Itís the last subdivision before miles of uninhabited desert cross the mountains into California. They live 75 miles from the heart of Phoenix to avoid urban living. They know their neighbors. They keep up their homes and yards. Itís a safe place. One lot was turned into a small park. Kids played there daily, right near home, visible from many doorways and driveways.
But that day, no one saw the stranger. No one saw him swing a bat, repeatedly striking two young boys. No one saw him walk away.
That day, someone else came to enjoy the park, and found the young cousins.
One of the homes had outside cameras, which caught the whole thing on tape. The attacker was soon caught. The children died.
The neighbors, the City, suffered shock, horror, sadness. Then came the anger.
They were angry with the mental health facility that had lost track of the assailant. They were angry that this had happened in their own back yard. Angry that their lifestyle was threatened.
But they didnít express it towards the alleged killer, or the police.
They expressed anger toward the parents of the children.
Other parents let their kids go to the park alone. All the time. But the grieving parents were judged to be remiss, allowing this nightmare to happen.
Inevitably, the park turned into a memorial site. Flowers, teddy bears, candles and balloons covered the area around swings and slides. Some children were kept away. Others were brought there, to learn a lesson. But they werenít allowed on the equipment. The park was different now.
There were many people in the park when the grieving mothers came in and collected the cards from the memorial site. No one said a word to them.
And who could find words? What can be said in the midst of such trauma? It wouldnít just be the neighbors, either. Family and dear friends would avoid the two young mothers after this. Their own discomfort, there own fears, would paralyze them.
Now, with diminished support, they had much more than trauma recovery and debilitating grief to contend with. They had repeated re-telling and questions from law enforcement. Local press camped out in the neighborhood. There will be hearings and trials. There will be few answers.
In the meantime, the family has a crisis of faith. They question their values, their choices, their lifestyle, their actions, their God. They question the very meaning of life. Some will debate the usefulness of continuing to live at all.
Their feelings will be so intense at times it will be frightening. Their fears might develop to the point that they no longer function well. Physical ailments will start to surface, reflecting their emotional and spiritual turmoil.
They might move away, hoping to escape the memories, the stigma. It wonít help. Their lives will now be divided into two categories: before the murders, and after. They might think that punishing the perpetrator will help. Some days they think they could, and would like to, do the punishing. They will surely begin to punish themselves. No matter what happens to the murderer, it wonít be enough. It wonít take away the pain, or the memory. The grief process may be delayed until the trial is over, which is very dangerous.
Each family member will be grieving, in their own way, on their own timetable. Surrounded by other mourners, there is nowhere to turn. Chaos reigns. Stress goes through the roof. Jobs will be jeopardized. Sleep will be elusive. Self care is abandoned. Joy is lost, and resentment builds for those able to go on with their lives as though nothing has happened.
Every sound of a bat will make them flinch, and remember. The sight of other families with children will open wounds. Motherís Day, Fatherís Day, Christmas, Halloween, the boysí birthdays Ė all occasions for tremendous pain. The worst, of course, will be the first few anniversaries of their deaths.
For those affected by violent death, time will not be the healer.
There are a few crucial things the family must do after such a horrible experience, and the sooner, the better. Oh, they will continue to breathe and move about without doing them. Theyíll be alive, but they wonít be living. They donít want to give the killer the power to kill them, too. They must live well to honor the deceased, to be the people their loved ones would want them to be. To literally save their lives, they must
GET PROFESSIONAL HELP
FIND THE GROUP THAT HAS HAD THE SAME EXPERIENCE
FIND A GOOD WAY TO CHANNEL NEGATIVE ENERGY
FOCUS ON THE GOOD MEMORIES.
INTERACT WITH OTHERS
Grief is not the only issue here. This family will also suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD). Physical ailments will compound. This is the epitome of Complicated Grief, recognized by the Medical Community as a debilitating malady, requiring specific, long term treatments.
There is hope. There is healing. There is life after a loss. It will take time and a lot of hard work. Worth it! Check out the Violent Death Bereavement Society, Compassionate Friends, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, and HospiceCare of Colorado.
These young cousins attended the same school. Weeks after their murders, a classmate was killed in an accident. A hundred grade school kids learning life lessons no child should have to learn. A hundred families grieving. Since youíve read this far, maybe you can say a prayer for all the people mentioned in this article. It is the most powerful thing any of us can do for any of them.