October started in such a horrific way for our country… either we went to sleep on Sunday night October 1st hearing of the horrendous shootings in Las Vegas or we woke up Monday morning to the news. When you think back to when you heard the news of what was happening then what were your thoughts and feelings? How did you react?
We listened in horror as the counts continued to grow and grow. Any who took the time to truly reflect on what was occurring shook in horror and disbelief. I sure did. A massacre of 58 people. 58 lives lost. I have heard now possibly 59. Families lost children, parents, siblings, grandchildren… friends have lost friends. The 58 killed included 36 women and 22 men ranging in the ages from 20-67. Hundreds of people were physically injured. Thousands of people have been emotionally injured and are suffering trauma.
The quest for an answer haunts everyone. We search for the answer to the unanswerable question, “Why?” What would bring a man to desire to inflict the most possible loss of life and injury that he was capable of? The authorities continue to try to establish a motive. They are going to put billboards in Las Vegas with the message, “If you know something, say something” Will we ever be able to find an answer to the why question. What would bring one man to carry out the most heinous acts imaginable. My guess is no. How could we comprehend the why of this or to make sense of it? However, I understand why that question is such an integral part of the grieving process.
This past week I was able to spend time talking with a few people in my life that live in the area whose lives were traumatically affected by the massacre. One lady that I know is close family friends with a family who had a 24 year old daughter who was there and was killed. Another lady that I know son’s friend was killed and his coach was killed during the shootings. One man that I know has a son and a daughter who were both there. His son left to study right before the shooting began. His daughter was there during the shooting and while physically unharmed has suffered unimaginable psychological trauma. A woman standing next to her was shot in the face. She had to race for her life to find safety which she did; however, the emotional scars are deeper than we can even began to understand.
Most of us listen to the news and feel horrified. Others listen and then continue on with their lives as normal as they feel unaffected. Others are being affected by vowing not to attend outdoor music concerts or crowded outside events. One lady that I was speaking to who lives in the area was hearing a noise coming from an air conditioning unit and suddenly became terrified that she was hearing shots from somewhere. All of these effects will need to be heard, understood, prayed for, and provided with lots of comfort and help. The hundreds of people that were shot and have been physically injured not only have to battle their physical injuries, but also all of the emotional damage. There is much brokenness, heartbreak, and devastation that has come and will continue to traumatize many from this massacre.
Grief is a process and a journey. Those impacted by this massacre will need lots of time to grieve and to deal with all of the effects of this tragedy. All those affected will handle it in different ways. I hope that we will be there to journey with them. May they know that they are not alone on this journey.
My husband died in his work related accident in August 2011 leaving behind myself, and our three children ages 16, 14, and 11. 22 months later, my only 18 year old son was killed instantly in a car accident. Since that time, my two daughters and I have had many obstacles, effects, and triggers to overcome and to heal from. My heart feels so broken from all of our grief. After talking with just a few people that were affected by this massacre then my heart just hurts for and with them. I have tears pouring down my face as I reflect on the conversations from this past week. While thinking of the pain and fear that I heard from just a few that have been affected, then my heart grieves for the countless more who are impacted. As always my hope and prayer remains the same: that they will be able to be real in their grief and pain, that they will be able to travel at their own pace on their grief journey, and that they will be surrounded in comfort, understanding, and love. I hope that they will find those that they can be real with and that there will be those that will journey with them. I hope that they find those who will say and show with their actions: I am here. I acknowledge your pain.
So many lives. So much pain. Why? Everyone wants to know why. How can we possibly understand why one man would traumatize so many lives. Why is such a normal question in tragedy and grief. I have struggled with the why question and always want people to feel comfortable exploring it with me as they work through their own grief and pain. The heartbreaking reality that continues is that often we cannot find the answer to that question no matter how desperately our hearts search. We will pray for and work together on physical and emotional healing. Prayerfully, we can still find peace that passes understanding in our future as horrors like this are beyond our understanding.
