The Manner of Death is Homicide

Homicide. The coroner for the Colorado massacre, Dr. Michael Doberson, said, “The manner of death is homicide.”

People out for a fun evening of entertainment are the victims of homicide. Random killing. Homicide. So senseless. Heartbreaking.

As we, as a nation, grapple with the concept of a monster who lived in our midst and meticulously planned the death of others and as we grieve for those who lost their lives or had loved ones die in the massacre in Colorado on Friday, I think it’s important to remember something. There are grieving people behind the media circus. There are family units behind the photos of the victims. Their lives will never be the same.

Each of those people represent a family unit – and extended family and friends – who have lost a child, a brother, a friend, a classmate, a spouse. Their lives have forever been changed by the actions of another. These families have a long road ahead of them, one no one would walk by choice. Each of them, as individual people and family units, needs all of the love, caring, and support that those around them can possibly give. It’s my heart’s prayer that each of them is surrounded with love, care and support for as long as he or she needs it.

They are going to need it.

As huge as this cumulative tragedy is for the Colorado communities and our nation as a whole, this loss touches the lives of those family members in a very personal, individual way – ways which are unique to each of them. Each of those victims listed in the media reports represents a family and individuals who are grieving a horrendous loss. Each of those families has to go through the process of burying their loved one – purchasing a grave site and a casket, choosing clothes for their loved one to wear, planning a funeral or memorial service. (Some families may not be able to afford these costs, which can be quite expensive, so it may be worthwhile to contribute to a fund if you hear of one.)

Each of those families contain individual people who will individually grieve the death of his or her loved one. They represent a parent who has lost a child, a daughter who has lost a father, a girl whose boyfriend has died. They will grieve outside of the eye of the media and for a long time after the attention of our nation has moved on to something else. Each one of them will have to walk the journey of grief on his or her own.

Outside of the horrific circumstances and all the media attention, there are individuals who are just starting the journey of deep grief, who – each on his or her own – will have to gradually integrate the death of that loved one into the fabric of his or her life on an ongoing and daily basis. The magnitude of losing a loved one and the prolonged and far-reaching grief that follows is unimaginable. Long after the media attention has disappeared and the president has gone home after visiting them, these families will still be grieving. They will still be learning to live a life without the presence of their loved one. It’s a lifelong process.

Something else came to mind today, though.

We need to remember that there are others, too, who have lost loved ones to other tragic circumstances and are on their own individual, unimaginable journey of loss.

There are others who have heard those words: “The manner of the death is homicide.” There are those with family members in the military who have had a knock on the door and have heard those words, “We regret to inform you…” There are others who have watched loved ones die of disease. There are others who have received the news, in some manner, that their loved one has died.

They, too, represent a family unit who has lost a child, a brother, a dad, or a spouse. They, too, are individuals who have to walk the road of grief and loss. They, too, have to learn how to live a life without their loved one and how to integrate the loss of their loved one into the fabric of their lives. Their lives have forever been changed by the careless actions of another or by some insidious disease. They, too, walk that long and difficult road that no one would walk by choice. Their losses may not receive media attention or warrant a visit from the president. Their loss is no less real and heartbreaking than those who lost a loved one in the Colorado shootings.

They are people right in our community, in our schools, and in our churches.

You’ve heard the expression, “Think globally, act locally,” right? Perhaps we should use this national tragedy to bring our focus to those within our own realm in influence whose lives we can impact. We can make a difference in someone’s life!!

A father’s grief

There are those in our very own communities who have lost a dearly-loved family member or friend. Homicide. A drunk driver. Drowning victim. Car accident. Slick pavement. A hot car. Suicide. Vehicular homicide. Their deaths had no less impact on them and their families than the deaths of Colorado shooting victim’s families, than the Oklahoma bombing victim’s families, than the 9/11 victim’s families. All of them felt the same excruciating, heart-crushing grief of losing someone they dearly loved. The grief etched on the face of Mr. Sullivan (father of of Alex Sullivan, who died in the Colorado shooting) could be the grief on the face of any parent upon learning about the death of a child.

Circumstance doesn’t matter. Economic status doesn’t matter. Location doesn’t matter. Media coverage doesn’t matter. What matters is that someone – one individual – has lost a dearly loved one to circumstances beyond his or her control. What matters is how we respond. A family has lost a precious member of its core unit. A mother has lost a son. A sister has lost a brother. A wife has lost a husband. Hearts have been broken, lives have been changed forever.

How will we respond to the lives lost in the Colorado shooting? How will we respond to the losses in our own communities, our own realm of influence, our own churches?

The deaths of the victims in the Colorado shooting outrages us. It touches our hearts. We grieve for this tragedy. We grieve for the families.

Perhaps, with our hearts sensitized to the loss of others and wishing we could do something to help as a result of this tragedy, we can look around us for those in our churches, schools, and communities who may be grieving the death of a loved one. Perhaps we can show them the love, caring, and support that we wish we could show to the families of the victims in Colorado.

We feel helpless. We feel vulnerable. We feel outraged.

Take those feelings and find someone right in front of your nose who is hurting to whom you can show kindness – someone right within your own community that you can love, care for, pray for, and support. It doesn’t matter how recently or how long ago that loss happened. People always appreciate knowing that you care. Caring matters. Kindness matters.

