It’s Okay

It’s Okay

By Joan Gilbert

The following is the opinion and personal experience of the writer.

I’ve learned so many ways to cope with the murder of my son, Jaron, in 2006, thanks to Homicide Survivors and all my HSI ‘family’. One of the most important lessons I learned is to know when to say “it’s okay”.

It’s okay to say, “that doesn’t work for me”. It’s also OK to say, “that is exactly what I’m looking for”!

The holiday season, in particular, is always challenging. Perhaps you feel the same.

During many HSI activities, such as Support Group sessions and Candlelight Vigils, I’ve had opportunities to hear from others how they honor and remember their loved ones taken too soon. I’ve adopted some of those ideas, tweaked others, and mostly realized that whatever I choose to do is okay for my journey.

I’m learning! Over the many years since Jaron died, I’ve found that what I do sometimes changes or maybe even disappears. Letting go of certain habits was at first very difficult, trying to figure out new routines and traditions. And then I found that even rituals can adapt and be reimagined, with positive consequences.

I’m never sure what sparks a change – usually, something happens a little differently, and then I find a new or different way to stay connected with Jaron. A new way that feels just right for that time and space.

Here’s an example. My family was fortunate to install a memorial bench for Jaron at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. For many years I visited every month and wrote reflections in a journal while sitting on his bench. I loved those moments of peace. What I wrote didn’t matter – some days I just made observations of what was happening at the Arboretum as the seasons changed. Some days I wrote a memory I had of Jaron. I was content.

As the years passed, I realized I was visiting less often – every other month, sometimes skipping a couple of months. I also wrote less and less in my journal. At first, these changes worried me a bit. Was I not being true to the special remembrances of Jaron that I had established? And then I would hear another HSI friend mention that their rituals also changed over time. It’s okay, they reassured me.

Holiday rituals may be the most challenging to manage after the death of our loved ones. Our families and friends often have expectations for how certain traditions should continue. All of us at HSI know that nothing feels the same, and what was once a cherished tradition may now feel out of place or even hurtful if our loved one can’t be a part of it. It’s okay to let those expectations go. We may or may not replace them with something new.

The Empty Seat at The Table

The Empty Seat at The Table

By Monique Vallery

The following is the opinion and personal experience of the writer.

As the holidays approach, the heavy feeling sinks in even more. The challenge of how to put on a happy face and try and celebrate when all you want to do is curl up and hide from the world.

Survivors carry the pain and grief of losing our loved ones on a daily basis, but the pain is even heavier around special occasions and holidays. This is because on the most “special” days, once again, our loved ones are not here, and there is an empty seat at the table.

Over the past few years since losing our beloved Sheyla Velarde, my family has struggled. We have not only struggled to find forgiveness, but we have tried incredibly hard to stop carrying the burden of anger because the grief is heavy enough.

I can’t say that it has gotten any easier, but we keep trying each day to move out of the darkness and find the light no matter how dim it may shine.

My family has had so many wonderful things happen over the past few years, but there is still a piece missing, and that missing piece of our puzzle and our hearts is Sheyla.

So often, I find the anger creeps back in because she isn’t here to share in all the everyday special moments; seeing her “selfies”, having her here for family pictures, the birthdays, school graduations, weddings, engagements, mariachi performances, soccer games, dance recitals, family dinners, and of course the holidays. They all include the same thing, Sheyla’s empty chair.

Someone made a choice that took an outgoing, vibrant, talented, and beautiful soul from our family and friends. As much as we want to hide away, I know she would like us to pull ourselves together and live our best lives. Those who we have lost would want us to get up, count our blessings, be kind to one another and smile again.

As survivors, we are a part of a community that none of us would ever wish to be included in, because to be a survivor, we had to have lost someone we love; but as a survivor, we can take control of our emotions and fight to make it through each and every day.

What better way to honor and remember our loved ones during the holidays than to make their favorite foods, share our favorite stories about them, and live our lives in a way that would make them proud.  We can embrace the tears and sadness and pull ourselves up and remind each other to celebrate and honor them.

As we look at the empty chair at our tables, we need to remember the chair may be empty, but our hearts are filled with love for the ones we are missing.

When I Think About My Son

When I Think About My Son

By Debra Write-Jackson

The following is the opinion and personal experience of the writer.

