I remember first hearing the story of Ashlee Boyson on the news and I was shocked. It was every woman’s worst nightmare. My heart hurt for Ashlee and her kids. The more that unfolded about the story, the more tragic it became. But in the years since, it has turned into a beautiful story of resilience and healing.
Check out my full podcast interview with Ashlee
Deception and Murder
In 2011, Ashlee was living her dream of being a wife and mother. She had 5 young children, including a newborn. Ashlee was happily married to Emmett and was a stay-at-home mom. Emmett was a successful lawyer with his own law firm. One late evening Ashlee received a knock on her door from a policeman that would change her life completely. Ashlee was told Emmett had been having an affair and had been shot and killed by the husband of his mistress.
Ashlee was left to deal with the overwhelming grief of both the infidelity and loss of Emmett as well as the murder trial. This story has been featured on news outlets and shows around the world, including Dateline NBC, Dr. Phil, True Crime Daily, and many others. What has really touched me most is how Ashlee has chosen to move forward and help her children deal with their grief as well.
Focus on Healing
Because Ashlee’s story has been covered so well so many different times, rather than focus on the details of the murder, I want to focus on the healing that has taken place and continues to take place. Specifically, I wanted to know how Ashlee has encouraged her children to grieve in a healthy way.
Ashlee has a bachelor’s degree in human development, which she says has given her some of the tools needed to help her children cope with such unimaginable trauma.
One of my favorite parts of my interview with Ashlee was when she talked about being honest with children and giving them true information as it is age appropriate. Speaking of children she said, “If they’re asking for truth they’re ready for truth.” She explained that she didn’t want her children learning details from other people about their father’s murder and the events leading up to it.
Ashlee explained her decision of how to speak to her children from the beginning of her ordeal when she said, “I will never lie to them because that is stifling their healing. That was one thing I did I would say perfectly; I never once withheld something that I knew could be part of their healing, even when it was hard to say, even when it’s embarrassing to say he was cheating on me. I would always say truth is the answer even when it hurts so bad to say it.”
What a profound thought! If we don’t give our children the truth they are seeking, they will look for it elsewhere and will usually find untruth or only partial truth. It is our responsibility as parents to help our children find truth a bit at a time, as they are ready for it.
Allowing Kids to Feel Emotions
Another important point Ashlee made was that as parents we need to learn to be ok talking about things we don’t feel safe and comfortable talking about with our kids. We need to allow kids to feel their emotions instead of trying to fix it. By trying to shield kids from their emotions we slow their healing.
Ashlee says parents should encourage their children to talk about what they are feeling, to find a way to get the emotions out. That can be through talking, writing it down, or drawing a picture. Children should never feel they can’t express their emotions because they are worried about how their parent is feeling and how their feelings will affect you.
One of Ashlee’s twin daughters (who are the oldest) has dealt with an eating disorder, which Ashlee explains is related to the trauma that didn’t get full healing. However, her daughter has received professional help and is now in a much better place on her journey to healing.
I felt it was important to talk to Ashlee about how she found her own worth. It’s hard for kids to find their own worth and heal if their parents haven’t already done the same.
Ashlee said, “We look at stories and situations that happen to us and we try to take on the blame. If I had been a better wife he wouldn’t have cheated on me. If I had been more beautiful, more skinny…
Sometimes we take on things for other people that we don’t have to take on.”
At the murder trial, Ashlee thought she would finally feel resolution and peace and feelings of self worth. That didn’t happen. Instead she looked around the court room and realized other people were also hurting.
Shortly after the murder trial was over, Ashlee saw a woman at the grocery store and felt she should do something for her so she handed the woman a $100 bill. The woman said she had $13 in her bank account and was so grateful for Ashlee’s generosity.
That was the beginning of Ashlee finding her worth. She says she had been looking in the wrong places for her worth. She found it in showing up, doing the right thing, and being there for other people. Ashlee recommends, “Looking for moments where you get to be God’s hands.”
