Homicide loss mothers know each other’s grief. The commonality of having our child’s life wilfully taken transcends all barriers. Without a doubt, we share a deep understanding of this excruciating pain.
The roots of our sorrow reach down and touch spilled blood, our child’s blood.
There is violence.
The anguish of knowing our child suffered. That we couldn’t protect them.
These things bring us together in intimate and deeply moving ways.
Yet context is all. Every loss is unique and every homicide different.
Since 25th May, the day George Floyd was murdered on the streets on Minneapolis, I’ve found myself wondering whether I’ll ever truly understand another homicide loss mother’s grief even if I sense her pain.
Like all co-victims of murder, I struggle with the gut-punch horror of trauma. I’m crushed by a sense of injustice.
Yet the fact is, my child wasn’t killed in broad daylight as scared onlookers filmed his last moments alive. That’s why I can’t know what it’s really like to be an African-American homicide loss mother.
Nor indeed, any mother whose child is killed in a country where there’s widespread corruption or police brutality.
I am white and live in Western Europe. I know that my boy wasn’t singled out and murdered for the color of his skin.
And no one had to protest on the streets to get his killer arrested.
Our police and legal systems may be underfunded and a ‘just’ outcome in every case is not a given. Yet, systemic injustice is not my reality.
Nonetheless, I do know what barbarity looks like. My son’s life was extinguished in a slow, tortured way. He suffered over 50 injuries to his head alone; his body was black and blue. His agony ended by asphyxiation when his killer rammed a candle down his throat into his esophagus.
His last hours alive haunt me.
That’s why, when the video of George Floyd’s murder went viral, I didn’t watch it – homicide to me can never be a spectacle. If I so much as see one second of wanton cruelty inflicted on a defenseless human or sentient being I risk a physical reaction.
Instead, I bore witness by reading the news.
I learned that George Floyd had called out to his mama as he was dying. In that moment, my heart constricted, my mouth went dry.
All mothers, everywhere, know that call.
I was triggered beyond what I can here describe. Believe me when I say that my nightmares are filled with what I imagine to be my son’s last terrified and desperate pleas for help and his cry for mercy.
And yet, I’m aware that an important aspect of my traumatic loss is significantly different from what I perceive to be that of many other mothers’.
That’s because my son’s murder was not perpetrated by those in authority nor brushed aside by a legal system that can turn a blind eye to injustice.
Alex’s killer was arrested a few hours after the homicide, was later tried, and found guilty. My anger and despair were assuaged by knowing that my community and the criminal justice system acknowledged the wrong that had been done to us as a family.
The fact is, the killer was kept behind bars from Day 1.
Does that mean I should stay silent in the face of racism or brutality?
Does my fear of saying the wrong thing as a white woman render me tongue-tied?
Yet, I am a mother, and that’s what gives me the courage to not stand by.
I refuse to do nothing.
It may not be much but I can spread awareness. I can tell people how vitally important it is to feel supported by others when your child or loved one is murdered.
For every person that SAW my pain and expressed it, my loneliness lifted a little. It was as if a grain of sorrow were being held by someone else and in that act, I felt less alone.
The stranger that wrote and the friend in Court helped to cradle my broken heart.
It makes a difference when people show up, speak out, and acknowledge another’s loss.
And it hurts when they don’t.
That’s why the protests happening all over the world are important. No mother should have to live in a community where racism, savagery, or corruption are so prevalent that they fear for their child’s life.
I can educate myself even as I realize that I’ll make mistakes and may be criticized for what I say or write. But that’s OK. I want to learn, so I must, therefore, be willing to listen.
Our societies, the world over, desperately need to move towards more compassionate, responsive, and just systems of governance. It’s possible to achieve this if we work together at every level.
It starts with us, all of us, irrespective of nationality, religion, gender, or skin color. No matter how much we may think we know, there is always room for more knowledge and for more understanding.
So please ask yourself, what is it that I can actively do to show support and make society a safer, more just place for everyone?
And then, do it.
Organizations And Sites To Support: