14 California families came home an empty house last night. Most family members kept believing their loved ones would soon walk through the door. The first of the 5 stages of grief, denial, had begun. Having gone through this myself back in 1976, I know you spend the first few nights in total disbelief. Every time you wake up you try to convince yourself that it’s just a dream. It only takes a few waking moments to realize that it’s really a waking nightmare. After a few days, anger sets in followed by bargaining, depression and finally acceptance.
Sadly, this scene has been repeated dozens and dozens of times over the past few years. It doesn’t matter whether the loss came from terrorism or just some random senseless act; the forever impact on someone’s life is the same. A person you loved isn’t there anymore. All the good and bad times you shared are now just fading memories.
Dealing with your departed loved one’s belongings is something you put off as long as possible. When you finally think you can stand the concentrated pain this will cause, you start going through things they thought were important. You donate what you believe other people can use and keep those special things that have meaning only to you. In my case, it was the scarf she used to keep her hair pushed back while she cleaned and moisturized her face before going to bed. The smell reminded me of her. I kept that scarf for over 10 years.
Many people will lose their faith after a tragedy like this. I did and never really got it back. I continue to ask how a loving God could allow something like this to happen. No one, regardless of their depth of belief, can help you get your faith back after a tragedy like this. I found my solace in work. I became a textbook workaholic for many years. Whatever those affected by this tragedy do to experience some comfort, I hope they really find the relief they need and deserve.
It will be a horrifically sad Christmas for 14 San Bernardino families this year. Holidays after a major loss are the worst. Everyone else is celebrating with loved ones and you have to plan a visit to the graveyard. Some Christmas songs will literally drop you to your knees. Almost 40 years after my loss I still can’t make it through “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” without tears.
Since the alleged shooters in the San Bernardino incident were killed, short term revenge really isn’t an issue. If it’s proven that this was an act of radical Islamic terrorism then the response from our country should be swift and harsh. While there are those who argue that revenge doesn’t help, my own experience tells me otherwise. When the legal system was ineffective in my own circumstances, my actions saw that the ultimate revenge occurred. It did help me. I hope our country is resolute enough to see that those responsible for this pay the highest possible price.
For now, my heart weeps for the 14 families who will have to deal with their massive grief during this holiday season. It’s not the right time to point fingers and speculate about legal and social issues. Rather, it’s time to comfort those left behind any way we can and then take steps to punish anyone found to be complicit in this horrific disaster.
©2015 Steven D. Bryant
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