Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tears and Tragedy: A Call to Action

I have been riding on the waves of emotion recently.  For the last week, I've tried to hold it together without anyone knowing what was going on.  A typical Taurus, I am.  Earlier this week, when the baby panda at the National Zoo was pronounced dead, my tears finally began to flow effortlessly.  I was heartbroken when I read how the baby panda's mother called out in distress.  I felt a sense of overflowing grief for this panda's mother.  I know the unbearable loss of losing a child.  On Sept 17, 2000, I experienced grief that I never knew existed.  My baby boy died in utero at 27 weeks.  My heart is still healing. 

This past week, I have been struggling.  I have been mopey, frazzled, unproductive, grumpy, no desire to workout or run, lounging in my PJ's, trying my best to engage in conversation, to be social, to interact with my family, friends and co-workers but I believe that I have miserably failed.

And then this morning I read the horrific headline "Family of Four Found Dead in Herndon Home."

The pit of my stomach ached and I felt like I wanted to throw up.  This happened in my very own community.  This family attended the same church as I attend.  I felt like I already knew the story before I read it.  The details are being investigated but a homicide detective is on the case. 

All day I kept thinking about how I have read hundreds of stories like these in recent years.  And every time I ask myself, how can we IGNORE this public health epidemic of families being wiped out by their very own??  When are WE, as a society, going to say "Enough is Enough" and start the difficult conversation that so desperately needs to begin?

Tonight, while sitting in a booth at the Silver Diner with my family, a song started to play on the jukebox that I haven't heard in awhile.  It was John Lennon's "Imagine."  Suddenly, without warning, my tears began to gently flow.  I think it was this verse that got the waterworks going:

I don't have the answers. But I do know a family of four in our community is no longer with us.  Those that are left behind and knew this family are all wondering what went wrong?  How did this happen to our church family?  It is natural to think about what we could have done differently?  We wonder if this family would still be alive, if only we had asked the right questions?  The questions that could have, should have, or the best case scenario, would have, lead this family to the help that they so desperately needed, if this is truly the case of family murder/suicide.

There are so many unknowns and it is difficult to comprehend the horror of the situation.  I cannot stop thinking about the innocent lives lost and their dreams that will never unfold.  Two children who brought love and hope into this world, and now, are forever gone. I wonder about their Mom and her story?  Is there someone in the community that she spoke with that might be able to give some insight on what happened?  No final details are emerging yet but in my mind, I have to wonder if her life and her children's lives are now a statistic of U.S. family homicides? 

Did you know that almost one-third of female homicide victims that are reported in police records are killed by an intimate partner?  Source: NCADV Public Policy Office
I can't help but wonder how their extended family and our Floris church community will cope in the days ahead and how the children's friends will comprehend this news?  This tragedy will introduce a whole new meaning of grief and trauma into their world.  I will keep my Floris friends in my prayers as we grieve together.

Tonight, on 9/25/2012, Pastor Tom posted this message on the Floris UMC website:

"It is our desire at Floris to minister to the needs of our community. We will be holding a Candlelight Vigil at Floris tomorrow, Wednesday, September 26 at 7:30 p.m. Please invite the community and post this information where others can see it. Our desire is to provide a place where our members, friends, and community can gather to express their grief, pray, and stand in the light of God's love and hope together. I will share more information regarding this service tomorrow."

During this Candlelight Vigil at Floris, I will be praying for the difficult conversations to begin amongst us.  We must not be afraid to ask for help.  We must be extra observant and not be afraid of being too intrusive to our friends and family who appear to be struggling.  If something is not right, follow with your heart and offer a sympathetic ear and a helping hand while putting a plan in motion, whether that is counseling or helping someone to find a temporary safe place.  Your kind word or offer of help may save a life.

For more information or to get help, please call:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK

There are published reports that the husband/father of this family had previously attempted suicide.  This is one of the warning signs that calls for an immediate intervention.

"Recognize the serious signs." Source:

Depressed people do sometimes commit suicide when they experience feelings of hopelessness.  It is important to listen carefully if your spouse talks about suicide and to take it seriously, especially where there is evidence that they have a plan and/or they have attempted suicide before. Be aware of the following warning signs:

  • Threats/talk of suicide
  • Statements implying they don't care anymore or won't be around for future events
  • Give away their stuff; Discuss making a will or funeral arrangements
  • Purchase of a gun or other weapons without a known reason
  • After a period of depression, your spouse experiences a sudden, unexplained cheerfulness mood or is calm
  • It is important to get help right away, if you observe any of this behavior!  To get advice on what action to take, call a health care professional, mental health clinic or the suicide hotline. Call the police in case of an emergency!  Try your best to intervene by talking, and even asking direct questions about their suicidal thoughts. Direct questions are vital, as they can give you an indication of the time you have to intervene and the intensity of their emotions.   Also discuss negotiating a deal with them to stay alive for a set period of time, buying time for the really negative period to dissipate.

We will pray for Peace for all mankind, rely on our Faith to keep us strong, believe in Love to make the world go around, and have continued Hope for effective communication and intervention in our communities so that there are no more innocent victims.  For it is Peace, Faith, Love, and Hope, that will carry us through our darkest hours. God's light will shine through.