On May 30, 2012, my husband called while I was driving to work. He told me that his ex-wife had been shot and killed. It hit me hard, my stepdaughter’s mother was dead. I started crying and shaking and pulled over. She had just turned 15 years old, still a baby, too young to have her world shattered. This is my story of caring for a motherless child because of gun violence.
My husband started the two hour drive to pick her up. I tried to prepare myself for what I could possibly do for her. She was already at school when the news came. All she had was her backpack and the clothes on her back. Her home and belongings were not accessible.
They arrived at our home hours later and there were many tears and assurances made. She slept next to me for weeks. I read to her until she fell asleep for months. We hugged her when we found her crying on the ground. She cried in the shower. She listened to music and talked to friends on Facebook with the iPad.
There was much to be done. She still had no belongings. We had to go shopping so she had clothes for the funeral. She needed makeup and underclothes, everything, really. She only had a few things at our house, she was only here on the weekends. She could not approach her mother’s casket, it was too much. She could not look at the urn she eventually received. She talked to us and went to counseling. She lost her mother, never stepped foot in her home again, lost her belongings, and left her school and friends. We learned of domestic violence that had been hidden and how she, then age 14, tried to protect and care for her mother.
Grief for teenagers comes in waves with each milestone. She felt it when she got her license, went to prom and was accepted to college. She graduated high school on the third anniversary of her mother’s death. She just graduated from college, she is happy and thriving, and we are so proud of her. That the road has not been easy is an understatement.
There will always be unanswered questions. Was it murder or suicide? On that morning, a neighbor heard a gunshot at 8:30 a.m. and called 911. The husband was wrestled down by neighbors in the front yard with a Glock in his hand before he could kill himself. Her mother was dead in the house. The investigation was inconclusive. The next year, he killed himself with a shotgun. As a parent, you want to protect your children from pain; trying to alleviate her excruciating pain was all we could do. There are more holes and gaps to come, getting married, having children, every holiday, the guilt and sorrow of memories fading. Red Flag laws could have prevented her mother’s death. She is one of the many reasons I fight for gun violence prevention.