#1 Question People Ask
”How are you dealing with your anger?” This is the number one question people have asked me over the fourteen years since my son, Christopher, was murdered. Friends, family, other victims and inmates, have all wondered about this.
This question always makes me pause. Then after a few moments, I inevitably answer, “I don’t do anger.” For me anger is toxic. I have seen people fight and scream at each other. Whenever this happened, I was frightened. At some point in my life, I made a decision that I would not relate to any person in this way….ever.
Mark Taylor, in an angry state, shot my son, Christopher, with a gun. The violence and anger involved in my son’s death is totally NOT understandable to me. I’ve done a lot of thinking about it and I am still baffled about how any person can get angry enough to kill someone.
Everyone who has been through a traumatic death goes through a healing process. Some come through enjoying the gifts of life again, and others are always aware of the gift that was taken.
I know other people who have suffered the tragedy of losing a child, who were initially angry but who worked through their anger in order to create a better quality of life for themselves. I have encountered others who realize they’re angry, and want to work through it, but don’t know how. This is where working with a victim advocate helps. An advocate can help by suggesting grief groups or one-on-one counseling. Many times, they have been through a similar experience and can serve as a guide through the healing process. It can be very helpful to have your feelings validated by another. It can also give you hope. Here is a person who also experienced something like what I am going through and they are walking and talking without crying every couple of minutes. And, Time is a wonderful gentle healer itself.
My most important advice is: Don’t let “the event” eat you alive. If you do, you are giving your perpetrator so much more power than he or she or it deserves. A friend who is a criminal attorney said to me when he heard the news ‘Radha, don’t let this man take any more from you. He has taken more than he was ever entitled to. Don’t move, don’t not go on vacation – LIVE – don’t let this man take more from your life and the life of your family”.
After Chris was murdered, I realized quickly that I needed to find comfort with this murder and not only live, but thrive. I feel the need to help others, to be a positive person in my life with family, friends and strangers. I believe that even if you just buy a newspaper from someone, the interaction should be respectful and kind. You never know who is going to cross your path in life or whom you are going to meet.
Of course, I understand that anger may well be a part of many people’s reaction to the loss of a child, whether the cause of death be a natural disaster, an accident, a health issue, or as in my case, a crime. When it came time for the trial, because of the injustice of his act, the whole family wanted Mark Taylor to get the maximum sentence allowed by law. There is a range of years the judge is allowed to sentence for each charge and we felt the perpetrator deserved to be punished fully.
And I do think anger can be a positive tool to fuel movement towards a better something. My feelings of how Christopher’s life was wasted by a man with a gun fueled me to work for gun control. If I could save one parent from losing a child,” I would feel better.
But anger that is not directed toward anything positive is not only useless; it’s toxic for everybody who comes into contact with it. Being out of control angry does not have any positive recourse. In my work with inmates, the lack of control of anger is the main cause for the crime they committed. In many cases their anger is fueled by fear or grief. But since they have no means of understanding or resolving the deep causes of their fear or grief, they act from their anger.
I have experienced the ways people communicate and feel anger. And the anger is not always directed only at the cause of their loved one’s death. In addition to railing “This isn’t fair!” “How come me?” they lash out at others: “How dare you be happy and, live your lives without experiencing suffering?” ”How can you throw a party for your child when mine is not here to have a birthday party?” “Your child’s going to have babies, I’ll never have grandchildren.”
We need to be here full and present for the living. How can you NOT go to your grandson’s birthday party and NOT be happy for him? How can you NOT be happy when your niece is getting married? How can you NOT be happy for the other children, friends and family in you life?
I remind the people I work with that the people on the street DO NOT know you are suffering. They are not mind readers, and grief does not make you ugly or put a label on your forehead for others to see.
I also REALLY believe that my son, Christopher, and all the others who have passed, do not want us to be miserable for the rest of our lives here. I think we honor those who have passed by living the best life possible for ourselves.