For over three years, I have worked as a Clinical Therapist at a health clinic located in an inner-city located in New Jersey. The trauma there is complex, layered and, often generational. In my tenure, I have had the difficult task of treating individuals who have lost loved ones from horrific acts of violence. No amount of training can adequately prepare a clinician to assist one who is dealing with grief involving traumatic death. For this entry, I will be addressing homicide particularly. In the Bible, there is a passage that states, “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” Romans 8:28. The truth of this passage reverberated in my spirit, as I had no idea I was being "prepared" for what was on the horizon. I have had the pleasure of helping the brokenhearted, smile, breathe, sleep and, begin to move forward in the new normal with hope. But never did I imagine my family and I would be made to sit in such a seat.
On September 25th of this year, my 15-year-old niece was violently killed by gun violence. The days since cannot be adequately conveyed in words. In this entry, using my experience both as a therapist and now as one who personally grieves such loss; I offer some helpful tips for the acute hours of such a tragedy.
Be still – Get to a safe, quiet place to take in what has happened. Many thoughts and emotions are going through your mind. It is likely your phone is flooding with calls; stop and breathe. It is vitally important that space be allowed to fully take in what has happened.
Guard your heart – Stay off social media, refrain from looking at the news, or film clips of the incident. With all these mediums, trauma porn is perpetuated! You will not be alright. You already are NOT alright, guard whatever sanity that remains within you.
Watch your crowd – Be extremely careful who you speak with and allow around you. While some have a genuine desire to be of comfort, many are fishing for information or are there to monitor your brokenness. In murder cases, it is not uncommon for people to hang around trying to determine how much information is known.
Delegate tasks – It is important to identify a point person or people who can handle any immediate business like talking to the media, organizing meals, etc. Ask yourself, “Of those around me, who can I trust to execute what needs to be done at this moment? Who can handle affairs logistically and administratively with a level head? You will not have the bandwidth to do it yourself.
Rest – As best as you can, you must rest! This includes eating as well. It is important to maintain your strength. The body cannot function without rest or food.
After the funeral, there will be additional steps needing attention, like therapy, but in the acute hours of the tragedy, these are my tips. For those reading, I sincerely pray your family will never need these tips, just as I pray, they are helpful for those who unfortunately find themselves in this space.
May Your Hope Be Full,