Dealing with the death of my child

n January of 2003, Mary’s firstborn child, Joseph, was senselessly murdered in a carjacking.

Crawling back from the darkness that descended upon her wasn’t easy, but with three other children and a husband still needing her, she found the strength to live in the face of death.

“They needed me there; they didn’t need me in bed, they didn’t need me drugged up, they didn’t need me drunken. I can guarantee you that those are places I wanted to go,” Mary said.

Joseph was 18, and his most prized possession was his car, a ’71 Lincoln Mark-3. He spent all of his money restoring this car, and he finally got down to the last thing that he wanted – a set of rims for his tires.
Mary remembers that when Joseph said wanted the rims for Christmas, she asked, “Son, why do you want rims? People get killed for their rims.” Still, she gave him money to go toward rims, and Joseph eventually bought a set.

Things went well until one night in 2003, when Joseph went out on a date.

The assailants shot Joseph three times, twice in the head and once in the back. It is still unknown today whether Mary’s son put up a struggle or if the attackers, in an act of thoughtless violence, shot him just for the sake of shooting him. They took his car and left him on the ground. Joseph’s blood work came back clean; there were no drugs or alcohol in his system.

“It happened less than eight minutes from the house, and what a nightmare that night was,” Mary said. She credits her faith, family and friends with helping her make it through the hardest times.

“There was a time where my husband didn’t think that I wanted to be with him because I would lay on the couch and watch TV until five in the morning,” she said. “It had nothing to do with him. I just could not lay my head down without starting to cry.”
Mary’s neighbor brought her homemade lunch and dinner, and she says if not for this act of kindness, she wouldn’t have eaten during that time.

“It is interesting because when you eat it brings comfort, but when you are going through a death like that, you don’t want to be comforted. You want to wallow,” said Mary. “I can understand how people can go into a depression so deep that you can not get out of it. If I didn’t have to be there for my family and my friends, I would have gone there.”
Mary belonged to a few support groups to help her get through, but said it still felt like a nightmare at times, until finally the killers were brought to justice.

“It was such an emotional relief that they were going to catch them,” she said. “In some of the organizations that I have been involved with, there are people who never get to that point of finding the people who murdered their loved ones.”

The support group showed Mary that as bad as things were for her, there were many others who had it worse. She met some parents who had lost more than one child, or who’d lost their child before they even had a fair shot at life. Being around others helped her feel supported and understood and gave her a perspective that turned her grief into gratitude.

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Interactive Hope
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A Shoulder to Lean on
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Trigger Happy
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Good Grief… the right way to let go of a loved one

Allison came home from school one day to find she was locked out of the house. Her father’s car was gone and nobody was there to let her in. When her mom came home, they walked into the house to find her father shot to death, lying on the living room floor.

Within hours Allison’s brother retaliated by murdering the two men who had killed her father and was arrested.

“At first I didn’t realize the magnitude of the situation,” she said. “I didn’t realize he was dead or who had committed the murder or anything like that. Then the more the pieces fell into place about the murder the more I fell out of place.”

The death of her father was just the beginning. In the next four years, her brother would die in prison and her boyfriend would die in a car accident. While she was with him.

Makes you feel like your problems are silly, doesn’t it?

To sit in a room with Allison, you’d never guess that she’d have so many legitimate excuses for being woefully depressed. You couldn’t begin to wrap your mind around the amount of death that has touched her heart in just 23 years on this planet. You would actually think, wow, what a nice, cheerful woman.

That’s because Allison radiates positivity.

“At some point, you can either choose to say, ‘Life sucks’ or ‘I’m cursed’ or you can say, ‘These are the cards I was dealt and I can decided to be happy or sad,'” Allison said with a smile. “I decided to be happy. I decided to put in positive energy instead of negative.”

Coping with death is never easy, but Allison’s been through it enough to find a formula that works for her. Call it a recipe for good grief, a process that gets you through the darkest moments life puts in your lap until you are able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Keep yourself busy.

When Allison’s dad died, she turned to art as her therapy. She learned to throw pottery and for hours after school she would be in the art room throwing and creating, “I tried to keep my mind off of his death and concentrate on something else.”

Try to maintain some normalcy.

“As hard as it was to get up and bathe every day, eat and talk to people, I continued to maintain a routine of going to work and hanging out with my friends in order to feel normal,” Allison said.

Let yourself grieve.

The magnitude of the grief Allison felt was different for each of the men she lost in her life. She wasn’t able to focus on school and could barely pull herself out of bed. Those first few days were crippling, but then she got busy and grew into her grief.

“By all means, you’ve got to sit with it and deal with it, but only when you’re ready,” she said. “Otherwise, you’ll fall apart, you’ll break apart.”

Focus on the positive.

“Find the best in it, and learn from it,” said Allison.

The passing of her dad made the relationship with her mom better. It also made her realize just how strong she was and that she had the capability to do anything she wanted to do.

At first glance it doesn’t seem like anything good can come out of having your father murdered, but Allison looked for the positive and was grateful for the relationships that came out of his death.

“My father was from Germany and after his death, I went to visit family that still lived there,” she said. “I was also able to get to know a brother I hadn’t met before, a son from my dad’s first marriage, and none of that would have happened if he hadn’t died.”

The way Allison sees it is, “I can take what has happened in the tragedy and I can either be pitiful and be pitied or I can have faith in myself and in the universe and in God, which is what I have tried to do.”

She tells herself that the universe will only deal her as much as she can handle.

“Every day you have to find the sunshine,” said Allison. “Negative feelings come much easier than the positive, but I don’t make them a habit. I work hard to look for the positive because the negative unfortunately creates itself. Every day you have to find the sunshine and the smile. You have to create it.”

If you’re struggling with grief, think about joining a support group, either online or in your community. GriefNet is a web-based network of support groups to help people with all sorts of loss.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Support System
GriefNet offers simple access to over 50 e-mail support groups to aid people dealing with many different types of loss.

A Shoulder to Lean On
Psychologist and grief expert Alexandra Kennedy helps people cope with the loss of a loved one with her books, tapes and seminars.

Trigger Happy
The Mayo Clinic’s resource/informational sheet about what triggers grief and the best way to face those triggers.

Young and Restless
As bewildering as death is for adults, it’s even worse for children and teens, whose life concepts aren’t as secure. Learn how to help the young grieve and cope with loss at DirectGov.