While we grieve this tragedy, we simultaneously celebrate and honor all of the heroes that saved so many lives on that horrible night. We have heard of people who were acting as human shields to those they did not know. We have heard of strangers jumping into harms way and protecting another person and saying “I got you.” People were laying on top of their loved ones giving their own lives to save their loved one’s life. People were transporting people that they had never met to hospitals. We have heard of those like the off-duty nurse from Orange County California who ran back into the danger to help rescue those who had suffered gunshot wounds. True heroes stepped up to help any who were injured or in shock.
Citizens, doctors, cops, paramedics, and nurses were all communicating and working together. Our First Responders as always were amazing. The speed, wisdom, and absolute courage of our First Responders always amazes me. They risk their lives and their own safety to save and protect as many human lives as they are able. May we continue to learn from their courageous examples and honor them in any way that we can for the countless ways that they protect and help our country and each of us. Thank you First Responders.
On August 29th, not even two months ago, I blogged on the devastation in Houston. My thoughts were with all of those who were suffering, and I was also reflecting and assessing myself. I continue to ask myself, “Who do I want to be in the midst of trauma and tragedy?” I just reread what I wrote in that blog. That clearly reflects my heart and who I hope to be. We can ask ourselves the same questions in the midst of this new horror in Las Vegas. Would we be the one rushing to help others get to safety? Would we be using our knowledge and experiences to help as many as we can? I sure hope so. I am thankful for all of the stories that we have heard of heroism and those that were saved. I look forward to continuing to hear of those who have given their lives and of themselves to make a difference in the lives of others.
My heart hurts so much thinking of all of those left behind with injuries and for all of those suffering from deep emotional pain. Unfortunately, when someone experiences a traumatic, horrific event such as this then the effects can be long lasting. Just as the woman I know was horrified thinking that she was hearing shots which turned out to be an air conditioner so will many experience symptoms and issues that must be worked through from experiencing something so horrible.
The girls and I all continue to sort through ours. We still battle the fear of losing one another. I shared a few of our struggles in the blogs “Grief Triggers” from November 19, 2016 and from “Overcoming Fear and Anxiety” from September 15 2015. When you go through trauma and pain then there are lasting effects that must continue to be battled. I felt it’s ugly effects the last couple of weekends when Kylee was driving home. I knew that she hadn’t had much sleep, and she was driving late at night. I knew when she was supposed to be home from when she left. As the minutes continued to tick by and she was later and later than terrible fear and anxiety were building up in me. I tried to call her, and I did not get an answer. This made everything worse. When PK was laying dead in his car, I was searching for him and was calling and calling and could not get him. I get scared. My child died at 18. That is part of my reality. I truly battle fear and anxiety that I will lose my two daughters also. I am desperately trying to keep it in check. I do not want my issues that I am trying to work through to negatively impact my two daughters. They have already been through so much.
Therefore, as I pray and try to not live in fear and anxiety then I try to put things in place that are reasonable but are not overbearing. Kylee was on a phone call that night when I was trying to call her. She ended up being in a small town along the way for quite some time which changed her timeline; however, I was unaware of this. Somehow, when I was trying to contact her then suddenly I was right back emotionally to where I was searching for PK. It is a real battle in my heart and mind. I also know that because there were other factors such as she was driving late and she was tired that those factors increased my anxiety. In those times, I have a choice on how I will react. What I try to do in those times is to pray, take deep breaths, and try to stay calm. I try to not overreact with my daughters. I try to recognize fear in it’s face. I know what it is. My son was killed at 18. It is a reality to me that my only son is gone. My husband had died just 22 months before. Death was real. Loss was in our family. I was battling the effects of our trauma and still do.
One of my hopes and prayers for my daughters and I is that even though we battle these issues, and all three of us experience them in very different ways, that somehow the three of us will still be able to live our lives fully. I hope and pray that we will be able to continue to adventure and experience new things and that we will find much joy and love along the way even though our hearts still hurt. I am thankful for each moment through these last years that we have been able to do just that.
My hope and prayer for all of those suffering from the devastating effects of the Las Vegas shootings is that they will be able to be real in their hurt and pain, that they will have the time that they need to heal, and that they will find effective coping mechanisms to help them as they battle the effects of such trauma and loss. If you are battling trauma and loss, then please know that I have the same hope for you and will be here to journey with you if you so desire. Thank you for continuing to be with the girls and I on our journey.