By: Sylvia Alvarez
The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer. This was originally featured as part of Covid-19 And Tucson Front Line Workers, a project by Kathleen Dreier Photography to highlight those continuing to serve in our community during the pandemic
My name is Sylvia Alvarez. I am a bilingual victim advocate with Homicide Survivors Inc. At HSI, we offer crisis and long-term emotional support and advocacy to the surviving families and friends of all murder victims. We offer survivor support crisis line, one to one peer counseling, home visits, and monthly support group meetings. Our staff and volunteers offer personal and criminal justice system support and advocacy.
Despite these uncertain times, my role as a victim advocate has not skipped a beat. We have continued serving our community with resources, support, advocacy, and assisting those in need.
As a survivor myself, I lost my son in a drunk driving crash in 2015. I was referred to HSI for emotional support. I soon discovered that I was not alone with my feelings of confusion, loss and grief. The sheer validation was enough to keep me going back. To sit in a room filled with such raw emotion, honesty and absolute zero judgment was so very healing. There are many facets, phases and even misconceptions regarding grief. One of the many challenges survivors experience is isolation. Either self imposed or otherwise.
This pandemic that we all are going through has created yet another layer to the already existing “condition”. To shelter oneself during grief is a choice, at times subconsciously. Having to stay home or distancing from family, friends, coworkers and or neighbors is an additional, almost foreign feeling of isolation. Even if at times throughout your grief you self isolate or choose to stay home. This is a time when we all need each other. The very thing that we may need to help cope, is being strongly urged not practice. To be present in the presence of comforting souls. To hug, embrace, hold hands with one who is in need of comfort are all vital to some who are currently grieving.
At HSI we are adapting, adjusting and at times improvising. Holding virtual support group meetings. Continuing with our staff meetings, virtually of course. We held a virtual workshop, encouraging our survivors and families to improvise and use what materials they have at home to create memorials for our upcoming virtual candlelight vigil. Staying connected and reassuring everyone involved that we are still here for them. All the while, we are all trying to navigate the reality of what we are currently living through. Instilling hope, providing emotional support whether it be via a zoom meeting or through our various social media outlets or our website.
To be part of an organization who is there for families at possibly the worst time of their lives is nothing short of an honor and a privilege.
We are all in this together. Let us stay healthy. Stay strong. Survivor Strong!