What to do with Mother’s Day?

Today is a hard day and I suspect it will always be so…it’s sad, complicated and on many levels so wrong. Yet for Teagan’s brothers it’s extremely important they are focused on celebrating the absolutely wonderful Mom that they have been blessed with. But…

It’s just not possible to survive this day without struggling to deal with the reality that Teagan’s own biological mother ended her life. How anyone could take that sweet, loving and innocent 8-year-old girls life is beyond any explanation or rationalization. For those who have lost a child, you understand that there are many days each year that you don’t live but rather survive.

On Mother’s Day, I have the added complexity that my mother was one of the many enablers (+ other relatives, a teacher, a doctor, a psychologist etc.) who made it impossible to get Teagan into a safe home. All knew little of her home life yet some even stated Teagan was safe in legal documents – and we know how that story ends.

I do feel blessed that Teagan had a wonderful step-Mom who loved her unconditionally, supported her at all times and was a role model that inspired Teagan. This despite numerous and ongoing attempts by her killer to alienate our entire family from Teagan. However, Teagan was simply too strong to be manipulated and too loving to let anything stand between her and those who actually loved her. Perhaps that ultimately cost Teagan her life. How sad is that…

Nevertheless a special Happy Mother’s Day to those who have lost a child (not to their own hand) and to those many step-Moms who have to work extra-hard to build a relationship with their step-kids. Your effort matters, your kids love you for it and you should be proud.

 

 

Let’s Talk

I commend Sheryl Sandberg for being open about her grief in the form of a book. It’s something that collectively we do a very poor job from. Previously Patton Oswalt opened up his life to the pain after his loss. A traumatic loss is full of heartache, challenge and unwelcome surprises. When people in the public eye talk about grief it performs an important role in role in awareness and dialogue.

It should be noted that many people who are not famous also respond to tragedy in amazing ways. If you want further inspiration to how humans react to terrible circumstances than look no further than the Stringer family and Rowan’s Law. There are an amazing amount of families who respond to the loss of a child with a desire to prevent other families from feeling that pain. Each story brings a tear to our eye but also inspires us to do what we can.

The impact of trauma on a child and the traumatic loss of a child are a whole other basket of heartache. Thanks to Jamie Moyer through Camp Erin and The Moyer Foundation there are resources for kids who suffer the unimaginable loss of a sibling like Teagan’s brothers did.

Our good friends at the Cycle Against Suicide posted this quote recently that seemed to characterize the unique pain of losing a child – “When a parent dies you bury them in the ground. When a child dies you bury them in your heart.”

 

Just One Thing…

There are so many sad stories that you can’t get through a week without multiple jaw-dropping moments where children are being abused. In the last 24 hours, I have read about an online predator who tormented young girls online (leading beautiful Amanda Todd to end her life), a police officer who caged and tortured his son in his basement and a child being removed from a loving foster home of 9 years. That is all without making any effort to find those stories…lord knows how many more happened.

As I was thinking about how tragic it has become it dawned on me, part of the problem is ironically the volume. These tragic events are happening so often that before the public actually absorbs the horror they are exposed to another story. This leads to a couple of very bad outcomes – 1) No single story really gets dealt with before its “upstaged” by the next and 2) We become numb to be shocked by children rights being violated. The first story is very sad for the victims and justice while the second belies huge societal problems that we see manifesting itself around the globe.

Rather than belabour the obvious point I would have one “ask” for everyone who reads this post. Would you be willing to do one thing to support children’s rights in 2017? It could be as simple as a call or letter to your elected official, a donation to a non-profit that you believe in, attending a charity event, promote and share the UN Convention on Children’s Rights or even writing an op-ed to your favourite paper.

If every single adult did just one thing in the next 9 months how much farther ahead might we be? That would be tens of millions of actions! So please consider thinking about and doing just one thing in 2017.

 

How?

Literally how? That is how did a beautiful 8-year-old daughter meet her end. How could any person let alone a parent be the person to end a child’s life. You are left with question after question yet do you really want the answer. Many nights are lost wondering, crying and wondering some more.

You never really know when this question will hit you or for how long it will haunt your thoughts. You do know that its always there lurking in the background waiting for its moment. It makes it hard to sleep because the nightmares and anxiety are right around the corner waiting for your weakness. You emotions cycle through grief, anger, sadness and back to anger.

Once you deal with that ugliness the mind wanders to how will you explain it to Teagan’s young brothers (only 10 and 5). How do you tell them? What do you tell them? When do you tell them? I am shocked how little people think about the impact on them – her little brothers have endless curiosity around when Teagan’s killer will get out of jail and whether she wants to kill him too. The reality is they ask about the specific circumstances of her death every few months – and make no mistake they have nightmares as well. Is there any context you can put around this senseless loss that limits the damage and hurt to their sweet little hearts. We have a great community and professionals who support the kids but honestly, they don’t have the answers to these questions – because there are no answers.

As the homicide trial draws closer I wonder will knowing the details of how Teagan’s mother took her life make things better, worse or just different. I see no way it makes it any better as nothing can bring back Teags. It’s a mystery what the ongoing impact of this senseless violence will be on our family and friends. What is not a mystery is how much we loved Teagan and how wrong it is that she is not here today. #RIPTeagan

Murder for Free

This week we have a court decision in Canada that for most people was unfathomable; as unfathomable as the original crime itself. A man who beheaded a stranger on a Greyhound bus and proceeded to cannibalize him was given an absolute discharge…yes you read that right.
As you would expect a great debate ensued on social media on the topic as in this case the murderer Vincent Li had serious mental health problems. If you want a great summary of those who support victims then read this Charles Adler blog – http://charlesadler.com/lets-tell-the-truth/hanging-our-heads-in-shame-for-a-young-man-named-tim-mclean/

A couple of points are brought to the forefront in this case that need to be recognized and then dealt with…

Mental health is too broad a term…so broad to be useless from a policy perspective. The difference between personality disorders vs depression vs psychiatric illness is stark and needs to become part of the discussion. How we treat, deal with and punish people in these different categories is very different – yet we talk about them interchangeably.
Victims Rights and Respect for the Dead – defenders of killers almost always start with what about the rights of the killer. Law should be more than whether someone will kill again. How about rights of victims to live new sadder life, not in fear? What about showing respect to the life lost and the soul taken?
Individual Liberty & Rule of Law – Some crimes so destructive to society that It must have consequences for rule of law and liberty of the innocent to matter. If that does not occur then we will end up over time slowly descending back into a society where vigilante justice becomes somehow logical.
People like to make things black and white – how can you punish someone who was mentally ill. As I hope the above three points start to indicate there are a lot of reasons why we need accountability and consequences to people who infringe on other people rights – particularly when they take them completely away by killing them.

My hope is we can begin to meaningfully talk about this topic before we crush any more victims families. In the meantime, I can only express my deep sorrow to the McLean family and let them know we care. RIP Tim and may the system change to protect others in the future due to your murder.