Some types of trauma don’t just end. There are echoes of it as time passes. Shockwaves as new information or developments hit home. It is not simple. You cannot just mourn. Mourning is in itself a process, but some horrible events in life are similarly a process. With each phase the grief or horror must be re-experienced. Redigested. Relived.
First they found my friend. We knew for certain that she was no longer with us and any lingering hope was gone.
And we mourned.
Then we learned that the state in which her body was found was particularly gruesome. We were left with an image in our heads of something from a horror movie happening to someone we knew and cared for. I have never understood why anyone finds it entertaining to watch people do terrible things to each other in films and I understand it less now. Somehow it made her death seem worse, her body being treated with such disregard.
The mourning process began again.
Then the man who took her life was sentenced to spend his life in prison and his picture was back in rotation on our television set. This face I am trying not to associate with my friend. New information was released regarding the last days of her life and we learned how close the authorities came to finding her and how hard she had fought to stay alive. It was strange to feel so devastated and so proud of someone all at once.
The mourning process began again.
Now the state’s Bureau of Investigation has released far more detailed information via what I understand to be a news media interview with an investigator (EDIT: Apparently what happened is that the recordings of the killer's confessions were released. So, right now, every tv news station in our state and many across the country are making the distasteful decision to broadcast his voice into your living rooms). Of course, all the details are so much worse than I had chosen to tell myself they might have been. She cannot be hurt anymore, but we keep learning more about what she endured before she was killed. Previous information came to me first through a sort of phone tree initiated by the family, so I had some warning and learned of it in a less jarring fashion. But the most recent details I learned by turning on the news one day, not expecting anything about my friend to still linger on the media’s radar.
Until now I had hoped, naively and foolishly and blindly, that amidst everything else that was done to her... perhaps she had not been raped.
So the mourning process begins again.
Any loss is a long and complicated thing to cope with. Every death alters lives. Certainly more so if your loved one’s death is brought about by another human being, whether it be premeditated murder or as a casualty of war or a victim of terrorism, an unnatural and intentionally caused death is a strange and awful thing to come to terms with. I know this will in many ways be a life long burden for her family and closer friends. They will feel the echoes of this far more strongly and for far longer than I imagine I will. But for all of us the feeling that we can safely allow ourselves to begin the journey of coming to terms with her loss is still illusive.
I have never been comfortable with the death penalty. It brings no one back and puts tremendous, frightening power in the hands of a judge and a jury and our correctional system. It is useless and impotent as revenge. But even if I am uncertain of my stance on it, I think I understand it better now than I did before. Until that man dies, the mourning process will begin again and again. When he is mentioned on the news. When he reveals new information. When the trials take place regarding his other victims. Until he dies of old age (and in this case one can only hope that prison life is difficult on the health of a man of his years) or unless he is executed for one of the other murders he committed, the people who loved her will sit at home and relive this sorrow again and again. When he no longer exists there will be greater closure in what is, under any circumstances, an impossible situation to accept.
As someone who was her friend socially more than having an emotional closeness to her, I am still coming to terms with my right to mourn. But she was my friend. We got together and did the girl talk thing. I miss not only someone I enjoyed spending time with but also someone I was getting to know better. Someone who I, due to her years of closeness with my loved ones, anticipated would be a part of my life for a long time to come.
We interact with each other in life and we ask, "How are you?" and most of us tell people that we are fine no matter what is really going on. We bump into each other's lives without really knowing what is happening in the world of the person behind us in line, the saleswoman on the other end of the phone line, the server at the restaurant who falters with his tray. Sometimes it is difficult to watch how life keeps moving and you wish there was some way to let the world know you need it to back off a little. To let the news media know their enthusiastic reports are beaming into the living rooms of people that news actually impacts. To let loved ones know that seeming alright and being alright are sometimes two completely seperate things (which, of course, they cannot do anything about. This is the nature of grief).
My friend was abducted. She was beaten and raped. She fought for her life for four days; both physically fighting (injuring and disarming her attacker) and bravely risking retribution by providing inaccurate information regarding her bank account again and again, forcing him to keep her alive or abandon hope of financial gain. She spent her last hours tied to a tree. In the end she was bludgeoned to death and after death her body was decapitated.
I am living my life and in many ways everything is “normal.”
But I am also not really okay.
And the mourning process begins again.
In this post I use more detailed information than I have previously, while still not using names. I realize many of you put two and two together and know which case I am speaking of - which is fine. I just don't want this post or my blog linked to or mentioned in conjunction with anything that clearly identifies my friend. This is my rumination on grief in unusual circumstances, not participation in the media circus. I am not interested in that kind of traffic. I appreciate your consideration.
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