She went on to say, “Until you really know who you are and appreciate who you are and see yourself, you’re most likely not going to attract someone who’s going to do the same. And that’s kind of the pattern I was stuck in. As I went through my blog and found strength in myself I felt like I healed that cycle. It was because I had found my significance. Our job is to find out how to fix those broken things so we can be who we need to be regardless of who comes to be a part of that.”
Ashlee began a non-profit company called A Reason to Stand to help those dealing with trauma, especially those dealing with infidelity or murder. She also focuses on helping children and giving parents tools to help their children through traumatic events.
Before Covid-19, Ashlee hosted events where she met in-person with people suffering from trauma. She says it was fulfilling to meet other people who were experiencing similar situations and to be able to offer them help and hope. Those events are on hold at least for now, as Ashlee has two very young children, but she says she hasn’t ruled out hosting more events in the future.
Ashlee Boyson is a speaker, writer, and also a coach. On her website, she offers the following courses for sale:
- “Surviving Infidelity”
- “The Light Within: a guided course for widows”
- “TRAUMA-MAMA: parenting the hurting child”
She shared with me that she is currently working with her daughter on a course addressing eating disorders.
The Moments We Stand
Ashlee is the author of the following 3 books:
- The Moments We Stand: Silence Breaks
- The Moments We Stand: Out of the Shadows
- The Moments We Stand: In Chains
Ashlee explains that the books are basically a journal of her experiences as recorded on her blog.
While her initial reaction was to hide and not share her story, Ashlee felt strongly that she needed to be vulnerable and help other people through their grief. At first, she started wrote her blog out of anger. Somehow everything got deleted. Rather than focus on anger and hate, Ashlee felt inspired to focus on “the moments that you got back up, the light, the grace, focus on your strength.” And that is what has captivated the over 1 million people who have read her blog.
When I asked what has been the most rewarding part of her journey, Ashlee explained that about 20 different men have said they heard Ashlee’s story and were the other man ready to take action. Ashlee’s helped them choose to respond with words instead of with a gun. That has helped spare many families from the anguish Ashlee and her children have experienced.
Advice for Other Parents
Ashlee has such good recommendations for helping kids through difficulties. She talked about how some kids who are dealing with trauma want to be left alone. They want to spend hours in their room with the door closed. As a parent, I know this all too well. And sometimes it can be easier as a parent to let your child be alone.
But Ashlee says that those kids, the ones who act like they don’t need love or attention, are the ones who need it most. She says those kids need to continue to have boundaries. She says, “Keep setting boundaries. Connect with them even if they don’t connect back. Connect with love.” They need to know their parents love them through the sacrifice parents are willing to make.
Ashlee said, “Find those ways that help them feel seen and loved and important.” Each child has a different way of feeling and showing love. As parents, we need to discover what that is and show our love in their way. If your child feels love through time spent together, make time to do something with your child that he loves to do (even if it’s something you don’t enjoy). Ashlee reminds parents, “The things that we do are going to be way more powerful than the words we say.”
Falling in Love Again
Ashlee is now married to Scott Boyson, and they have two children together, making a total of 7 children. Ashlee says Scott has given her and her children a safe place to be able to heal. He wants to hear about everything. He encourages the kids to talk about their dad and takes them to Emmett’s grave. Ashlee says this kind of love and support is instrumental in a step-parent having a good relationship with step-children.
The two baby girls bring a glimmer of light to Ashlee’s family. Her big kids love the baby girls and get down on their level. Ashlee hopes her children will find and remember their worth and know that they are worthy of greatness.
I am so grateful for the emphasis Ashlee is putting on helping children heal. While my family has not dealt with infidelity or murder, we have experienced tragic death as well as disability and health challenges. After talking with Ashlee, I feel more empowered to help my children deal with the tough challenges they have faced and will continue to experience.
Ashlee could have wallowed in self-pity and anger. She could have chosen to retreat and not have been willing to share her story. She could have kept to herself and moved on with her life privately. But she didn’t! And the world is being blessed by her willingness to speak out and offer understanding and love. I am so inspired by the way Ashlee is bringing light and hope.
Ashlee says she is happy and grateful to be able to help other people on their path of healing from trauma.
While I am sure it’s not easy to continue to be in the spotlight, Ashlee continues to offer light and hope to all who hear her story.