Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Focus on Healing

     It is not necessarily so that justice delayed is justice denied.  Look at John Walsh of America's Most Wanted fame.  His son Adam was murdered and it took 28 years to find and bring his killer to justice.  But during that time, Mr. Walsh went on and did a lot of good for many, many families-- especially children.
     And so I have found my self angry and waiting for justice, but finally for the first time tonight able to cry about the unfairness of Chris being denied a proper investigation and truth.  I have also become aware in the last week of a softer more compassionate core to myself.  I always felt this was curiously lacking considering all I had been through.  I learned as the layers of anger get more stripped away I will be able to be more in touch with this gentler inner core.
     Now I realize I will have to put finding justice on the "back burner" for now and not make it the focus of my life.  There are just too many factors that are beyond my control in the situation for me to go on feeling I can fix it.  This does not mean that I cannot still have hope some outside force will  come about to bring the truth to light.  You never know as in the case of Adam Walsh.  It's just that I must give up feeling responsible for making everything right.
     That feeling of aloneness in my responsibility was fueling my anger and frustration.  Then in order not to "implode" I kept eating to stifle my feelings of anger and helplessness.  This made me feel numb, but out of control in a different sense.  Quite a vicious cycle.  Maybe this is something you can relate to, if not with food, another substance.  
     It's just not possible for me to bring about temporal justice at this time.  I have explored many options.  Talked to many experts and gotten many opinions.  It cannot be done by me at this time.
     Of course I have faith in divine justice and I also have faith in divine intervention.  I will continue to pray daily for truth and justice for Chris.  I will also continue to pray that those involved will find God's grace in their hearts to make peace with Him and the law.  This is what I can do.  This must be my focus along with seeing what good I can do and improving my health.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Are You Angry?

     Anger over the death of a child from any circumstance--- illness, accident, suicide, homicide, overdose or unknown--- is justified.  However, sometimes it can be hard to recognize and even harder to express.  I can say in my own case it has remained like a big dark ball still lingering inside of me.
     Anger after the death of a child can be insidious  and can mask as depression or overwhelming fatigue.  It can also come out in different places, like against other people or in other relationships, social or work situations.  Or if it doesn't come out at all, it can eat away at you and affect your physical and emotional health.
     In my own case, I would rather not feel my anger so I have been binge eating.  I overeat at night to feel pleasure, to feed my anger, rather than express it.  Women, especially, have been conditioned by society that it is not acceptable to express anger.  It is not unusual for bereaved parents to use alcohol, drugs, gambling or even sex to overcome their sorrow and anger.  If this has happened to you, you must get professional counseling to deal with your grief and addiction.  This is not something you can do on your own.
     I have been receiving grief counseling.  As part of that, it has been important to find a way to tap into my anger and express it. I have been taking a racket ball racket and slapping it hard into my bed pillows for about four minutes while thinking about all the things surrounding my son's death that make me angry. Then I listen to a meditation tape to try to clear my mind.  Finally I make some notes on what came up to help me process and understand everything.
     I know this seems like a lot of work, but the grief process takes effort and the courage to do things you think you can't do.  Alternatives may be going for a walk to clear your head or writing down your thoughts.
     I am finding out it is important to get to the core of your anger to find some measure of peace with what has happened to your child and to you as a result.  This may seem like a very foreign concept to you today as you may still feel too sad or too numb.  But it is something that must be worked on eventually for your own well being.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

No Justice Far Too Common

     The public, the media and political figures need to understand a national tragedy about child victims and getting justice.  Far too many parents of all races and from all walks of life (myself included) never get justice for children of all ages killed in situations requiring law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
     My son died of a gunshot wound to the chest.  There was no public outcry, march or protest.  No one cared.  The media was co-opted into keeping the story quiet as it involved a mayor's daughter.  No one cared.  People lied.  No one cared.  People hid and destroyed evidence, even the medical examiner.  No one cared.  The police, medical examiner and county solicitor did not cooperate.  No one cared.  There was no inquest, no grand jury, no arrest and certainly no trial.  No one cared.
     Perhaps similar things happened to you surrounding the death of your child.  And no one cared.  Every parent's child deserves the very best in police investigation and legal representation and advocacy.  This, however, is far from reality.  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Accepting What Is

