In this week’s “Lynn’s Spin” I’ve chosen a topic that is not easy to read or imagine. It’s not something we like to think or talk about or consider happening to us. With the holidays being so close and all, I hesitated. But after giving it some thought, addressing the subject seems even more apropos because it is the holidays.
This time of year is supposed to be about cherishing family and friends, sharing joy with colleagues and co-workers. For Christians, it’s about celebrating Christ’s birth and His love. For some it’s about starting a New Year fresh with renewed hope and inspiration.
All the things we cherish – particularly at this time of year – are crushed when the types of violent acts which occurred in Connecticut last week take place. I don’t know about you, but I am not feeling especially cheery this week thinking of the families shattered, and I will tell you why from the perspective of someone who has lived through the nightmare of senseless violence.
First, you never forget the moment you learn that your loved one has been killed. Ever. In that moment, all you’ve ever known is ripped out from under you and your life is never the same. Ever.
I’ll never, ever, get over witnessing my parents helpless anguish at losing their only son, my only sibling.
I’ll never forget my brother’s funeral, with the bagpiper playing “Amazing Grace” as his casket was lowered in to the ground. Or how it felt to stand before the judge who sentenced my brother’s killer, to give a statement and try to adequately explain the complete and utter sorrow I had never in my life felt.
Yes, time does heal some wounds, dulls the pain, life marches on, but when people ask, my reply has always been the same; no you never get over it. Ever.
Like many impacted by violence, I have struggled with the effects of post traumatic stress disorder, which I was diagnosed with three long years after my brother was killed. I’ve worked hard over the years to overcome it and thankfully learned to manage its impact on my life, but it is always an under-lying soft spot of which I am aware. It simply has become part of who I am.
For years after my brother’s death, I had my television disconnected. All of the violence being reported on the news and in the TV shows and movies was overwhelming. Every time a murder scene would play on screen, I would envision my brother, lying under a coroner’s sheet mortally wounded with police and investigators trying to piece together what happened and who had committed the crime. In hindsight it was one of the smartest things I did to protect myself.
What audiences don’t see behind gratuitous violence used as entertainment or that plays out real time on the news, what is not shown, is the reality faced by the many people left behind, and the serious impact losing a loved one to violence has on them all. So much personal destruction takes place that the true toll of violent crime will probably never be calculated.
One aspect of the aftermath of our terrible experience that I wish I had spent far less of my time trying to figure out was why a total stranger had, in an instant, killed my brother and destroyed our family for no reason. Because of the unexpected and insurmountable grief thrust upon us, our lives were completely turned upside down. “Normal” as I had known it ceased to exist, and just getting through one day at a time often felt nearly impossible. I finally decided I was giving the murderer too much power over my life. Trying to figure out why these things happen is an utterly useless endeavor. The fact is that senseless violence will never make any sense.
I don’t feign to be unique in my feelings about what happened in Connecticut. Everyone I talk with is utterly disgusted and demoralized by it. I guess I just needed to express my feelings about how sad it all is. There is a long and arduous road ahead for all those families. It’s the road of the ever-after of violence.
I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
Columnist Lynn Selich can be reached at [email protected]