing in the fire. The flames also claimed the lives of her parents who died while desperately trying to save their granddaughters.
The firefighters called it one of the deadliest, most destructive blazes they had ever fought. The entire world was moved by the funeral and thousands were in attendance at the church. The fire left Madonna alone to navigate unimaginable heartbreak and loss. Today, Madonna Badger wants to share “how she survives having survived.”
Dr Oz: Overcoming Unimaginable Grief
Dr Oz welcomed Madonna Badger to his show three years after she lost her beautiful family. She said every day is different and she copes one day at a time. “There’s only one day after the next, after the next,” she said. “Sometimes it’s only an hour at a time. Sometimes it’s only a minute at a time. But I have good days and bad days.”
Madonna shared that during those first few weeks after the tragedy, she felt like she wasn’t even in her own body. A lot of her hair fell out, and she had nowhere to go. She said she was basically running around trying to save her own life.
Madonna said in the beginning, she felt like suicide was the only option. She said when her children were alive, she thought to herself that if anything were to happen to them, she would have to kill herself, which she says all parents can relate to. About a week and a half after the fire, possibly longer, she had a “suicide gesture” where she grabbed a handful of pills and thought to herself, “I’m going to take these. I can’t go on.” But someone wrestled them out of her hand and put her into an acute care unit, or basically a locked down psychiatric ward in Connecticut. She was all alone and said the only therapy she was getting there was pill-related.
Dr Oz: Living After Losing Loved Ones
Dr Oz then asked Madonna Badger about her crying scale. She explained that about nine months after the fire she was cleaning the bathroom when she completely broke down into what she called a level 10 cry. She looked in the mirror and saw her parents and three girls, who told her everything was all right and love was the most important thing in the world, and there was nothing to be afraid of. She said that was a big turning point for her.
Dr Oz pointed out how Madonna had been hospitalized a few times and wanted to know what or who had finally gotten to her to get her on the path to healing. She shared that she rented a house in Little Rock, Arkansas, and there she went to the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences and specifically to the psychiatric research institute. There was a man there who was the head of that hospital named Dr Richard Smith, and it was he who explained to her for the first time, the physicality of what was happening to her. He explained that the mother/child bond is so strong that it’s basically like a nerve. In her case, that nerve had been severed three times, tragically, in one fell swoop, and the bond between her mom and dad had been severed as well.
He told her she wasn’t crazy, but she was sad and grieving. She said what Dr Smith had told her had given her hope that there was healing that could happen.
Dr Oz: Coping With The Loss Of Loved Ones
Dr Oz welcomed Dr Smith to his show, who explained that psychiatric medicine can help, but you don’t want to block the grief, because it’s a normal human process that takes time. He said if their anxiety is overwhelming, for a while you want to give them anti-anxiety medication, but you need to let them experience the pain and work through the process.
Dr Smith said that each person’s grief is variable and each person is variable. Usually for a significant losses, it takes at least a year because you have to get through the birthdays, anniversaries, and the day of their death. It will also never be the same.
Madonna shared that today her life looks very different than it did. She has a lot of gratitude because after the fire she was able to take a year off from work. She was then able to go back to work, which gave her a sense of purpose. She reconnected with an old friend named Bill Duke. They had known each other since she was 19 years old, and they got married in July. She called it a miracle and shared that Bill has two older daughters. “Little by little,” she said.
Dr Oz: Madonna Badger Three Years After Tragedy
Madonna admitted that she went through periods of being angry where she blamed God, and still goes through those periods. Through tears, she said she’s grateful that she had her children and that she had that experience. She said she’s angry that she couldn’t save them, but said she couldn’t. “That’s not because some awful hand of God came down and punished me,” Madonna Badger said. “This didn’t happen to me. This happened. I’m no one’s victim.”
“I choose not to be a victim,” she added. “It’s the only way that I can keep on living.”