New Series Announcement by Connie Saindon, MFT Founder of Survivors of Violent Loss:
One of the most rewarding aspects of writing Murder Survivors Handbook(MSH), published in 2014, was the reading I did while doing my research. MSH has been used successfully as a resource for those who have lost a loved one to homicide and those who have worked with them. It was the winner of the Benjamin Franklin Award for Best in Self Help. Victim Advocacy agencies, counselors, chaplains, nonprofit counseling services along with hospice agencies and more have several copies on hand to give to clients. Individuals have bought them for themselves and members of their families as they navigate the months and years ahead of their unwelcome journey of life after homicide.
Here’s a comment from a grieving mother who currently spends her days in a courtroom:
I’m in the middle of pre-trial. I take this book with me to court; I read it as I am there when I run into a problem or hear something I don’t understand. I have it with me at all times. As I read the stories it helps me see this is exactly how I am feeling during pre-trial and I am careful in everything I do there. I encourage everyone who is going to court to buy this even before then. When my son died, I didn’t understand why detectives were not telling me anything. I wondered if they were even doing anything; during pre-trial I heard just how hard they were working on the investigation. I keep this book close, still reading it. Thank you to everyone who took part in making this book happen.
I read, viewed and interviewed whatever I thought might strengthen the information in this book. My premise was that none of us knew it all. While it would be impossible to capture everything for a resource book, I was content to give enough variance, so each reader would feel less alone and find some but not all the resources on their new and treacherous journey. To do the work on this book, the larger the pool of information and experience the greater the possibility.
Thirty-nine colleagues from criminal justice, psychology and literature across the nation offered edits, reviews or examples. The real-life stories from thirteen anonymous survivor writers answer questions if they could for each of the ten chapters. Each murder victim is different in age, family order and place in the community and these real stories reflect that. Over one hundred contributors can be proud of this resource that has been so well received.
I plan to introduce one of these sources each month. I will select them in no order of importance but as they come to me. Each resource is of equal importance as is each homicide.
The first in this series is a book published in 2009 by a reporter and editor for the Boston Globe: The Ride by Brian Macquarrie. The second in this series is Parallel Justice by Susan Herman. See below:
February Lessons from:
Parallel Justice by Susan Herman provides answers for many to DO SOMETHING!
As I write this, we are just a few days beyond the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida. One report after another puts the blame on different sources:
unarmed teachers, kids that don’t snitch, politicians, NRA, mental health, adults who knew something, AR-15s, school metal detectors, and so on.
My own fixation, which has been there for years, is for gun control. After Sandy Hook, when no gun control was enacted, I felt hopeless. If our elected officials fail to pass legislation to stop allowing weapons like AR-15s after the loss of so many children, then it isn’t going to happen. My country, my legislators, are not going to do anything to stop the NRA from buying politicians who would not pass common-sense legislation. It has been too many years, too many mass shootings, too many dead children and innocent people to have no action. GUNS are only for one thing: killing! Whether it’s a deer like so many of my fellow Mainers do during hunting season, guns are for one thing: killing!
It is naive to think one thing, one group will fix what happened. It behooves each of us, no matter where we focus, to do something. That may be finding out if the politician that represents you has been backed by pro-gun lobbyists, or you may volunteer to work with schools as you think about your child or grandchild at risk for being one of those killed in a future incident.
So, I am suggesting instead of blame, take responsibility and DO SOMETHING! Put your donation into the new powerful group of kids taking care of what adults should be doing. Help these kids to keep pounding away, asking adults to look at themselves and DO SOMETHING. Drive these kids to their gathering points, make sandwiches, type up their notes, anything—but DO SOMETHING!
I wrote this poem several murders ago. This time it is for Parkland, Florida!
I'll Cry Again . . .
I cry again, this time for the Boston Marathon;
Time before it was the removal of memorabilia from the grave site of a murdered mother and infant;
Before that, I cried again and again and again for Sandy Hook;
I cry again for the first conversations between Dad and Yvonne about her mother who was murdered when she was just ten.
I'll cry again, and again and again . . .
I cry when I read about the lives of homicide detectives, and how their lives are impacted. The horrors they attempt to objectify to pursue the who-dun-its. The disappointments and blame they take on when justice isn't served.
I'll cry again when being safe is an illusion and being free is thwarted . . .
Can't run a marathon, can't go to first grade, can't leave objects of love at a gravesite, can't go to class, can't drive home from work, can't go to work, can't say no to going to the Prom, can't say no when asked for a cigarette, can't ride a bike in one's neighborhood . . . can't play at the park, can't help a friend or sister out with her abusive boyfriend . . . can't open your door at home . . .
I'll cry again, again and again . . .
I will continue to cry . . . and not go to Murder Mystery Cafes, watch made-up murder stories, nor support guns. It is now my nature to live life seriously.
As I know I will cry again, and again and again.
The tears won't stop, there are too many stories in addition to the new ones that pile on.
Nor will it end for me not to buffer my tears with roses, irises, gardens, quiet, photography, cooking adventures, walks along the ocean, cups of tea, turning off the TV and more . . .
I know I will cry again . . . it is the nature of murder . . . and I will fight back with reciprocal intensity at what is beautiful in this world.
