Sunday, October 30, 2011

What Grief Causes

Some people turn their grief into a journey to the bottom of a bottle.  Others manage to find some meaning in trying to solve the underlying causes of the tragedy.  Here is one of the more useful applications of grief:

Carla Jacobs was engaged to be married when her future mother-in-law was killed by her future sister-in-law. Roma Jacobs, 78, was begging a 911 operator for help when Victoria Jacobs “Betty” Madeira, 43, fired the gunshot that killed her own mother.

Today, Carla is a member of the Treatment Advocacy Board of Directors and the organizer of statewide efforts to implement assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) in California, where each county must opt in to “Laura’s Law” individually.

The Jacobs family experience of loss and advocacy is the heart of OC Register reporter Greg Hardesty’s gripping story about the psychological wounds left by mass killings and other violent deaths, “Long road ahead for Seal Beach survivors” (Oct. 26). "You know that old theory about 'closure?' " Carla told the reporter. "Well, there's no such thing as closure. It's been more than 20 years, and it's not over. It's not over emotionally. The best way I can describe it is that it's become muted."

Muted – but a catalyst for advocacy. As Carla puts it, "If there's a way to help prevent the next episode like this from occurring, well, that's the only good that can come out of this."

This is a story we hear at the Treatment Advocacy Center over and over – about individuals and families whose ferocious advocacy for treatment of severe mental illness is forged by personal loss and grief.
A lot of gun control advocates are people who were overwhelmed by grief, and focused on the device, not the underlying problem.   Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) is one of those who rather than ask why a severely mentally ill person was loose and able to buy a gun in a state with a pretty comprehensive gun control law, chose to focus on the gun.  She has her focus wrong, but I can at least understand how her grief has made gun control the focus on her life.  It is most unfortunate that she has failed to recognize the core of the problem.

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