Find someone today who may be hurting and show them that you care.

I think I’ll go get some flowers for my neighbor today.

© 2012 Rebecca R. Carney

22 thoughts on “The Manner of Death is Homicide

  1. I love this Rebecca. Thank you for writing it – and as usual, so well written. I would like to add that when the manner of death is homicide and the media is so involved, there are different battles to fight. The media can be relentless, cruel, unforgiving, probing, rude, indignant and impossible to escape. Privacy to grieve becomes impossible and having a chance to visit the site where ones loved one died is impossible – without being mauled and violated by cameras. When things begin to settle down, then the court appearances begin and with that the media starts up again, just when the grieve resurfaces, they are there to insert themselves back in the picture forgetting the pain people are feeling. Anniversaries of the event, which are always difficult for those left behind, are magnified in the media and it can feel larger than life.
    It would be so nice for those grieving to have some peace and quiet and that’s something that the media doesn’t afford them. Having lived through it, I can attest to how intrusive it feels and that I would have given anything to have my life to myself.
    If people didn’t watch the coverage, they would find something else to report – that would be my wish.

    • You certainly know more than I about the media scrutiny that accompanies such a public tragedy and the lack of privacy that accompanies it and reporters who were more interested in the story than in the lives of those affected by such a great loss. We had some media coverage – slanted toward the sensational to attract readership, quotes pulled out of context, etc. – and had the ongoing court proceedings to deal with (which brought everything up again afresh), but not to the extent that you did.

      Thank you for your kind comments. Hugs…

  2. Well said, Rebecca. Let’s reach out today and be the difference to someone whose heart is in pain…be it the loss of a loved one, a job, a home or a dream. We are more alike than different and today let’s choose to focus on our shared humanity and touch someone.

  3. I am so glad you wrote this. I agree that the media attention may make it harder in some ways for the families- but it also has always bothered me that there is some implication in these tragedies that they are more significant somehow than the losses others face everyday because of how they happened and that they get on tv. Every loss is as painful as any other.

    I have also felt that we also tend to belabor the grieving of people who experience “national tragedies” like this and especially 9/11, by constantly talking about it and commemorating it, more for political purposes and such, than for the sake of those involved.

    Your point of turning to our own neighbors and seeing who we can help in their grief as a response to this recent tragedy is such an excellent one. You’ve really captured the answer there…

    • Thank you, Cindy.

      It has always seemed to me that there is a double standard in some ways – not only in the media, but in general acceptance – when it comes to death. People are recognized and applauded for their loyalty when they make treks to the homes or graves of Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon. People are lauded and admired when they collect memorabilia from actors such as Lucille Ball or whoever, spending a bunch of money just collect some other person’s old stuff. One death is “deemed” more tragic than another for some reason or another.

      Meanwhile, bereaved parents are encouraged to “move on” and “get rid of” stuff. They are discouraged from visiting their child’s grave too much as a sign of “being stuck” or something.

      Doesn’t seem fair, does it? But, then, neither is the death of a child.

  4. I will say what others have already said – this is so well written. It’s something that has entered my thoughts when tragedies like this occur, but I’ve never been able to put it into words like this. I agree that it would be great in a newspaper or some other outlet. You have certainly motivated me to reach out to those around me as an honour to this event. Thanks for this!

  5. Rebecca,
    Thank you for the gift to put into words where “there are no words.” I had the job of trying to find words at the celebration of young Ty Osman II’s memorial after he was tragically killed in by a car in Texas March 2, 2012 while on spring break. Ty was eighteen years old. May God’s precious comfort be yours today in your loss. There are still “no words.” But your words bring encouragement and focus. I shared with the family young Ty went from “Life to life.” This morning I was a part of a radio interview about Ty II. These two young men we will see again. This is a promise given by the One who defeated death. This is the day you will experienced.
    Keep writing! Blessings on you and your family today. Terry S. Smith

  6. It will soon be five years and we are still searching and pleading for information and assistance from the local coroner. Redacted tox reports, altered reports, for no reason other than they did not know how to deal with poison and too stubborn to ask CDC or poison control….So we keep on..

    I agree that the media can be a harsh – but in our case the media have been shut out and those who would like to cover the case is told “the case is closed”. so we keep on trying. A few things our family has learned….coroner system must be replaced with nedical examiners and they must be open for an investigation when there is an error or misdiagnosis as in our case with my son.

    God bless you – and thank you for your writing. You are not alone. As you said, there are so many who have lost someone to homicide.

  7. Hello Becky, raysmom brought me to your site and I want to say thank you and give you a huge cyber hug for saying what needed to be said and giving awareness to the fact that ordinary individulas nee the compassion ans support when having lost a loved one. I can not express to you how much it hurts to know you have lost two children, you are a very strong woman to still be sane and willing to post about it in such beautiful terms. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  8. I faced the agony of a living death. When I got custody of my early teen out of control daughter, she was a runaway for several years to the wonderful world of crack cocaine. I had to go to the sheriff’s office to sign for release of dental records in the event they found her body. Hardest thing I ever did. She is 29 now and doing well.

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