I am a bereaved parent. Both parties had bereaved parents speak at their conventions. Both parties used that grief and anger against the other side. Neither party is innocent of exploiting these families for possible political gain. It caused me physical pain to feel the raw outpouring of their anguish. When we hear another’s story of loss, we feel ours all over again. Always. Yes, these parents chose to accept the invitation to speak. We have strong feelings about protecting the memory of our child. We try to turn the energy of our anger and pain to something positive – usually toward bringing justice to our loved one or exposing our broken hearts to prevent another family from suffering the same anguish. It is an extremely difficult thing to talk about your loss to strangers, even if you are speaking to a group of others who have experienced a similar loss. I know. I have done so. Please stop attacking these vulnerable people as though they were just another act on the political stage. To know that your beloved child suffered a violent death at the hands of another human being tears at your soul – not for days or months, but for as long as you live. We are members of a terrible club that you would never chose to belong to. Leave it be. Please.
II’m Happy Devon Day! He was my heart, my grandson, my golden boy, the light of my life. Never have I ever known a child with so much compassion and empathy for other people! So, in Devon’s honor, go out and do something kind for someone else (even if they don’t deserve it.). Shine a little more light in the world. Devon Michael Williams, 7/26/00-8/8/07. Monkey!
You can’t just shove unpleasant things in a dusty drawer and forget about them. They are still there, getting uglier and stronger. Pain has to be faced head on. It just does. I learned this as I had to come to grips with the murders of my boys. I kept having a nightmare about a giant, ugly ogre that followed me everywhere. I couldn’t get away from this silent hulk, no matter what I did. Pain is like that. Grief is like that. I had to look at it and name it. I had to acknowledge it.
It’s the same with all big issues. If something is causing someone pain, it is important to look it in the eye, not hide from it and pretend it doesn’t exist. Cancer exists, child abuse exists, racism exists, cruelty exists, murder exists. It’s time to take these things out of the shadows and see them in all their ugliness.
#Blacklivesmatter is like that, too. They are taking something ugly and bringing it into the light. Look at it. Face it. This issue is causing pain and grief. It isn’t taking value away from any other lives, white, blue, or polka dotted. It isn’t trying to make one grief greater than another. Grief isn’t a contest, for the love of God! Look at the ogre, before it runs amok! Don’t pretend it isn’t there, just because it isn’t your personal pain. If someone else feels it, it’s real. Monkey!
I love my daughter very much and we are very close. I am proud of what she has accomplished and the caring woman she has become. She is everything to me.
So, why do I write about the boys all the time? Why don’t I write about Mala? People often ask me this. They worry that I am so focused on Neal and Devon and Ian, that I ignore my surviving child standing right beside me. Not true.
I write about the boys because they are still a part of my life, and I love and miss them. I feel that it is important, not just for myself, but for the sake of all bereaved parents, to use this platform to help others to understand this. We will always love our children. We will always grieve for the things we cannot share with them, and yearn to have just one more moment. Talking about them doesn’t mean that we aren’t in a healthy place. Do you talk about your children? Same thing. Same love. Often we have to turn to grief groups or write what we are feeling, because others are uncomfortable, and try to make us feel that we are in the wrong. It’s not wrong to love and miss someone who is gone. It’s healthy and helpful to talk about them.
The greatest gift you can give to a bereaved parent is to let them know that you still remember their child, too. It can feel very lonely. Sometimes you feel as though no one else ever thinks about the life that is lost. That’s kind of a second bereavement.
The worst thing you can do is tell someone to move on or let go. That’s very unkind, and you aren’t helping them. You are pushing them away and devaluing what they have lost. They will feel like they can no longer count on you to be part of their support system. They withdraw. I read a post at a grief site this week in which a mother cried, “Why won’t anyone say her name? Laura, Laura, Laura. I just want to hear someone say her name!”
There is another very good reason why I write about the boys, but don’t write about Mala – she doesn’t like it. It embarrasses her. She has asked me not to do it, and so I don’t. I can say anything I like about Neal or Devon or Ian, and they never raise any objections. Monkey!
I miss my son. I miss Neal. Neal always knew exactly what to say to make me feel better. And what not to say. He never made me feel that my worries and concerns were stupid, or that I was overreacting or being silly. He was never dismissive or condescending or impatient. True empathy is a rare gift. I miss that. Devon had it, too. To understand what someone is feeling as well as why they feel it, and to know exactly what to do or say to take the edge off of the distress – not an easy gift to have, but one we need more of in this world. Monkey.
I wish people would stop saying things like, “But, he was so quiet,” and “How could the family not know?” Evil people hide their faces behind a mask. They don’t want to let you see the things they are planning. They are good at it. And, if you don’t think such thoughts, it doesn’t occur to you that someone you know and love does. Yes, I can believe the family of the San Bernardino killers are as shocked and devastated as we all are. No one who knew my boys’ murderer had any thought that she could do such a thing. I didn’t. Her family and friends didn’t. People who commit premeditated murder don’t want to be stopped or caught. Worry and wonder about something else, please. This brings back all the awful things people have said to me, personally. I don’t need any extra triggers at this time of year!