Friday, March 27, 2009

A Young Boy's Pain and How to Cope

I spoke to my nephew last night. He is going through a tough time. Over the past weekend one of his friends, a ten year old boy, was stabbed to death by his stepfather. Not only did the stepfather kill the ten year old, he stabbed his brother and his mother. In fact, the mother still had a piece of the blade from the knife lodged in her head.

So, the reason I am blogging about this is 1) that my nephew was a friend of the ten year old and spent the night at his house a week before his death, 2) to air my concern for my nephew and others who are dealing with this tragedy - to express my condolences, and 3) talk about coping.

1) It seems like tragedy is around the corner for my family. We deal with tragedy quite frequently. There is never a dull moment in my life as it relates to dealing with tragic circumstances and friends and family who suffer from violent acts. My nephew is facing his third tragedy in his life. The first was his father going to prison. Although he was young at the time, he still has some memory of his father and now that his father is out of prison they are building a relationship. The problem is that there was another male role model who replaced his father and that was my sister's husband. The two share a wonderful relationship, but my sister is now divorced and that also played a heavy role in my nephews sorrow and every day life.

Secondly, my Godsister and his play Aunt, Tiffany Gates, was stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend who illegally walked away from a halfway house. He stabbed her nearly 50 times and ended her life. This was a devastating blow to my nephew and everyone around us. I saw that he was intuitive and wanted to know why it happened and where was she after she died. My sister did an awesome job in explaining where Tiffany was. She mentioned that Tiffany is not suffering and that she is in a better place away from hurt harm and danger. The children seemed to understand that death is a part of life and sometimes tragic things happen, but we have to cope with them as a team.

Lastly, my nephew suffers from this tragic circumstance. When I spoke with him I asked him did he know what happend. He told me the story and was pretty graphic about what he knew. He also mentioned that he played football with him recently. I acknowledged his pain and asked how was he coping and was he really sad. He said that he was sad and cried earlier. However, he mentioned that he also prayed. "Who did you pray for?" I asked. He said, "I prayed for his grandmother and his family." I told him that I thought that was really nice of him to do. It was a pretty honorable thing to wish the best for his family. I also told him that I would attend the funeral with him and that if he needed anything to make sure that he gave me a call.

I remember when I was ten and watching my mother and brother die at the hands of her killer. I thought I was a pretty bright boy, but nothing had prepared me for what I saw. It affected me for the rest of my life. Sometimes it wrapped me up like a sandwich and would not let me go. I felt despair and unspeakable pain at times - trying to cope with the loss.

Just recently, I cried about the situation. Some of the questions came into my mind. Why did this have to happen? What can I do to continue to cope? And, above all. Through these difficult times, I simply missed my mom. You see, my mother was a bedrock in my life. I was a momma's boy. I wanted to go everywhere with her at ten. I was heavily attached to her hip. And, to lose her so tragically was devastating to say the least. So, just a week ago, I took some time out to cry about it. Now, what triggered it? I was going through other problems that crowd my daily life and I reflected for a moment. What would my mother say? How would she help me cope? When those answers could not come, I cried. I was hopeful and optimistic about the future, but I was still sad.

You know, these times are going to come. They are going to enter our lives when we least expect it. I think and feel that it is okay to cry about it. It is okay to deal with it. That made me stronger that day. I am stronger today because I dealt with it and did not hide or suppress it. When I was ten, I suppressed it until I was thirteen years of age. That's when I wanted to commit suicide.

But, my, how far we have come. I am tougher and probably more sensitive than I have ever been. Coping with tragedies, I found, is a part of life for me. I am getting better and better at it. It sounds kind of crazy though. But, I have accepted that tragedy can and will happen. We must be armed with the coping tools to deal with them. So, these are some things to think about.

1) Talk about it. Get whatever you feel out in the open. Find someone you trust and talk about what happened. Find someone who will listen to your entire story from beginning to end no matter how long it takes. Getting the whole story out is crucial and imperative for your success in coping. I found that holding it in just left me feeling more empty, confused and actually lowered my self-esteem. Eventually, I lost my strength to deal with it on my own and the only avenue I had was to want to die. Luckily, I had some people in my life at the time I trusted, like my junior high school principal, Mr. Charles C. Christian. Thank God for him.

2) Find recreation. Find some time for you to do what your passion or hobby is. I like tennis and travelling. When I do these things, my mind is free from the pressure of coping with tragedy. Besides, when the tennis ball is coming my way, I do not have time to be thinking about anything else unless I want to feel the pain of a ball in my eye.

3) Consider professional therapy. That really helped me. It made me realise that there are things that I am doing that I do not understand. I was hurting myself with my behaviour. I was not treating myself properly and with respect. I had to learn how to respect myself and then respect others in the process. But, that came with time and great therapy sessions. Now, it took me years before I found the right therapist, but when I did, I was happy about attending the sessions.

4) Volunteer. I have become a huge advocate for those affected by tragedy. I do not try to act like a therapist. I leave that job up to the pros. But, I do listen. I support. I encourage. And, most of all. I love. I love to give my time and energy to help those who sometimes do not have a clue that they need the help. It's about giving and not looking to receive. So I sacrifice.

Thanks for reading this far. I had a few things on my mind this morning. There is so much tragedy in our communities it is hard to cope. I wanted to take time this morning to address the issue. I know it is hard, but let's push for more understanding and acceptance for no understanding at all.

Til next time...

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