'The worst dreams are when you dream that she's here': Tori Stafford's mother speaks out on healing, grief
KITCHENER – Those dealing with the pain of losing a loved one to murder say the grief is unfathomable.
Even years afterwards, one small reminder can bring back a flood of traumatic memories.
Tori Stafford's mother, Tara McDonald, tells CTV how difficult it has been to move on after losing her daughter, but says becoming a doula has helped her heal and celebrate Tori's life.
"She loved soccer, she loved dance, she loved church," she remembers.
"She loved anything where she was able to wear out the unbelievable amounts of energy that she had."
Stafford was raped and killed 10 years ago. Terri-Lynn McClintic and Michael Rafferty are both serving life sentences.
McDonald says their prison sentence can't compare to life without her daughter.
"Her birthday, her sweet 16 was tough. Her 19th was tough," she says.
"The worst dreams are when you dream that she's here and everything is still great. And you wake up, and you're like: reality."
Also tough for Tara McDonald: post-traumatic stress disorder.
She won't drive down the street where the family used to live. She avoids hammers and garbage bags, everyday items that were part of the court case that convicted her daughter's killers.
"My girlfriend was just like, 'Wow, I can't even believe as a mother that you would have to sit there and listen to those details and those facts,'" McDonald says.
"And I said, 'you don't have a choice.'"
McDonald has avoided speaking publicly for years, still hurt by what some people think.
"All these people are blaming me, like my friend's grandma saying, 'Oh, that mother had something to do with it,'" she recounts.
"Just blurting it out and having no idea, she had no clue I was sitting right there at her dining room table."
Over the years, McDonald has tried to move on, becoming a doula too guide and support women when they give birth.
She says when she's present for a moment like that, it brings her back to her son, Daryn, seeing Tori for the first time when she was born.
"I remember thinking to myself, 'This is the most complete moment of my life.'"
She also finds joy in her son's accomplishments: he's studying out west, running his own online company.
Earlier this year, he opened up on social media.
"He wrote, 'I'm doing this for us, Victoria. Everything I do, I do for the both of us,'" McDonald says.
Years of counselling have helped McDonald, but she says finding councillors or group therapy situations that understand homicide can be difficult.