Quite often, when you watch the news during the holidays, you’re likely going to hear about a tragic situation that happened to a family: a house fire, a homicide, a fatal car accident, etc. And you always think, “Oh, those poor people, having to deal with that on a holiday.” And then you typically forget about it within five minutes because it didn’t affect you directly. Those were my experiences, at least. However, when a woman I previously dated was one of three murdered in a triple homicide on Thanksgiving by the father of the home who snapped out of nowhere, suddenly I was now affected directly.
I chose to not run away from the mixed emotions that happened, and I also didn’t wait long to reach out for help and to get active towards making changes. I didn’t want anyone to experience what I was going through ever again. My friend who died was an activist against the very causes that took her life. I felt like I owed it to her to carry the torch onwards.
Communication and education are two of the biggest tools that we can use to help those in distress after such incidents, and to help reduce or prevent more incidents. It wasn’t until I reached out to a Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America group that I learned not only that there was there a thing called a Survivor Network (and Everytown for Gun Safety), but also that I was considered a survivor and that there were resources available to help me, including free counseling because of the city that I live in. I was always under the impression that a survivor had to be someone who either got shot and lived, or maybe the bullet missed them and they lived. I had no idea that a survivor is anyone who has been affected directly by gun violence either personally or by losing someone.
Learning that information saved me in more ways than I can express, and I try to pay that forward by telling as many people as I can the same information. During my grieving, I briefly experienced a (very common) time of guilt that I had not gotten involved with something like this years earlier. But I can’t dwell on the past. While it’s unfortunate that it took a tragedy to motivate me to do more for this cause, I’m just grateful that I’m here now, and I believe I’m doing work to help save lives.
Thanksgiving will never be the same for me ever again, and of course I’ll think of this tragedy every year. But while others are having gratitude for things like health, family and whatever else, most of my gratitude on that day will be towards having opportunities to make positive changes like this in the world, and also knowing that I’m likely making my friend proud, in her honor. And I’ll always be grateful that I discovered the Survivor Network.