Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Riots vs. Justice

     I am very angry and upset by recent riots, looting and stealing in the face of what demonstrators, (many not even from the mid-western community), believe was a young man unjustly shot by a policeman.  I am angry because, perhaps, like many of you, my son's killing was never solved.  I further believe that there was police and medical examiner misconduct involved.  This is something that has greatly interfered with my healing and produced much inner turmoil.

     I certainly haven't gone out and burned and looted the town where he was shot, not that I wouldn't like to.  I became even more upset when I looked up some statistics.  Every year in the U.S. around 6000 (SIX THOUSAND) murders become cold cases.  Someone who is somebody's minor or adult child was killed and justice, in effect, was denied.

     Six thousand victims of murder who got no justice, no demonstrators, no riots, no national media attention, no national organization or national political attention and certainly no organizations to pay for high priced lawyers and forensic experts.   In Ferguson, Missouri outside demonstrators admit they have no jobs.  Yet, they have flown in from New York and California and need housing and food once they arrive in Missouri.  I wonder who is paying their expenses.

      I express my sympathy to the parents and loved ones of the young man who was shot.  They should be allowed to grieve in peace.  But outsiders have descended upon their town and the lawyers and the media have gotten carried away further inflaming the situation.

     The demonstrators have expressed:  No Justice  No Peace.  How much more rioting, looting, burning, rock and molotov cocktail throwing will there be if the police officer is exonerated?  Have we become a nation of anarchy?  I would have liked some individuals fired for how they handled my son's investigation and the mayor of the nearby town criminally charged for his undue, corrupt influence over the police and medical examiner and obstructing a police investigation.  Of course, this didn't happen.

     What if each of these 6000 victims' families decided to start a riot to express their dissatisfaction with the failure of police to solve their loved ones' cases.  Imagine how fast they would be arrested without political advocacy and financed demonstrators and experts. When I went to talk to police about what happened to my son, I disagreed vehemently with their findings.  There was no transparency that I could see.

     I had to pay for a private investigation into my son's death which did not agree with the police investigation.  The private investigator, a retired FBI agent, told me I could spend all my time, energy, and resources to convict my son's killer.  He was of the opinion since evidence was tampered with and missing and the chief witness was lying and well connected politically, I would never be successful.  I had no money to pay for internationally known forensic experts to do further investigations.

     I believe my son's murder will be solved one day because someone out there knows something.   He or she will eventually talk out of guilt or to get themselves off in another crime.  My son was a victim, but I have refused to become another victim.   I pray everyday for truth and justice for Chris.  I have tried to go on with my life and honor Chris' memory and life with my children's books.  I dedicated the first one to Chris and he is in both books.

     The point I am making is the criminal justice system fails to serve far too many of us.  No matter our discontent or despair, we did not break the law or sew the seeds for others to do so.  We haven't gotten national attention or political advocacy and intervention even though our children are no less deserving.  Their deaths were just as heart wrenching.

      I believe God sees everything.  I would not want to be any one of those persons involved in my son's death and subsequent cover-up and then face God on judgement day.  Some six thousand killers a year face the same fate.  Divine justice shall be their retribution.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Glimmer of a Whisper

     I am convinced within me and you is a tiny glimmer of life or light no matter how bad we feel.  One of my favorite sayings is, The Voice of Life is soft, so we must listen hard."  I could not find the author, yet is very appropriate to you and me--- we who have been surrounded with death and the loss of our children.

     But if you and I are to journey through grief,  we must search for that whisper of a voice or glimmer of a spark of life within us.  Maybe you are feeling dead or numb inside, but if you are reading this, a spark has glimmered within in you or a whisper has spoken to you no matter how briefly.  Perhaps it is the voice of my child or your child trying to speak to me and you to give us courage to go on.  To go on with life and in so doing honor him or her.

     Of course, you and I wish our lives were different.  One thing I have learned, so far on my grief journey, is you cannot reverse life's events.  I know I can only live presently with who or what I still have.  I am trying to move forward with a different life with writing and traveling and being with extended family and friends.

     Will my life or yours ever be the same as before?  No.  Can life again be meaningful and positive?  Yes.  Will there always be pangs of wanting the old life with our children and doubts filled with what if's and if only's?  Yes.  Then this is is the time to search for that whisper or spark of your child's spirit and go on.   Ask him or her to help you.  

Monday, July 28, 2014

Your Dog Grieves with You

     Recently, social media pictured a German Shepherd canine officer placing his paw on the casket of his human policeman partner at the partner's funeral.  I have read dogs can smell and interpret life and death instinctively.  Wanting to know where you have been and what you were doing is supposedly why they sniff you all over when you return home.  By sniffing they find out what went on with you while you were out.

