Hominy & Hash: CLOSURE, FOR LACK OF A BETTER WORD
by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Whether it's a school shooting, the Oklah= oma bombing, a suicide or a Volkswagen hitting and killing my teenaged son,=
there is no closure beyond what happens at the very moment our loved one d= ies.
The door slams shut at the last breath and there's no reaching through t= he ether to say, "Oh, by the way, one more thing, I love you," or words of = apology or regrets, or just to announce somethinginsignificant if they wer= e living but monumentally important now.
Slam! It's over, the life of this vibrant person is gone from your wo= rld -- aworld with the audacity to keep on turning.
"Hey, wait a minute, I didn't finish... Come back." It just doesn'= t work that way and if the grieving families of Tim McVeigh's victims think= closure is still to come, they're living in a fool's paradise. Right now = they, and everyone who endures the sudden death of a loved one, are trekkin= g through the stages of grief that will take them to acceptance. On the su= rface, the ones I've seen interviewed this week look fairly normal.
Underneath their socially acceptable calm they're experiencingchaot= ic emotions ranging from the initial rage, through numbness,followed by dis= belief, then anger, betrayal, more debilitating rage,regret, sorrowful remo= rse and even guilt. Guilt? Yes, because theymeant to drive that day, they= should have done this they should havedone that, until the internal "shoul= ds" almost outweigh McVeigh's"should not have."
They function in spite of these crippling emotions becausethey're l= ooking for "closure," and there is none. There is onlyaccepting the unacc= eptable. Survivors will come to grips with that intheir own time, in their= own way.
Maurice Warner, a mental health counselor at the University ofWashi= ngton, said he doubted watching McVeigh die would bring manyviewers relief = from the pain the bombing caused them. He suggestedfurther that some famili= es might feel violated.
"People very often feeltrashed in their personal issues of loss, when = you have all thesestrangers tromping on what has affected their lives," Wa= rner said. "Their experience is so unique, and they would be very aware oft= he intrusion by people who presume to know what it's like."
Some of the families look at the execution as the end of it all. Th= e pain started with the first blast and continued through the funerals, the= escalating wall of flowers and teddy bears, through the trial, onto the co= nviction and sentencing, to the date of execution days away. They were get= ting close. Whether they or the nation believes incapital punishment or no= t, the story that had a beginning and a middlewould now have an ending. A = closure.
That was not to be. A one-month stay of execution brought more of = the same emotions that were beginning to soften around the edges: disbelief= , rage, betrayal. Just when they thought they couldn't go one more day, th= ey faced 30 more. They've had a reprieve from having to hide their grappli= ng emotions, gaining the right to be openly angry again.
"I need closure," more than one survivor has said to interviewers.
What they really want is catharsis.
They want to be purged of the one debilitating emotion continuing to = feed their insomnia, fear. Until McVeigh's execution is carried out, there = is the fear the man who called their children "collateral damage" in his ho= rrific bombing could someday walk the earth again -- while their loved ones= never can. Inside that fear lives the gut-wrenching rage that keeps them g= oing.These feelings are intense and confusing.
British author C. S. Lewis wrote these words shortly after his wife= died: "In grief, nothing stays put. One keeps emerging from a phase, but i= t always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles= , or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down i= t?"
Executions should not be seen as therapeutic for the surviving fami= lies. So, then, how do they stop spiraling? Each in their own way, I supp= ose. At a certain point -- and there's no hard and fast rule about when th= at point is reached -- they might do as I did: Take a deep breath and begi= n to live one day at a time, concentrating not on how they died, but on how= they lived.
It always makes me smile when I remember how he lived.
Oh, and yes, it really helped to realize nothing could ever hurthim= again, nor can anything ever hurt me as much.