by Liz Murray
Imagine the shock. You are at a dinner party to celebrate the completion of training to be a hospice volunteer. During training, as they talk about the grief process, you think you don’t know if you can relate. You have never experienced a really close death. Sure, you have lost some grandparents, but they were very old with dementia in a nursing home far away. You get a call from your Dad. Your Mother and two work associates have been executed in their west Houston real estate office! What do you think? It is not the call most of us expect to receive. Suddenly, I am thrown into grief after thinking I could not relate. Is this some cruel joke from God?
Tragic, sudden deaths have a whole set of issues separate from long term medical deaths. When a homicide is involved there are even more issues. The media can often be inconsiderate of the victim’s family members’ grief. Police investigations are designed to find a murderer, not be gentle with family members. The hours and days following my mother’s murder were a blur of news stories all over the world. In 1983, a triple murder in the Memorial area of Houston, Texas was unheard of. Husbands were looked at, work associates, family members and to this date, almost 29 years later, it is still unsolved. Years later, it would be included in an Oprah Winfrey show on unsolved murders.
How does the family of an unsolved crime come to grips with never knowing who to blame? How do we go on with our lives? For many they stay stuck in the anger stage, let the investigation become their new life. For me, my five siblings, spouses, grandchildren and Dad, we chose to keep living our lives. We have grieved and still grieve at times, so writing this article is part of the healing that is a continual process. I think of the family and friends of our 9-11 victims. We go on knowing that each year it will be front and center on the news. Knowing that someday this may be a solved crime with a trial gives me very mixed emotions. Parts of me don’t want to know the truth about why three vibrant, sweet ladies were executed. Part wants someone to pay! These are the mixed feelings that families of unsolved crimes go through, even if that crime did not involve death.
The experiences we have with death changes us forever. Since my Mother’s murder, I have experienced several family members’ deaths. I am not sure I would have chosen to work with hospice and families in grief without these stories in my life. Our life experiences, and how we react to them, shape our future.
Losing someone you love, no matter how, is never easy. When you reflect on the grief stories of people you know, consider how they manage their pain. Then think of the grief experiences you have had and ask yourself how you can make something good out of it.
About the Author: Liz attended the University of Texas at Austin where she received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management in the mid seventies. Since college she spent 6 years in the Human Resource field and then 15 years doing various volunteer activities in several states. Liz recently retired from coordinating all the volunteer programs at Peterson Hospice. Her responsibilities include the Hospice Thrift Store, patient, floral, children’s bereavement and administrative volunteers. In 2004, she instituted Bridging the Gap, a children’s bereavement program for children in grades K through 12 who have suffered a loss through death. Two years ago she started a children’s bereavement weekend camp called Camp Rays of Hope. Both are completely volunteer-staffed programs serving any children in the Hill Country area. Liz and her husband, Pat Murray, have been married for 38 years. They have three married daughters and four grandchildren.