Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Ones Left Behind

Let me come in where you are weeping, friend,
And let me take your hand.
I, who have known a sorrow such as yours, can understand.
Let me come in -- I would be very still beside you in your grief;
I would not bid you cease your weeping, friend,
Tears bring relief. Let me come in -- and hold your hand,
For I have known a sorrow such as yours, 
And understand.

-Grace Noll Crowell

Sunset last Thursday evening
Like all of you, I awoke Friday morning to the news of the shootings in Colorado. My heart sank as the story unfurled and we were left, once again, with a senseless tragedy committed by an obviously unstable young man with easy access to firearms. Two days later, the stories are beginning to emerge:  the stories of the victims, the stories of moments of heroism that took place in that darkened theatre, the story of the mentally ill young man. We know that as the days turn into weeks, that more and more of the coverage will turn to the young man, to gun control, to violence in American society. We know this because we've seen it happen over and over again. But what I want to do is focus on those left behind.

Each one of the twelve victims left behind family and friends for whom this will be the legacy they live with. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters and friends will wake up every morning grief-stricken, their lives changed forever by ten minutes of the most unimaginable, pre-meditated violence. As the days go by, the media coverage will slowly shift away from the victims, and people will begin to forget them. But I guarantee you, the victims' families' losses remain front and center and will define them for the rest of their lives.

While I don't profess to understand exactly what the families of these victims are going through, I do know what it feels like to lose someone in an untimely manner. When my 21-year-old son died the world actually seemed to stop for us for a while. Time slowed down to an almost unbearable pace. Right now I can only imagine the pain and numbness that is settling in on these families. The wishful thinking that will play like a non-stop record: wishing that their loved ones had decided to wait and go to the regular opening the next day, or that they had taken a wrong turn to the theatre, or that they had been in the bathroom when the shooting started. Anything that would have put them in a different place than where they were.

This wishful thinking will give way to the reality of what occurred  last Friday and that's where I hope that all of us can remember those left behind. I hope we can continue to have moments of silence, to pray for them, to light candles, to donate money to the causes their families have hastily come up with, so that we reassure them that their loved ones have not died in vain. We need to honor those who died by holding close those who are left behind. 

When something like this happens we are again reminded of the preciousness and fragility of life. We need to love not hate, and we need to treat every day like the gift it really is. So as the families and friends left behind begin their journey through this first year of mourning, let's hold them all in our hearts. Let's hope and pray that they learn to live their lives with purpose as they learn to live without their loved ones by their side.  Let's also look around in our own communities and reach out to people we know who are suffering. Whether it's due to a death, an illness or something else, it doesn't take much to take the time to acknowledge someone's loss. It does make a difference. 


  1. Thank you, Robin. This is beautifully said. xoxo

  2. Yes, it does make a difference... not only for the first year after, but for all the days that follow as well. The numbness of the first year often gives way to a deeper pain as time marches on for those on the outside. The acknowledgement of the loss of a loved one should never stop. Their names should be spoken, their voices remembered.

    Your writing is beautiful, Robin. Keep sharing your thoughts.

    1. You are so right, Mary, about continuing to speak their names and remember their stories long after they are gone. It's essential. Thank you for commenting.

  3. so true, Robin. and so perfectly put.
    thank you for reminding us of what is most important

    every day is a gift
    and how we treat and love each other is what is most important and lasting
    love bobbie

  4. Well said, Robin. Having lost my brother at 18, I was 15, and now being a parent... made the small role I played in Matthew's care all the more poignant. I carry you all with me. Every day. Be well. Robin Houck, MD MPH FACC

    1. Thank you so much, Robin. Your note means a lot to me. All along the way,we felt that the doctors and nurses were so professional AND so compassionate. Knowing your story makes your role in Matthew's care even more touching. Thank you!

  5. Thank you for your writing. I have been trying to find bits and pieces of comfort by reading the writings of other bereaved parents.

    I've added your blog to my site, so that I can easily access it along with other blogs and websites by and for bereaved families.