     Being unable to let go of some issues surrounding my son's death is rooted in a deeper problem on which my grief was super-imposed.  I would say I was conditioned from childhood to expect perfection in myself which I apparently carried into adulthood.  So it is very difficult for me to accept the mistakes I may have made with Chris and with law enforcement and the medical examiner.  I want a do-over on these things.  I also want all my unanswered questions answered.  In short, I want the truth to come out and for Chris to have justice.  Unfortunately, I think it is up to me to rectify events and get all the answers.
     The sad fact of the matter is I do not have this power.  Neither I, nor you, have power over the universe.  I cannot change human behavior.  I cannot make people talk.  I cannot control law enforcement.  What I can do is acknowledge that I do not have super powers.  I have to heed the words of my own private investigator.  He told me I could spend the rest of my life and all my resources trying to get to the truth to no avail.  There was lack of official cooperation, missing and destroyed evidence and deceit.  
     Now there are probably some people who think I should not let these things go.  And you know what?  I don't have the power to control what other people think either.  The only power I have is within me to accept what is and what happened.  I am all I can control with God's help.  This is what the Serenity Prayer is all about... wisdom to know the difference between what can and what cannot be changed.
     I can still hope that Chris will one day get truth and justice.  It just cannot be my focus if I am to move forward on this journey.  I have to stop letting things over which I have no control eat me up inside.  To that end, I will continue to use the steps in Kathleen O'Hara's book, A Grief Like No Other.    

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Heavy Little Box

     Today I wrote down on little pieces of paper all the unknowns, all my questions and all my regrets and guilt surrounding the death of my son.  I put them in an old floral print notecard box.   I am still mulling over what to do with the box.  I think I may bury it with a plant at Chris' gravesite.
     Although less painful with time, progress in grief and loss seldom move in a continually forward straight line.  Time to time, you will have to go back and confront and re-examine issues.  That is what I am doing now.  I feel I have some unresolved issues regarding acceptance and being able to move on.
     I am re-reading psychologist, Kathleen O'Hara's book, "A Grief like No Other."  I also had the good fortune to meet with her personally.  Kathleen wrote her book to heal herself and help others survive after the sudden and traumatic death of a loved one.  Her own son was murdered in 1999.
     She stresses three principles in her book:  Acceptance; Forgiveness; and Gratitude.  She gives Seven Steps to achieve these goals. Kathleen uses visual imagery exercises to help you get through the steps.  This exercise I did was Step Five: Out in the Deep-- Practicing the Three Principles.
     You are supposed to imagine yourself in the ocean and swimming with a large box.  The box contains all your negative emotions and thoughts, like guilt and anger, which hold you back from achieving the three principles.  You swim along but are aware of the heaviness of the box.  You release it while imaging that you are floating in the water and the box sinks.  Gradually you are able to swim ashore and connect with the firm sand on the beach without your box of fears, etc. holding you back.
     Well I had trouble with this.  I couldn't let go of the box.  I lugged it to shore.  It was much heavier than I thought.  Once on shore, I felt compelled to open the box and examine the contents.  I didn't do so well after that.  This sent me into a night of binge eating.  Plus, I woke up with heart palpitations and a racing pulse.  I made the connection to the unfinished exercise.
     I was determined to get through this.  So I did the exercise a different way, because to tell you the truth, this ocean visualization is hard for me.  I am not such a good swimmer.  So my adaptation worked out better.  My heart rate is better now.  I feel calmer with a sense of relief.  All my negativity is safely away from me in the box.  If negative thoughts and feelings return, I can tell myself they are in the box.  Identifying issues and discarding the box of these issues is key to accepting your circumstances-- what happened and what is-- in order to move along in your journey.
     In my next two blogs, I will take you through my experiences with Step Six: The Coal Reef, Generating Creativity and Step Seven: The New World, Emerging Possibilities.
     I would definitely recommend "A Grief like No Other" for anyone who feels traumatized by the death of a child or loved one.  You may not be in a place to read it today, but someday you might be able to concentrate on the words and do the exercises.  I think it is a worthwhile tool to keep in mind.