- Associated Press - Monday, July 20, 2015

EULESS, Texas (AP) - Steve Roberts still fights back tears when he talks about his daughter, who was murdered for revenge by his ex-wife - her mother - a decade ago in their Keller home.

“You start to think ‘What if?’” said Roberts, 54, who now lives in Euless. “I go to weddings and high school graduations, and there’s sadness.”

Aug. 5 will be the 10th anniversary of Kelsey’s death. She was just 11 when Norma Jean Roberts smothered her while the couple was divorcing in 2005.

He uses his own painful experience to help others grieve the loss of a child, volunteering at almost every national conference of The Compassionate Friends.

“It still hurts,” Roberts said in an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (https://bit.ly/1HKdVws). “I’ve managed to get through it, and I think I can serve other people on how to get through it.”

He was among dozens of volunteers at the group’s 38th national conference in Dallas this weekend. The three-day event, for all grieving families that have lost a child, no matter the cause, ends Sunday with a 2-mile Walk to Remember.

More than 1,200 people are expected to attend for friendship, support and healing.

“Our goals for the conference are simply to provide a healing and safe environment for families who have had a child die,” Compassionate Friends Executive Director Alan Pedersen said in an email, “to give them a place to realize they are not alone and to help provide support and comfort as well as maybe some knowledge that can help them on their grief journey.”

The conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dallas will have more than 120 workshops focused on grieving, guilt and healing. A special workshop is scheduled for siblings.

“The workshops involving creativity are very helpful to grieving people because there is something about using your heart, your mind and your hands that can help you connect with deep feelings you may otherwise not be able to fully express,” Pedersen said.

Roberts is involved in both the national conference and the local chapter of The Compassionate Friends.

“I feel it’s always been a place to find hope,” he said. “It’s a place to share with others the stories of their children and what happened to them.”

After killing Kelsey, Norma Jean Roberts carved a hate letter to Steve Roberts on a dining-room table expressing her anger over the divorce and custody arrangements. Kelsey alternated between her parents a week at a time.

A Tarrant County jury convicted Norma Jean Roberts, now 59, of murder in July 2006 and sentenced her to 80 years.

Steve Roberts has not seen his ex-wife since he made a victim’s statement to her in a Fort Worth courtroom in 2006.

“At times, I still have anger,” he said. “But I believe I have moved on, and that’s what I tell other parents and families.”

Roberts said Father’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas are difficult.

Every year, on the anniversary, he has taken the day off and visited Kelsey’s grave in Bourland Cemetery in Keller.

“I have to work that day this year, and I just hope I can get through it,” Roberts said. “I tell parents and families it’s OK to go on with life, laugh and express emotions after your child dies. I hope to continue to do that.”

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Information from: Fort Worth Star-Telegram, https://www.star-telegram.com

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