I heard an interview this week on NPR/Story Corps with Terri Roberts, the mother of a young man who chose to shoot in an Amish school a decade ago, killing five children and injuring 5 children.
Here is a link to the story: NPR/Story Corps/Terri Roberts. Listen to it. The story left me crying as I was driving to work and in awe of the human ability to frogive, and the power of forgiveness.
And it also brought back, fully and painfully, the understanding of what it is like to experience the effect of the negative actions of a family member, whatever the crime or reason. Perpetrators I doubt ever pre-think what affect their actions will have on their families or friends. Thirty four years ago my children’s father made a major and erroneous choice driven by what we now understand was severe depression and bi-polar disorder. The charges at this point in time are irrelevant, except to say he was ultimately convicted and sentenced with probation, lost a career, and was never functionally the same. But when “news” of his actions got out into the little neighborhood we lived in, our children (then seven and eleven) were immediately ostracized by the children they had played with on a daily daily basis for four years. They were interviewed at their school without my knowledge or permission by chld protective services. They were frightened and devastated. With a month left to go before we moved, they were afraid to go back to school. I kept them home. Anxiety and depression had me throwing up every time I ate, I lost twenty pounds in six weeks. I ended up on stress disability leave from work, which my PCP arranged to be in place until we moved.
He moved back to California to begin looking for work and housing for us as we emotionally found it necessary to move. I was left with selling our townhouse, packing, finishing up paperwork for his job, dealing with the trail of messes he created. My children were pulled away from their grandparents who babysat them every schoolday, and with whom they had very close relationships. The odd thing I remember is that as long as I was dealing defensively with the “crap” I was fine – I dealt with the sideways glances from people, with the whispers, with the loss of friends who distanced themselves from us. What I found I couldn’t deal with was anyone being nice to me. I was so raw and jagged and bloodied just under the tough, all business exterior that the slightest display of kindness would immediately dissolve me into a flood of tears. I wanted to warn people, DON’T BE NICE TO ME.
The point of all this is that ….. we – his children and wife – had done nothing wrong. We were no part of his actions. And yet we were equally affected by his actions in different ways. Thirty four years later my adult children display signs of PTSD. My son has since had issues forming friendships due to a fear of friends abandoning him. My daughter has had serious self esteem issues since then, in spite of therapy. They both have anxiety disorders. And unfortunately inherited their father’s bi-polar disorder.
His actions impacted far more lives than he ever imagined or could comprehend. He didn’t mean to, but he did. I have issues with forgiveness towards him – and he has been dead for twenty four years. I’m still dealing with the messes he created. The emotional messes.
I would ask you to consider for a moment beyond the perpetrators to the “other victims” – the other collateral damage – and send them a little love.
Help heal the wounds – all of them.
Namaste – I honor you – and for all that you in your life have to deal with, like it or not.