Tragedy- it makes people uncomfortable, no one wants to feel sad. After my sister was murdered, I think those in our community, in our church, and even in our family avoided us because they didn’t want to be sad. I also think we were avoided because they didn’t want to feel guilt. I understood, all too well, not wanting to feel guilt. No one wants to feel guilt.
We were like the plague and by avoiding us they would ALSO avoid the plague of sadness and guilt. I don’t think this was a conscious decision. It is something humans do, maybe a defense mechanism. I know for myself, at least, I disconnected myself with my family not because I was consciously trying to avoid guilt or sadness- as it already seemed like it consumed me. Rather, I avoided my family because my body knew being disconnected felt easier- most likely, unconsciously, trying to avoid additional feelings of guilt and sadness.
It must of been easier for them as well because they didn’t contact me. I didn’t contact them.
What kind of guilt could a community, family or church have? I think… Guilt they should of done more for Christina. Guilt they should of showed kindness to the “troubled” teen. Guilt for gossiping rather than being a friend. Guilt for treating her so poorly. Guilt for judging rather than helping. Guilt for rolling their eyes. Guilt for not including her.
To this day, when I share something about Christina on social media, the ones I suspect may have some guilt will avoid posts about her, avoid comments, avoid sharing, and will avoid advocating for her.
This past year, we had Joseph Amador’s parole hearing- I requested letters to be written to the parole board requesting the denial of parole. A majority of the letters written were from my friends in New York and Florida. FROM people who barely knew Christina. Only a handful were from family, none from the community (that I knew of) and none from Christina’s church family.
No one. Why?
I didn’t understand. It was only a letter I was asking for. Only a letter which requested denial of parole for a man that murdered someone YOU knew. YOUR niece, YOUR friend, YOUR sunday school student, YOUR classmate, YOUR neighbor, YOUR student, YOUR church member, YOUR cousin, YOUR youth group friend. MY sister!
It can be infuriating because though I understand guilt – I don’t understand how YOU continue to make wrong choices. At some point, what you did unconsciously you must recognize, knowing you are avoiding something you shouldn’t for your own comfort.
This is another part of tragedy – abandonment.
I know it is common, for those who have murdered loved ones, because I have watched (I often watch but don’t participate) others discuss it in grief support groups. They discuss how no one wants to be near you, how friends disappear, how no one wants to make eye contact with you. Why? Why! These people are ALL hurting the same way. Feeling the abandonment from their family and friends. Feeling abandonment from their church. Feeling pain daily. Yet, it is well known amongst these groups that they are – alone.
The funeral doesn’t prepare you for abandonment because the opposite happens at the funeral. Everyone wants to know the victim, everyone wants the attention the sadness brings… and everyone is there.
Everyone: Our family, church family, friends, teachers, classmates, co-workers, neighbors.
Everyone: Even the girl from church who was never really Christina’s friend, classmates who didn’t like her, the boy who turned her down, the church lady who was always annoyed with her, the pastor who didn’t listen to her, the family members who blamed everything on her, the teacher who didn’t try a little harder with her.
Everyone was there but not everyone was there for Christina. Not everyone was there for Christina’s grieving family. Many were there for themselves. Seeking to provide or receive social comfort so they could feel better about how they treated Christina. They fooled everyone, including themselves.
I know this because 15 years later none of them stood with me when I requested Amador’s denial of parole.
Abandonment AND loneliness- a repercussion of when your loved one is murdered, something else that should be added to the murderer’s list of charges.
It is hard not to be angry. It is hard to not remember or to see… those who were THERE.
Family-who traveled across state lines as soon as they heard our lives were shattered.
Friends- like Jay who helped me through the most difficult days, months, and years of my life.
Roommates and Co-workers-who took flights or drove hours just to be with me, to hold me if ONLY for a few hours.
Church family- who cleaned our home, fed us, and prayed for us.
Cousins- who spoke to the media for us, wept with us, and carried us when grief brought us to our knees.
Aunts and Uncles- who prayed over us or took turns staying with my mom from morning till night, abandoning their own family for the family member in need.
Community, family and friends- who donated money to help relieve the financial burden.
Neighbors- who played with and fed Christina’s baby as we wept and wept again.
I wasn’t alone. We weren’t alone. God, help me remember that.
To the reader: The above entry was pulled from my journal but this excerpt is written in real time. At the beginning of my entry you can see anger had blinded me to those who helped my family through this difficult time. It is evident, I was angry and I still get angry. However, as I was writing – I remembered those who were there. Those who helped carry us, those who gave their own money and time, those who wept with us.
I ended the entry saying “I wasn’t alone” but I want to add: I wasn’t alone because Jesus was there- His perfect love, shining through those who sacrificed to be there for my family. You are never alone in your pain, sorrow, heartache – Jesus is there with you.
The song below “There Was Jesus” helps me remember that. Please listen and I hope you find healing.
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6