I know that I grow and increase my convictions with the strengths I see in each survivor I know.
I know we will cry . . .
—Connie Saindon (4-15-13)
All this conversation to suggest another book that I found very important when writing Murder Survivor’s Handbook. The book for this new series is one that addresses this issue. It poses blame on several of us: social service, police, corrections, advocates, neighbors, employers, prosecutors, health care, legislators, businesses, family members, and so on. Susan Herman’s book, Parallel Justice for Victims of Crimes, proposes solutions for many of us in the aftermath of crime. Crime victims can also take action in their own behalf, as looking to the Criminal Justice System is rarely the answer. One can achieve justice in acting themselves. Not just stuck in blaming or one solution, this book suggests ten principles to guide the way.
Briefly, they are:
Justice requires helping victims of crime rebuild their lives.
All victims deserve justice.
Victims should be presumed to be credible unless there is reason to believe otherwise.
Victims’ safety is a top priority.
Victims should experience no further harm.
Rights should be implemented and enforced.
Victims should be allowed an opportunity to talk about their experiences and their needs.
Victims should be told that what happened to them was wrong and that every effort will be made to help them rebuild their lives.
Victims’ needs should be addressed through a comprehensive, coordinated, communal response.
Decisions about how to address victims’ needs should be based on sound information and research.
This work by Susan Herman was inspired by her more than 30 years of criminal justice experience, including serving as the executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime. Her ideas helped form the template for Murder Survivor’s Handbook.
Connie Saindon, MFT
Founder of Survivors of Violent Loss and Resources
The Ride by Brian Macquarrie
As a therapist, I look for ways that will bring hope to families in the aftermath of the murder of their loved one(s). When you read Brian Macquarie’s sub-title you read the suggestion of hope; A shocking murder and a bereaved father’s journey from rage to redemption.
When you see the book cover you see the shadow of a boy on a bike. The death of this boy comes from this innocent age appropriate activity that a kid his age would do. He would want to ride with boys who might be a bit older than him too. Having a child who dies is bad enough. Having a child murdered is much worse. Having a child murdered after being used and tortured as a sexual object is horrific and unfathomable.
I will provide a few examples of what I found of value. Further reading will provide you wth much more.
I was drawn to this resource to hear how family members could possibly find “redemption” after such a devastating loss. Narratives of others can help bring both a sense of connection and direction for families. If they can do it, maybe I can as well.
Family members do not feel that others understand what they go through and frequently help in ways that add to their pain. Others don’t understand what it’s like to go on this journey. The Ride demonstrates in several places that the author “gets it”; not just for the family but others around this loss too.
The father of victim Jeffrey is Bob Curley.
Bob struggled with emotions that tugged him in jarringly different directions. As a man, he needed to grief. But for his shattered family, he felt compelled to be a rock of stability.
This is f........ going from bad to worse, he said. This can’t be happening. From exhaustion, despair, and sudden strangling fear, Bob’s legs buckled, and he slumped unconscious to the floor. (pg. 84)
As the Curley household crumpled with tragedy the neighborhood seemed to die a little too. The old, comforting beliefs in family and community had been fractured… (pg. 89)
While Bob struggled to adjust, Barbara and the boys endured a similar but less-visible version of hell. Barbara could not summon the strength to return to work, Shaun had dropped out of his senior year at high school. Barbara often was unable to dress herself. Instead she relied on the help of (her son) Bobby and two sisters who had moved in to her condo temporarily…(pg. 140)
It is rare that examples are known of the toll on criminal justic professionals but here is an account of Detective Nagle:
But then, lying alone in the morning, Nagle recalled events of the previous day and the dog's presence, a protective suddenly made sense. "I must have been crying," he said. (pg.84)
Criminal Justice Lesson
It is rare that examples are known of the toll on criminal justice professionals but here he gives an account of Detective Nagle:
Acts like this can incite intense rage and revenge. Macquarrie offers this counterbalance: the reason we created the judicial system was because we wanted justice. (pg. 112)
Criminal Justice Lesson
The book covers the trial
... where there were 9 days of testimony; some mundane, much of it excruciating. (pg. 146)
The father had been an outspoken advocate of the Death Penalty but was influenced by a father, Bud Welch, whose daughter, Julie, was killed in the Oklahoma City Bombing that occurred 2 years earlier as revenge for the Waco death of 76 church members including 21 children. Waking up after many months of a drunken binge Bud realized he could not support the Death Penalty because he would be just like those that killed his daughter.
Bob realized: I didn’t want Jeff to be remembered for the death penalty every time somebody was going to up for an execution. (pg.185)
The family instead has created a public garden, they’ve provided scholarships for Cambridge students to earn degrees in child psychology or similar work to benefit children. Bob’s signature campaign led to the Jeff Curley Bill with a list of safety do’s and don’ts posted at all public schools. This list was developed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a law that passed in 2001.
While this family came to reject the Death Penalty, other families do not. This article is not a suggestion to anyone that they come to the same decision. What is important is to keep the rage and revenge at bay and put in good works that can make the world a better place.
Connie Saindon, Marriage and Family Therapist
Founder Survivors of Violent Loss Resources/Survivors of Violent Loss