When I think about my son Danny Lee Jackson, I think about how he loved life and how happy he was for each day. Unfortunately, his love for life ended; on July 8, 2020, was brutally murdered in Tucson, Az. Danny’s life was gone too soon due to a heartless and senseless act of violence. A heartbreaking phone call no mother ever wants to receive.

This tragedy has been very difficult to accept. All I have left of my son Danny is memories of how caring and loving he was. His strength, wisdom, and courage. His love for his mother, brother, and sister. No matter what was going on in his life, he always wanted to know if they were okay.

Danny filled my heart with so much joy; I will always love him with all my heart and miss him dearly. The deep pain from the loss of my son Danny has been with me every day. I feel that I have lost something of myself.

Nothing can prepare you for the death of your child. It just doesn’t seem natural. I will never understand why Danny, so full of life, is no longer here with me. I have so many unanswered questions, confusion, and so much pain for my family and me.

Danny’s family is pleading for justice for this horrible murder of their loved one. His life mattered. If you have any information, please contact 88-Crime to leave an anonymous tip. If your tip leads to an arrest, then you may be eligible for a reward amount of up to $27,500.

The Pros of Mental Health

The Pros of Mental Health

The following is the opinion and personal experience of the writer.

People grieve in so many different ways. And many people who are grieving are unaware that there is help. To have a mind of your own is a blessing, yet a heartache at the same time. You can quickly become a victim of your own thoughts if you don’t address individual traumas. Unresolved trauma is like a sponge, it can soak up all your spirits if you let it.

I remember the day I scheduled an appointment with a psychiatrist. The only people who knew that I was seeking help were myself and my therapist. Previously I had been against seeking out a professional for this type of support. It was a taboo thing to do, and I felt something was wrong with me if I reached out for help. Yet, going to talk therapy for the last year and a half had done little to ease my mind. As I walked to my appointment, tears were slowly running down my cheek. “I am going to be okay,” I told myself, and “there is nothing wrong with you.” But there was.

Dealing with the loss of my siblings Dusty and Kimbo had affected me for years. But I had dealt with my feelings by getting drunk, using drugs, and simply numbing my heart. But no matter what I did, there was still a feeling of emptiness, loneliness. And the nightmares that started 14 years ago were still there.

To avoid the nightmares, I was living off of 3-4 hours of sleep. I would go about my days tired and fatigued. I’d be yawning all day, but as soon as I lay in bed, I would be wide awake. “Go to bed,” I’d tell myself, but it was much easier said than done. At night the anticipation would start. My mind would start wandering and when I was finally able to sleep, I kept having these dreams that what happened to my brother and sister was happening to me. I had many restless nights, yet it all seemed normal.

 

It seemed as if I was irate, yet kind and sweet. I had a temper but also a heart of compassion. I was raised to be caring, but death had made me bitter. It felt as if I was always on a see-saw, experiencing emotional highs and lows. Yet, I believed that I was okay. I recognized this odd behavior when I sobered up, and all I wanted was peace. Peace to raise my kids lovingly and gently, but I wasn’t able to let go of my mood swings.

Paloma Sainz

Sitting down with a psychiatrist allowed me to explain my trauma and reflect on my behavior as an individual struggling with grief and wanting to live life abundantly. But I couldn’t, my mind wouldn’t settle. It continuously ran with worry and feeling as if everything wrong that happened was all my fault. Surely it was not, but how to get myself to understand that was an everyday battle.

To be completely honest with the psychiatrist and get things off of my chest was a confusing experience. I kept trying to clarify that I wasn’t crazy. Yet hearing myself talking and crying about the difficulty of being happy and sad simultaneously was a little exhilarating.

What was more disheartening was to be done and sit there, wiping tears away and trying to fix my makeup and not laugh because that was what I tended to do when I was anxious. It was very tense, you could hear the clock ticking, and I felt like a complete idiot. But the words that this psychiatrist said to me next was very optimistic.

Paloma Sainz

The psychiatrist told me that everything I was dealing with was expected and was healthy. Of course, my brain was all over the place; after all, I was human. When we struggle with trauma, the mind reacts in the only way it knows how: survival mode. It doesn’t know how to respond; it merely does.

I was prescribed medication to help me sleep and for the nightmares and my mood swings. And although I felt like there was a problem with me, I was okay with that. I began to accept that this was a part of being a person affected by murder.

