A Blessing for the Bereaved

When I was 18 years old my mother was killed by a drunk driver. She died at the scene. The drunk died en route to the hospital.

I don’t know his name. I don’t know where he had been drinking. I think I remember that he was from Kentucky, but I’m not sure. See, he was dead, so I was denied a living face to put on my hatred and anger.

Looking back I can see that the anger was short-lived. I can also see that this was a very good thing.

I have seen people tear their lives apart looking for vengeance, justice, or closure. Anger is a slow poison. A lot all at once can make you sick, but you can recover. A steady dose, every day, year in and year out? That’s deadly.

It is my hope and prayer for the bereaved, for the families of the victims at Virginia Tech, that the fact that the gunman took his own life will be a blessing in theirs. I hope they can pass swiftly through the rage, before it can permanently scar them. I pray for them in their grief, that they may find solace and peace. I pray for their lost loved ones, that they may find peace in the next life. But mostly I pray for the angry today, that they may recover from that anger.

10 thoughts on “A Blessing for the Bereaved”

  1. I like your perspective. I agree that anger is the worst thing that can come out of a tragedy.
    You spoke my own sentiments very well. Thank you Howard.

  2. Beautiful. . .

    I’m sorry to hear that you lost your mom like that.

    This reminds me of a program I heard where the perpetrator has the opportunity to explain to the victim or family of victim what happened. First, the offender must take responsibilty for what happened before he can enter the program. Then, he explains what he did to the victim or the family. It turns out to be a very good experience for both sides. The family gets the closure that they are looking for. The perpetrator is less likely to repeat offend.

    1. Such a program has the potential of doing good. It also has the potential of making things worse.

      Often it just tends to highlight how pointless and needless the death was (one real life case: gang member liked the sneakers the victim was wearing so he decided to kill him for them).

      And you can end up with criminals playing the system to try and get a lighter sentence who are openly sneering at the victims as he reads a canned spiel that he doesn’t believe in at all.

      There are times – likely a small minority – where such an experience can be positive both for the victim/family and the criminal, but I fear too often it would instead make things worse.

      Victims and family do need counseling – often from both psychiatric and religious points of view. But I’m afraid the type of meeting you discussed is better suited for talk shows than real life.

  3. This is an amazingly welcome change from the fingerpointing and jockeying for political advantage that invariably happens after something like this.

    If our Lord forgave his killers as he was dying on the cross, who the hell are we to not at least attempt to do likewise?

    Thank you very much.

  4. Blessings to you for saying what you did.

    To me, the anger after 9/11 from some where I worked was actually more frightening than the event itself. Their blind rage and fear translated into hate and destructive emotion and that hurt a lot of people over the following months. I second what you declared – I hope that the focus becomes how we can help people in this and prevent it again, not blame.

  5. Hate can be underrated.

    I would not be here right now if not for being able to draw focus and strengh from hate. In 1993 the only thing that kept me from blowing my brains out was the passionate hate that I felt, and knowing that I needed to live long enough to find the target of that hate. I went through life full of hate and when I was tired, I let rage fill me and I was born again, full of fire and energy. I wouldn’t have made it past the next few years without hate.

    That being said, I wish there had been a better way to deal with my life at the time. But there wasn’t, so I’ll happily take 3 years of rage over depression and despair and demoralization to the point of depravity.

    But yeah, Hate isn’t all bad. It’s just a last alternative.


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