Wednesday, May 25, 2022

 

                                                         TEXAS SCHOOL TRAGEDY


Our collective hearts are, yet again, broken by the horrific school shooting and murder of nineteen fourth grade students and two dedicated school professionals. I am sure we all, as bereaved parents and as a nation, send many prayers to more grieving parents, siblings, extended families and friends, and to the Uvalde school community. We continue to pray for the seventeen children and the adults who remain hospitalized, some in serious condition. Please, God, let them recover fully.

I must admit I am outraged. I am perplexed. I am frustrated. How is it that the greatest country in the world cannot get a handle on this repeated disaster? Why is it that American children in all grades must go to school with the thought that someday they could be shot. Why is it American school children have to have routine "active shooter drills" in their classrooms to practice SURVIVAL against something that should never happen. It is unfathomable.

How will all the children and adults traumatized by this terrible event come to terms with what has happened? Mental health services have been made available to families, school staff and law enforcement officers and other first responders. Sadly, this is after the fact. There seems to have been no available local mental health services in this part of rural Texas. 

Indeed they were sorely needed by the shooter. He had a speech defect about which he was bullied. At one point he attempted self mutilation. Usually kids who are "cutters" do so secretly and on their arms which they can cover. This guy reportedly cut his own face "for the fun of it." As a retired nurse with over 30 years experience as a school nurse, I find his actions troubling and possibly indicative of a serious dissociative disorder. If there was no attempt to get him treatment, that is disturbing.

If anyone reading this blog, especially parents who have lost their child, and others in anyway affected by this tremendous tragedy, I understand what you are feeling. I too had a son, Chris, who was shot. I never found out by who. I know you are numb, bewildered, angry, confused, afraid, overwhelmingly sad and broken, helpless and even hopeless. You should not be alone. I advise you to stay with someone, close family or friends. It is all right to be alone for short periods, but do not isolate yourself from others. You don't have to talk. Just sitting with someone else is good. Let them hold your hand.

Let others who are willing help you with funeral arrangements, meals, care of other children, pets, laundry, food shopping, cleaning. It is hard to be strong right now. Lean on others. Get the mental health counseling that is being made available. Seeking help does not mean you are crazy. It is self-recognition that you have been traumatized by an unspeakable tragedy. GRIEF IS NOT A JOURNEY ANY OF US CAN MAKE ALONE. Sometime in the near future, it may be helpful to attend a grief support group run by a mental health professional. As was explained to me when I lost my son, it is important to talk to others who are experiencing the same challenges, thoughts and feelings as you. This sharing helps validate what you are going thru. To learn that something is not off or wrong with you.

I want to say something to couples who have lost their child. Women and men grieve differently. Each of us has our own way of grieving. There isn't really a right or wrong way to grieve. Be patient with one another. Give each other space, but then come together and grieve, share memories. Don't keep your feelings bottled up. If you cannot talk to each other then talk to a close friend or family member. Try not to rely heavily on alcohol. Better to see your doctor and get some medication to help you rather than alcohol. BTW, opiates do not help grief and may make you feel worse or prolong your grief. Most of all, don't let the loss of your child drive you apart. If that starts to happen, get counseling as a couple or individually.

I would also say, from my own experience, avoid large gatherings or crowds. If you want a small funeral, have a small funeral restricted to those you are closest to or just the immediate family. You can announce you will have a larger memorial service sometime in the future. You do not have to give a date at this time. It will be when you feel stronger. Only you will know that. Please do not feel obligated to please others or try to follow some "social norm." Do only what you feel you are capable of doing.

From my own experience, I can say that my faith in God and prayer got me thru the tragedy of losing my son and only child and then my husband six weeks later. I know this is a time when you might feel angry at God. It's okay. Tell God how you feel. Ask him why he did not protect your child. Keep praying. Ask God to give you strength, courage, wisdom, acceptance and eventually some measure of peace. Bit by bit, your life can move forward. Not move on or find closure, but once again to a life in which you can function. This will take time, with steps forward and some backward. Do not give up. You will get there.

I know you will have feelings of guilt. That somehow you should have protected your child. You should have done more. If only you hadn't sent him or her to school that day. You will be angry at the school administrators, the police, the Mayor, the Governor, other politicians and anyone else you think may be at fault. And possibly yourself. This is hard, but to be expected. The sad truth is there is nothing you could have done that day to protect your child from an evil maniac bent on killing and causing destruction. Evil exists in an imperfect world. Sometime in the future you may be able to join others to put forth measures to protect kids and to stop school shootings from happening. That is down the road aways.

I realized shortly after my husband, Fred's, death, when both my son and husband were gone in six weeks time, I had a choice to make. I could either get thru this or let it destroy me. I chose life. I would be lying to you if I said it was easy from then on. It was not. I had thoughts of killing myself because I felt with them both gone, I no longer had a reason to live. I sought the help of a professional counselor. Even took medication for depression. Forced myself to go back to work. And hugged my dear little dog, Amber, a little harder and a little more often. She remained the one constant in my life. 

I also thought about what taking my life would do to my remaining extended family, friends and co-workers. All had offered and were giving their support. You do not have to be alone or unheard. And no, the world and those you love will NOT be better off without you. Don't go there. Get help. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 800-273-8255. Help is available in English and Spanish. I can assure you the person you speak with will be kind and understanding. They will not rush you to end your call. Put this number somewhere you will have handy, just in case feelings overwhelm you. 

I am with you. I understand what you feel. I know what you face. We are in a group none of us ever wanted or expected to be in. I thought my life was awful when my husband was very ill with no hope of recovering. Then my son was killed. Then I knew what pain was. How hard and even cruel life can be. But, I came thru it. The pain has lessened, but it will always be there to some degree. I think of Chris everyday. Several times a day. I know he is safe and happy. He is with his father and grandparents though I would rather he was with me. It was not to be. I have had to learn to accept that.

Love, Rosemarie

                    "Even though I walk through the darkest valley....you are with me...   Psalm  23:4



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