This account is just a glimpse into my personal experience, and I encourage anyone who is struggling with the loss of a loved one to reach out. Whether you reach out to Homicide Survivors, Inc., or another mental health agency, know that there are help and support. You are not alone, for I am with you.

There are many ways to cope with grief, even if it means merely acknowledging that we are impacted. Because yes, it hurts as much as we want to bring our loved ones back, we know that is not an option. But we can heal together, and we can lean on one another for comfort.

With hope,

Tara Myers

NOBODY DESERVES TO ENDURE THE MURDER OF A LOVED ONE ALONE

Your charitable donation helps families meet the crisis and long term needs of murder victims through support, advocacy, and assistance. Help make an impact in a survivors life by making a donation today.

My Unexpected Reality

My Unexpected Reality

The following is the opinion and personal experience of the writer.

Losing a loved one is a chapter in our lives that is so common, yet so foreign. There will be times when you feel as if nothing makes sense. You’ll wonder how you’re getting through the days or, better yet, the years. Sometimes you will question everything that has ever happened.

Losing our loved one to homicide was surreal; surely, it couldn’t happen to my family. But it did, in fact, and for me, it has happened not once but twice. For me, grief is a portal taking us from our once normal life into a world of confusion, hopelessness, and uncertainty. My name is Tara Myers, and I am from the Tohono O’odham Nation in Sells, Arizona.

On December 16th, 2005 my brother, Warren Myers, was murdered. He was shot and killed a week and two days before Christmas. Twelve years later, my sister, Kimberly Myers, was also shot and killed. They were both murdered less than a mile from our childhood home.

Their murders have impacted me tremendously as the youngest sibling and I replay them in my head over and over and over again. I became obsessed and confused with a distorted sense of reality. This is my traumatic reality struggling with losing my brother and my sister to homicide. What many people don’t know is that in 2008 I lost my mother Linda Myers to Cirrhosis and my brother Brendon Myers Jr. in 1989 to a drug overdose (heart attack).

In 2017, the same year I had lost my sister, the Department of Child Safety took my two children because my drinking had become out of control. Two days after I buried my sister, I was sentenced to 120 days in jail. I felt as if I had lost it all.

In 2018, a speedy trial was requested by one of the perpetrators involved in my sister’s murder (the others involved were never charged). He was sentenced to five years in prison but had his sentence reduced to 3 years. I was disappointed with the courts and with myself. During this time, I was informed about an organization whose primary focus was helping out people like me; it was Homicide Survivors, Inc.

Paloma Sainz

Throughout all of my grief and struggles, I felt as if I was the only person who was going through this kind of pain. I felt like I was going through a fog, or a blur – as if no one truly understood what I was going through. I was so caught up in my own hell that I was unaware of others going through the same thing as I was.

With the support of Homicide Survivors Inc., I was able to participate in support groups and was given the opportunity to try equine therapy, where I learned to live in the present moment. I decided to stop drinking and seek help. I realized that it was “okay to not be okay” and that everything I was feeling was justified.

I realized that there was no “normal” for me. I had to recreate my own happiness, learn new coping skills, and even learn how to breathe again. I had to learn an entirely new way of life because I was holding onto pain that was affecting my livelihood.

To live and to choose happiness is a choice we can make daily, perhaps even hourly. We may have a good day, and then out of nowhere, we will see something that reminds us of our loved ones. And yet that reminder doesn’t mean we must throw ourselves into the past. We can learn to accept the fate of our beloved brothers and sisters, and we can heal in a new way by being there and showing support for one another.

Being kind is an action that makes a huge difference in today’s society. Our family is present in our hearts when we speak their names with love and remembrance.

Losing my brother, Warren, has taught me to smile, live life abundantly, and cherish my family and friends. My sister Kimberly lived her life however it made her happy. She wasn’t rich with money, but she was rich with life experiences. She lived her life without caution and was not afraid to take chances. In losing both my brother and sister, I shall live my life with gratitude and hope that we can live in unity as a community of fellow survivors.

With hope,

Tara Myers

NOBODY DESERVES TO ENDURE THE MURDER OF A LOVED ONE ALONE

Your charitable donation helps families meet the crisis and long term needs of murder victims through support, advocacy, and assistance. Help make an impact in a survivors life by making a donation today.

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