I live in Orlando. My peaceful morning was interrupted by some tragic news. Maybe yours was too. My mind immediately went to the parents.
Shock and numbness. Denial and unbelief. Dismay. Bargaining and questioning. Anger and rage. Overcome with sadness and loss. These describe some of what the parents of the 50 persons killed at a downtown gay nightclub last night and the parents of Christina Grimmie – pop singer killed Friday night after a concert with Before You Exit, known for her success on the 6th season of The Voice – are experiencing. As well as of the over 50 who were injured.
Orlando is my home. It’s hard to describe how it feels to have this kind of violence happen where you live. Today my husband and I hurt deeply for the families left behind – moms and dads, brothers and sisters, grandparents, cousins, friends – for the hundreds still waiting on pins and needles for any news, any word about their loved one. All the bodies have not yet been identified. What agony.
Why am I writing about this? Because I see a similarity, a comparison to what we, the parents of alcoholics, drug addicts, and self-injurers also suffer.
Because of how our child’s struggle to live with a major mental illness – depression, PTSD, bipolar, anxiety, schizophrenia and eating disorders – impacts us, too.
Because of the way we, whose child has attempted suicide and battles with oppressive, relentless demons of darkness every day – have felt very similar things as these heartbroken parents.
Shock, denial, bargaining, dismay, questioning, anger, rage, sadness and loss are no stranger to us – yet no one understands unless they’ve walked a mile in our shoes. Many of us suffer in silence out of embarrassment and shame.
We know what it’s like not to want to believe something’s wrong. We put on blinders and bury our heads in the sand. There couldn’t be a problem. Not my child. Not our family. It couldn’t happen to us. We raised them right. We’re good parents. They wouldn’t . . .
“My son doesn’t have a drinking problem.” “My daughter can’t be an addict or be hurting herself.” “They’re just feeling a little down. They’ll be okay in a few days, nothing’s really wrong.” “I’m sure they wouldn’t seriously consider taking their life.”
We’re heartbroken, too, only our child’s still alive. But to be honest, it feels like they’re dead, or they’re dying a slow death right before our eyes and we’re powerless to do anything about it. We’ve tried – oh, how we’ve tried – but we can’t save them. Neither can any rescue squad or S.W.A.T. team.
And so we grieve. We grieve over the loss of beautiful hopes and dreams. The shattered, jagged, broken pieces lay scattered at our feet. Our lives have been deeply affected. None of what we’ve been through makes any sense. Our why questions have no answers. We’ll never be the same.
What can I say? All I can do is offer a few words of encouragement that helped me.
4 Comforting thoughts:
- As long as your child is still breathing, there’s still hope. Never give up.
- God is in control, even when things look bad. He’s always working.
- There’s always help – for you and for your child. Reach out and let someone know you’re hurting – a counselor, a friend, clergy, etc. I’ve found help from support groups, counselors, great books, my faith community, and caring friends.
- Real and deep comfort can be found in the Bible. Here’s a verse from the Old Testament that meant a lot to me: “Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed for I am your God; I will help you, I will strengthen you I will uphold you with my victorious right hand (Isaiah 41:10, NIV).”
Would you please join me in praying for all the families of those killed in last night’s mass shooting, the injured and Christina Grimmie’s family? May there be an outpouring of compassion and kindness on us all. The peace of God be with each one in abundance.