While the joy of the holiday season continues to play in the background there are parents who cry a pool of unending tears for their children lost to Chicago violence.
To date, Chicago reportedly has a total of 673 homicides. In 2016 this number was reached by December 16th. 762 homicides are on record for this time in 2016 in Chicago. One murder is too many but the fact that 89 fewer people have been murdered in Chicago is something that warrants a nod. The numbers drive policy, but what happens to these families? How do they cope year to year? What are their feelings during the holidays?
We spoke to Dana Jackson a few months ago about losing both of her sons to gun violence. We asked her how it felt knowing that both of her sons were gone. “It feels terrible. I am in a bad space right now. I have been having this recurring dream with somebody holding a gun and I’m screaming, “No! No!” Then I wake up and realize it’s a dream and reality sets in that my kids are not here anymore. I wake up in really, really bad spaces. This morning, I woke up and spazzed a little bit. My heart was in my throat. I couldn’t breathe. I keep bottles of water by the side of the bed so I can drink right away. I do it so I can catch my breath and get a grip. This is real and there is nothing I can change about it. I am truly a broken woman behind this. My spirit is hindered but I do know I have to move forward with the other kids in my life. Dillion and Raheem were my babies,” she said.
When do these cries start to matter? Have we become numb to the death? These parents have no one to turn to. We met Ms. Jackson through an organization called The Sisterhood. The Sisterhood is a group of mothers who have all experienced the loss of their child to the violence in Chicago. We spoke around Mothers Dway and asked them how they feel during these holidays with their children no longer with them.
Toneya McIntosh: I’m just ready for it to go past. I don’t want to do anything.
Sandra Cole: People have to convince me that I am still a mother. I don’t know if I should be happy when people wish me Happy Mother’s Day. I didn’t know if I should be offended. My friends and family would remind me that I’m still a mother. Even though my child is not still on earth, I gave birth to a child and I raised him. I feel so bad around this time because my baby’s birthday is May 3rd. All of his friends started posting pictures of him on his birthday. They call it Tony day. They were at the cemetery and I didn’t even know they have been going every year. It’s been 6 years since his death. I felt so guilty because I haven’t been able to return to the cemetery since he died. I think looking down at his grave will make it to real for me. I know he is dead but I can’t face the reality of it.
Gwen Baxter: It’s been 12 years since my son was murdered and no holiday has been the same for me. I don’t have a desire to celebrate anything. You lose that. It’s light out for all of us. There is not one mother who has been what we have been through who is going to tell you that she celebrates Mother’s day and has fun. I can say that with confidence because days like this are triggers and reminders of what happened to our children. Especially for the ones who didn’t get any justice.
Shundra Robinson: Nobody really understands what we go through. I have a husband, but this is an area he just can’t touch. The grief that you got through and the place that you go to is a place that doesn’t exist, so you need somebody to understand that and won’t think you are going crazy. Technically when something like this happens you lose your mind. When it first happens you are in the twilight zone on autopilot. When I look back over the process I ask God how I got through it. This is when I knew God is real because he walked me through the entire process because I was out of my mind. It’s an out of body experience. Your body may be moving around but your mind is somewhere else. When you talk to other mothers who have been through this they can understand how you can go from crying to smiling in a matter of a few minutes. You can go from having a good time and then there is a trigger. Your family loves you but they just don’t understand like the mothers of The Sisterhood do. I hate that they understand what I’m going through, but they do. The Sisterhood brought laughter back to me. When I found The Sisterhood I found a family, my sisters. It’s a bond that I can’t explain.
For every life taken, millions of tears are shed and parents and family members are left with a lifetime of grief because of it. 89 fewer homicides since last year is an accomplishment however the goal is to move to zero homicides each year and maybe we can begin to dry up those tears and move forward.