The Family

by adustyframe ~ January 20th, 2010

I’ve waited to post this for years. The event that triggered my thoughts about it happened at least 4 years ago. I’ve thought about posting it many times and never quite knew how to pull it together.

Tonight, I just decided to write it and share from my heart.

Several years ago, I heard about a horrible horrible drunk driving accident. A mother and 4 of her children were killed by a drunk driver driving the wrong way on a highway.

If my memory serves me correctly, it was near Christmas time.

Some people in my acquaintance knew the mother and were understandably outraged.  In the discussion about the tragedy, one began to mock the family of the drunk driver.

Apparently the sister of the driver was on the news crying. She said that they extended their sympathy to the family of the victims. She also said that her family was heartbroken over his drunk driving. She made the mistake of saying that he was a really nice guy and this was out of character for him.

I know that at a time like that no one wants to hear that the criminal is a “really nice guy”. It probably was out of place for her to express her love for him on TV.

But the mocking of the people over her grief for the loss of her family as she knew it made me sad.

I don’t think that she meant his drunk driving was ok. I don’t think she meant to imply that they were hurting more than the other family. I think she was just expressing shock and grief.

Losing a family member to prison is a process wrought with grief. The families grieve for any victims. They grieve over losing a family member to the system. They carry a huge weight and most of them have done absolutely nothing wrong.

If we express grief over the loss it is assumed that we condone their behavior. Or maybe we were in cahoots with them?

I know that many criminals come from families that are just as bad as they are. Every family isn’t like that though. In my experience, the families I’ve met have never condoned or covered or downplayed the crime their family member was involved in.

It’s so easy to paint people with a broad brush and it’s so easy to believe stereotypes isn’t it?

The  families of criminals are left to sort their grief with little support. They don’t need to be mocked for that grief.


10 Thoughts Shared to The Family

  1. Brownie

    People grieve so differently. Some when dealing with grief and outrage lash out -possibly your acquaintances acted in a way they wouldn’t normally. They heard the sister say he was a nice guy and her family was heartbroken over his drinking which wasn’t like him.

    Here is the fear that may have caused the mocking: if this was a nice man from a good family, who in a moment of weakness and very poor judgment caused death; who is to say that it couldn’t happen to any of us? But if that family is mocked – then it distances ourselves a bit and shelters us from knowing the possibility of it happening within our own family.

    Sometimes its hard to recognize grief in others because their behavior and/or words don’t fit our stereotypes. And frequently when we are grieving, its hard to recognize others’ grief.

    You are right. I think that they were absolutely right to be grieving because it was a horrible tragedy. I think you may be right about the inability to acknowledge that something like that can happen in our own family. I used to feel that way!

  2. Pam

    The timing for this post is perfect for me……in my community
    we just lost a 20+ year vet of our police dept and his canine to a
    drunk driver who had been convicted two previous times….he
    had a wife and two children. When we went to bed that first
    night I wondered to my husband “what do you think both of these men’s families are going thru”…..I prayed for both families…..about a week later there was a letter in our paper from the drunk driver’s brother…..He lives in Wisconsin and was a minister….he said we all tried….but maybe not enough….I know he made the choices he made but maybe there was something more I could have done….Thanks for letting me
    share….God Bless,Pam, South Bend

  3. Beth

    Lizzie–This is a powerful message… until you can walk a mile… sometimes people look at me like I am crazy when I suggest that they look at both sides! hang in there!

  4. Barbara H.

    So true, Lizzie. We’ve had a couple of family members on the wrong side of the law, and the family members do indeed grieve over many things in connection with the one “wayward” one without condoning what they did and with full realization that the sentence received was deserved.

  5. Lisa

    “They carry a huge weight and most of them have done absolutely nothing wrong.” Oh so true. I’m not the one who “did it” so why do I feel so awful. Even though my son’s “record” will disappear at 18, it will never leave me.

  6. celina

    great post lizzie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    i remember the columbine shootings…and what rosie odenell said once..(no matter what you may think of her, i feel her words were great)…i pray for all involved…and i think being a parent of one of the victims is tragic….but can you imagine being the parent of one of those shooters…you lost a son too…and he is now is your family….THOSE people need our prayers as well…….and i always feel that way….no matter what “villain” we’re talking about ..i think of their mom, their spouse, their kids….that person may have been full of faults….but they were part of someone’s family!!!

    so way to go as always lizzie, a great post

  7. amy

    Last year the young woman who lives across the street from me struck and killed a police officer with her vehicle. The woman wasn’t drunk, on drugs or even driving poorly, the police officer was standing in the middle of the road participating in a speed trap. It was a horrible accident that affected our entire community. I feel awful for the woman who has now been labeled a cop-killer. Any time I’ve expressed my sadness for her (of course I’m sad for the cop as well) I’ve had a negative response. The title of “victim” is all kinds of gray.

  8. Katherine

    The Columbine shooters’ parents are who I thought of, too, when reading this post. They have been treated horribly by their community.

  9. Robin in New Jersey

    Excellent post, Lizzie. I know someone who is incarcerated right now. It is a very sad situation and I have heard so many negative comments. The thing is most people do not know the whole story. There are so many “victims” when someone is thrown in jail.

    I read a book several months ago. I think it was by Carol Kent and I think the title was “A New Kind of Normal” Excellent book that deals with what you are talking about here.

  10. Carrie

    Thank you for this. I’m reading a book written by a homeless man, Breakfast at Sally’s (not a blanket recommendation! I’ve just started it), but already I am seeing homeless people as more “human” if you know what I mean. It’s so hard for us to see things from another’s perspective when we’ve never walked there.

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