     Also, it is apparent dogs can be tuned into your emotions.  So it would seem when you are sad and grieve, your dog picks up on it.  Dogs, too, surely miss the family member who has died and grieve in their own way.  I would say this is especially true in the death of a child who they have always protected.

     In my own case, my dog, Amber, grieved for the loss of my son, Chris.  Amber always slept with me on the bottom left hand corner of the bed where she could see the neighborhood  through three windows.  After Chris died, she moved to the bottom right hand corner of the bed where she could see the top of the stairs and Chris' bedroom door.  She seemed to be waiting for him to re-appear.  How much you and I pine for our children to return.  And so Amber seemed to be pining.

     One night, a good friend of Chris' visited me.  After he was gone, Amber laid down on the edge of the family room carpet where she could see the front door.  I believe she felt if Chris' friend appeared, he would not be far behind.  She apparently remembered this friend being with Chris.

     Amber made a big, happy yawn when Chris or Chris and I together would give her attention.  After Chris died, she never did this again.  It was if her life was forever changed as was mine.  I believe if you have a dog you have a creature who understands loss.  You can grieve together and get through the tremendous change together.  Hold onto and love your dog.  I know from experience, it can help you both.

     As a final comment, I would say watch your dog carefully as there are those people who believe dogs can see spirits of the deceased.  Like children, they supposedly can see spirits because they have no human adult inhibitions. I remember one time, Amber was standing on Chris' bed and I was sitting on the floor.  There was a rocking chair beside the bed.  Amber's gaze was fixed on the rocker and she was wagging her tail.  I was convinced she could see the spirit of Chris sitting in the chair.  I could not, but there were other similar incidents.

     I took comfort in knowing, through Amber,  Chris was visiting and had not forgotten us.  

Friday, July 11, 2014

Touching Your Spirit

     It is good to cry, tap into your pain and pray in solitude to hear the Father's voice.  I did this a few days ago.  My prayer was, "Father, speak to me in the darkness."  You can only stuff down your pain for so long before you have to acknowledge it, face it, and try to walk through it.  Not to end it because that will not happen, but to dull it and learn to walk along beside it.

     For me to do this, I have to take a spiritual approach.  Recently, I visited Fatima, Portugal.  Fatima is where Catholics believe the Blessed Mother Mary appeared to three peasant children around the time of World War I.  Miracles of cures and healing have been attributed to Mary at Fatima so people visit there for all types of healing.

     I went there to place my needs and intentions in Mary's hands.  I found it such a place of peace, that one day I broke down and cried and could not stop.  I needed to talk to the priest who accompanied our group on our tour.  I realized how much I missed my son, Chris, and husband, Fred.  Like I said, you can dull the pain, but not eliminate it entirely.  Father recommended I read the books of Joyce Rupp, a Catholic nun, who writes inspirational books on pain, loss and darkness in one's life.

     In Rupp's book, Praying Our Goodbyes, I read the chapter on the loss of a child.  Very moving.  Her words cover a lot of emotion with great understanding and very succinctly unlike a lot of other books.  I was able to read it in a short time and get something out of it.  I was moved to tears by the words of her prayer:  "He (she) can never be replaced.  We search for inner peace, and strain for the acceptance of this reality.... We hurt with the heartache of our loss.  Help us to believe the sorrow will lessen as the days go on..."

     You may feel too angry at God to pray.  I understand this.  I, too at times, have felt anger.  And I have felt too tired, too distraught and too hopeless to pray.  I have found when I tell God how I feel and have a frank discussion with Him, I can move past the emotion to prayer.

     I will pray and hope you find your way to touching some spiritual comfort.  Even if you only say, "God, take this pain away," or "God, help me get through this."  That is enough of a prayer.  Even if you have never prayed, you can pray now with just one sentence telling God what you need.

     My prayer for you is "May you find some comfort today."

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Thoughts on Father's Day

     I want to take a moment on Father's Day  to acknowledge all fathers who have lost children.  Society has so many mythical preconceptions or expectations, especially surrounding grief.  Fathers are expected to be strong, stoic and supportive in the face of tragedy-- there for your kids, spouse and parents.  A very tall order.  Is it even possible?

     What of your own personal feelings and needs when you lose a child?   Someone needs to be there for any parent-- mother or father-- when a child dies.  I am not sure that always happens for fathers.  I am not sure how well many men are able to talk about their feelings or express vulnerabilities in the face of grief.  I think there is tremendous societal pressure to support the mother, but not as much for you, the father.

