The past year and a half since my 5-month-old nephew was killed when his house was set on fire has been the most difficult I’ve experienced.
Before this, I’d only grieved loved ones who had died from natural causes. The journey of grief is long and difficult. Time helps a bit, of course, but you never know what will trigger a memory, and that pang of emptiness springs up again.
But with Hunter’s death, there’s the whole other side. The criminal injustice side. When 2 individuals were arrested shortly after the fire, there was a sense of relief. Something would be done. Then, charges were dropped. More charges were dropped. Then we were told that the remaining charges against this one individual would likely result in very little jail time, and a few years of probation. The only voice we had was through our Victim Impact Statements, which we waited to read in court. 3 times, the court hearing was postponed from the original date set in July until we finally read them in court in December. This sentencing hearing did not result in a sentence as the judge wanted more time to deliberate, so the outcome wasn’t decided upon until a few days ago.
You may have seen the headlines:
- Man guilty of arson in fire that killed baby gets time served after 51 days in jail
- Man who set fire that killed baby released after 51 days in jail
I shared my statement to the media on behalf of our family here . I have since received many messages and comments about how unfair it is, and how unjust it is.
So what are we supposed to do when facing this grief and injustice?
I hope that no one has to go through what we’ve gone through – but I also know our world is full of grief and injustice. So I hope that by sharing what I’m doing on my journey might help you too.
Talk about it.
My support system of family and friends have been a lifeline for me. When you’re in the midst of something like this, sometimes it’s hard to see what’s reasonable and what’s not. Not only that, having people who can be present with you, who aren’t trying to make it better, or trying to fix things, just being with you – helps to ease the feeling that you’re in it alone. If you know someone who is grieving, this is a wonderful resource that I felt rang so true for me.
Yes, talking to someone on the outside helps. Not only that, a psychologist that “jives” with you, and understands what you are able to do (let’s face it, therapy is hard), can be extremely helpful. While I did not always have the energy and motivation to practice strategies on my own, having someone walk me through it and show me I could do it helped me to start seeing that I could do it on my own.
This is a huge buzz word these days – and for good reason. I think as a society we have lost sight of what mindfulness really is. It’s something our young infants and toddlers do. Being present in the moment. Not thinking and worrying about the past or the future. But just being, and existing. We laugh when we see videos of young toddlers who cry for 5 seconds and then laugh hysterically 5 seconds later. Really, it serves us well to do the same. Not to say that I push away the feelings of grief or anger or frustration, but that I try to experience them and let them pass. Not hold on to them, dwell on them, or let them fester. It is WAY easier said than done. But I’m finding that the bits of mindfulness and meditation I do inject into my life are helping me think differently.
I am a big fan of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy – it has been really helpful when dealing with anxiety and depression in the past, and it is also extremely helpful now. I have a thought diary I write in (if and when I am motivated to do so), and analyzing my thoughts helps me to let go of them. So when I have the despairing thoughts of “I can’t get through this”, “This will never end”, and “How can I go on”; I work through them.
Practice with your kid.
I have been practicing CBT with my 8-year-old daughter as she has been struggling a lot with anxiety and grief through this ordeal. We have been using the Go Zen curriculum to work through CBT strategies in addition to psychological help, and this combination has helped both of us be more grounded, and more able to deal with difficult situations. I have also found Karen Young’s work at Hey Sigmund to be a wonderful resource. Every night, we do some practice of Go Zen or mindfulness activities, and this has been healing for both of us.
When she was having trouble sleeping, I started doing this dream cloud guided meditation (https://youtu.be/qVz65HfNeEU) with her, and found it to be a wonderful for her AND for me.
IT WILL PASS.
This mantra is simple and true. No matter what we are experiencing, no matter how difficult or hopeless, IT WILL PASS. Someday. Sometime. That’s what I hold onto when all else fails.
What are your strategies for dealing with life’s tough breaks?
By Judith Lam Tang of juicygreenmom