Click to read article online at washingtonpost.com
The murder of Anthony, 6, Austin, 4, and Athena, 3, allegedly by their father, Mark Castillo, confronts each of us not only with the failure of our mental health and justice systems but also with the grief and pain of this family: a deeply wounded mother, father, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, friends, neighbors and acquaintances. Three deaths reverberate through the community, touching so many, including our children. Sometimes it is easier to try to place blame than to face the raw pain of grief stirred up in us.
If we can slow down, take a deep breath and not run from that pain, we may be able to reach out and support those who grieve this loss and other losses. We want to allow Amy Castillo her privacy as she grieves, but we should not interpret this to mean that we should isolate her. Too often, we isolate the bereaved individual because we don’t know what to say or do.
The truth is that saying nothing but “I am sorry for what you are going through” is all that is needed. Silence and presence are much more appropriate than lectures on how the bereaved should feel or grieve. Grief, in most of us, longs to be heard. To be heard, we need a listener. If we can learn to listen to the pain of grief, we can enable those sacred memories to be shared and stored and healing can begin.
The violent death of a child at the hands of that child’s father creates a grief that will go on for a lifetime. The pain of not being able to protect your own children, your grandchildren, and your nephews and nieces goes to the very core of our feelings, our values and our meaning. So the need to listen will go on for a lifetime, too.
It is not in giving advice to the grieving but in our listening that healing may come. The more we can reach out as individuals and a community to those who are grieving, the healthier we and others will be.
Remember that you are not alone when supporting a grieving friend or neighbor. There are organizations that you can refer to as well. These organizations have experts who are available to work with grieving persons of all ages. They also offer workshops and support groups for the bereaved. We should not hesitate to share this information with people who need it. Sharing our presence and information are ways we build strong friendships and community.
— Elaine Tiller