     I read recently that women cope better after the death of a spouse than do men.  Can the same be true for fathers?  If that is so, perhaps, men have been done a disservice or even overlooked in the grieving process.  Men see themselves as protectors.  If a child dies, do fathers see themselves as having failed to protect that child?  That might seem to be the case.  As I have said in previous blogs, regardless of the circumstances of your child's death, you are powerless to control most things.  You are also human, and as such, you have your limits and imperfections.   It is always there to blame yourself for misjudging a situation or having made a mistake.  You think you  have failed your child who lost his or her life.

     I believe your child is at peace and bathed in love and any mistakes or misjudgments are of no matter to him or her.  Of course, you would rather have your son or daughter with you, but it cannot be.  Acceptance of what has happened is key.  Acceptance takes a long time and your own time when you may feel numb, lost, bereft, hopeless, guilty, angry.  As a first step, I encourage you to acknowledge your own feelings and express them and share them with someone.  Either your spouse, clergyman, therapist.  It is not a sign of weakness to do so, but one of strength in trying to make it through this journey and playing the curved ball you have been dealt.

     You can take many routes.  You can give up.  You can resort to drugs, alcohol, sex, work or fighting with your spouse.  You can try to go it alone.   Or you can shed any stereotypes, and decide to get through your grief by accepting yourself and reaching out for help.  Is it harder for a man to do this than a woman?  I think so.  But if you want to move forward, you have to be introspective and ask yourself how you can get through this loss and who can help you.

     You have the choice not to get through the loss of your child.  It is a pivotal moment and decision.  It is a long journey in which things can improve and in which it is possible to feel emotion again.  But, you have to be willing to embark on that journey.   Will all go forward smoothly?  No.  There will always be steps ahead and steps backward.  Gradually though the pain will soften and you will be able to enter life again.   The one thing it is not possible to do is to hold tightly onto your pain and experience living again.

     Readiness is key.  Take stock of your situation. Ask yourself do you want to improve things or let the death of your child destroy you.  I can't answer this for you, but only for myself.  Maybe you feel you have no reason to live.  I did for a while.  Then I realized all the people who were counting on me to pull through, so I got help.

     God speed you on your journey.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Another School Shooting

     Today in the U.S. we had the 74th school shooting since Newtown, CT in November 2012.  It occurred in Portland, OR.  The shooter died of apparent self-inflicted wounds, another student was killed and a teacher wounded.  What can we as parents do to prevent such tragedies from happening over and over?

     I think we have reached the point where two things must be done.  First, metal detectors need to be put in all senior high schools throughout the country.  There should be only one school door where it is possible to enter the building.  All students, parents and other visitors must enter through this door and pass through the detector to  enter the building.  When students are entering the building in the morning before school, an armed police officer should be present in the event any weapons are found.  All students must show a student ID to enter as well as parents and visitors having a photo ID to enter.

     Second, it is apparent the there must be on site community mental health services in the middle and senior high schools.  Troubled kids must be identified and interventions done.  There needs to be parent conferences with parents of those students identified as at risk for any reason.  A mental health evaluation and treatment must be made mandatory for any troubled student to continue to attend school.    Often, it is the school who identifies troubled kids before the parents intervene.  So schools need to help get kids into treatment.  Then other times, the parents are crying for help and can't get it.  If services are available at the school, the school can act as a support for parents and students.

     I think it is fair to say we have reached crisis proportions with these school shootings.  The time is past due for no action.  Where necessary, legislation may have to be changed for the greater good and protection of society.  I base my opinions on my 24 years experience as a school nurse in one of the largest urban school districts in the U.S.  Twenty-three years were spent in high risk senior high schools where there were metal detectors.  Students bringing weapons and drugs to school were suspended or expelled and arrested on the spot.  This prevented in school shootings and stabbbings.

     Haven't we as parents had enough terror and heartache with school violence and the loss of life?  It effects all school age children and their parents with unbelievable fear and trauma.  It must stop. I implore anyone reading this to demand change from their school boards and legislators.  This is a call to action and change.  

Monday, May 26, 2014

Honoring Our Military Vetarans

     Today I want to take a moment to acknowledge those parents whose sons and daughters made the ultimate sacrifice in giving their lives in military service to the USA.  May God give you strength and  support to weather your difficult storm.  Please know that we appreciate your children's service and have not forgotten you or your children on this Memorial Day.  I believe it takes special and brave people to serve our country and special families who love, sacrifice and support. God bless you and keep you.