Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Grief, Fear, and Protecting the Kids

Last Friday, a horrible thing happened in a nearby town known for being family friendly.  It's the town that  our local school district is in.  It's the town we go to see fireworks, parades,  and where I do most of my shopping.  It's a town that seems so far removed from our city where there are gangs and crime.  Last Friday a group young teenage kids were waiting for their parents outside an apartment after a birthday party.  A group of Sureno gang members drove by and shot these kids, killing a 14 year old girl and sending three more to the hospital.

I tried to keep this from my kids for a number of reasons.  One is that it is so important to keep children that have FASD and past trauma in a safe, stable, non-violent environment.  Studies have shown, and in our own experience we've seen, that the calmer, the safer and the least violent atmosphere helps my kids to cope with life.  Another reason is that they have experienced or seen violence in their past.  So some PTSD behaviors start showing when they are reminded of that time in their lives.  And another reason I tried to keep the shooting from them is that they know that one or more of their brothers are either in gangs or are gang sympathizers.  The brothers wear colors, their cousin has a gang tattoo, and they sign their cell phone messages with gang symbols.  My kids know the dangers of gangs, but we've tried to reassure them that if they stay out of gangs, they will be safer.  We haven't told them why their oldest brother is in jail. I don't want them to see their birth family as evil. And finally, I never know how my kids will react when they hear news.  Little things can bring so much fear.  Like one time I joked with my daughter that she had more money in the bank than I did at the time.  But she took that to mean we were going to lose our house and no amount of reassuring her helped her to calm down for a few days until I was able to show her that we had more money than her once my husband got his paycheck.  Last week my husband ordered a security system for our house.  My son was worried that it would almost attract bad guys to our house instead of being a deterrent.  We never know what will cause fear to rise in their precious hearts.

Because of these things, keeping them from the news of the shooting seemed like a good idea.  That is, until yesterday when they were playing outside with friends.  I had no idea they knew three of the girls who were shot, including the one who died.  The kids heard from friends and relatives of one of the hurt girls about the shooting, not from us.  It was such a shock to them. The whole thing is so sad.  So tragic.  So senseless.

So my kids are grieving.  They are scared.  They are regressing.  When my kids first came to our house they used to play Getting Arrested.  Until this morning, they haven't played it for years.  My son is stringing up our house with "booby traps".  He is showing signs of distress, making lots of noise, spilling things, singing "It's a Hard Knock Life" from Annie.  Poor kid.  My daughter is lying down a lot, and going into her own little world, looking at news about the shooting.  He tends to show things externally and she tends to hold things in.  Both are grieving.

May God show me how to help them through their grief.  May He help them in their sadness.  And also, that He will comfort the families involved and heal the children that are hurt.


  1. I'm so sorry this has hit so close to home, I can't imagine how hard this must be for all of you. I have a book about helping children grieve if you're interested, I can swing by and drop it off.

  2. Thanks, Sue. I'll start reading the book when the kids go to bed tonight.