I was listening to a segment on National Public Radio of a student survivor in one of the school shootings. She was talking about how instead of going to prom, thinking about graduation and finishing the last month of school in a free and easy celebration, she and her classmates were traumatized, grieving, and moving into positive actions to ‘do something’.
My heart felt heavy for her and her classmates yet I am so proud of them for moving into action and standing during intense trauma.
My mamma brain wondered how all the families, who were robbed of a joyful celebration, were going to work through it. The conflicting feelings of being happy and proud of their graduating student yet knowing the other parents of deceased students were in the depths of grief. Everything is tainted, it is heavy.
My counselor brain wanted to help this student on the radio. I do not want to be another voice telling the students what to do or not do but I do hope to encourage them. As a grief counselor, I want to plead with the survivors of homicide to take time this summer and allow time to release and grieve.
So, I say to most people who have lived through a trauma and for those affected by homicide these things:
*If you have watched someone die or have heard a story of a death of someone you know who was murdered, you can experience trauma thoughts, feelings and reactions.
*Trauma thoughts stick in our brains for a long time, repeating themselves and often cause disruptions in everyday life and functioning.
*Anger and fear are BIG in trauma, causing strong feelings, thoughts and motivations that can change your behavior and your view of people, the world and everything in your life.
*Death brings its own set of sadness and mourning process. When you add trauma to it, it’s a different yet similar grief process. It may need additional help.
*Consider looking for a grief counselor and an EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) a try. It is a therapy that can help some normalcy be returned to your body and brain. It can help set you on to a path to keep walking and to help you to keep standing.
*The person you were the day before the murder will never be the same. Everything in your world has changed.
*Allow yourself to grieve. Set aside times to do this.
*Continue to fight and advocate, if it is helping you in your grief process. This is what we call being an ‘Instrumental Griever’ (Dr. Ken Doka’s term). Seeking justice, going to court can be a therapeutic way to grieve AND it can be a mask to your grief process. Ask your close friends or a grief counselor what they observe in you.
Remember that everybody grieves in different ways and everybody absorbs trauma in different ways. Be careful to NOT compare your grief reactions and process to another person’s. We all handle the same situation in completely different ways. Support one another.
Soon after I heard the NPR story, I briefly looked through a friend’s FaceBook post and was quite surprised and enraged to read some crazy comments that were quite judgmental of homicide survivors and ignorant of the grief process. I wondered about the people who wrote these things and thought how terribly insensitive to human pain or how they must enjoy judging and inflicting their own woundedness onto others in the name of Religion or their belief that God gave people Gun Rights.
I’m left to wonder if the insensitive commenting people are lacking empathy, sympathy, or have never experienced the pain of witnessing a murder let alone living with the grief that follows. I wondered if the people who make these comments have a concept of what grief looks like or what is normal in the mourning process and what is harmful. So, I try to push aside all the ridiculous talk. My hope is for homicide survivors to be able to go higher and tune out the Crazy Talk from people who have NOT lived through a homicide or who try to use Amendment Rights as a higher power than your right to grieve.
So, if you are a homicide survivor, grieving and experiencing trauma I hope you can…
Consider taking a Break from Social Media because it is NOT REAL LIFE.
Stand. Walk. Sit In. Kneel. Grieve.
You have the right to grieve.
If fighting for justice is not your way of managing the grief or trauma, find what works for you. Be confident and take your time.
Above all ,
Remember to tend to your grief.
Please Grieve, Please Reach Out for Help.
You Are Not Alone.
Check out the Grief Counselors on Help4Grief.com. Chicago has excellent grief counselors who are also trained in EMDR.
Chicago also has a few homicide support groups for families. Find them here