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Kelley S. Ireland

In memory of my son

In the course of seven years, I was affected by gun violence three separate times.

In 1989, my 18-year-old son died by suicide after he shot himself.

In 1993, in the performance of my job, I responded to three employees who were robbed at gun point, bound, gagged by the perpetrator and brutally pistol whipped. Black trash bags were placed over their heads before they were left by the assailant.

In 1996, my dear friend was shot and killed as he came to work one morning. He would die trying to avert a mass shooting by a drugged, disgruntled, former employee who had a written “hit list” of 12 people he intended to kill that morning. My friend Jim was the only person killed, however, Jim was not on his list of intended victims. Jim’s intervention saved the lives of others, but in doing so, he lost his own.

Later, in 2011, the Tucson mass shooting also affected me deeply, as we are a small city that has a close-knit feeling.

As part of my own healing journey, I have employed many techniques to quell the inertia that can come from the cumulative trauma of grief in the form of private grief counseling, attending grief groups and working on a suicide crisis line as a volunteer. I later formed a grief support group of my own, a non-profit group called “Good Grief,” that I facilitated in small rural towns in Arizona for people with no grief/loss assistance. I facilitated it for three years before relocating to another state. Currently I have a Facebook page called “Good Grief,” in which I attempt to let people know about the grieving process and some of the pitfalls on the path. I try to do this with gentle assurance that the grief journey is a normal part of life, even when the circumstances are not.

I became involved in gun violence prevention in order to participate and learn how I might work to stem the tide of gun violence, including suicide. It is a lofty ambition, of course, but I am reminded daily that gun violence affects us all, and if it hasn’t touched you, it will. Because it has not just touched me, it has devastated my life. And if it happened to me, it can happen to anyone. Currently I am a Be Smart lead, and I partner with another advocate like myself to educate people on gun safety in homes with children.

Reacting shows support for gun violence survivors.