As I sat down this morning, with my coffee in hand and opened the news on my phone, my heart sank at reading yet another report of gun violence. "Approximately 20 dead in Florida club shooting, 49 injured." Yesterday, the report was of an up and coming singer shot and killed while she was signing autographs after a show. In the past, these news stories would certainly have been a topic of conversation in my world, but these days the topic of gun violence sends a chill down my spine that wasn't there a year ago.
These days, I hear of gun violence and it makes my heart hurt. I feel my blood run cold and anger rises up through my stomach into my throat. Tears burn my eyes and my breath quickens. I am sickened by the tragedies on the news related to what is often reported as "senseless acts of violence." I'm not sure we can call them senseless anymore though. Our gun laws have provided people with the rational that they have every right to walk into a nightclub, or an event, or even their own home, and take someone else's life.
A year ago, I'm not sure I would have been writing a post on my blog that could possibly stir up controversy, but a year ago I hadn't yet lost one of the most important people in my life to gun violence. A year ago, I would have shuddered at reading the news stories I read this morning, but it wouldn't have affected me the way they do today. I certainly wouldn't have decided to sit down at my computer and post anything like this on my blog. Even as I write this, I'm wondering if stating my very strong opinions on this subject is a good idea, but I'm doing it anyway, because I have this public platform and the opportunity to share the pain that resonates in the aftermath of gun violence.
To the people out there who believe that we as Americans should have the right to bear arms, should be able to carry a concealed weapon, should be able to have an arsenal of guns in their homes, or should not have to go through rigorous background checks in order to own a weapon, let me share with you another side of that equation... the pain that accompanies losing someone you love, at the hands of someone who believed the same as you:
At first, the pain is unbearable. It feels as though you have ice water flowing through your veins. You cannot feel the ground beneath your feet, it is as if the earth has disappeared from under you. You cannot hear yourself speak or scream or cry because as the news sinks in, your heart is pumping so hard that it deafens any noise you make. No matter how hard you try, you have images that consume your thoughts of losing your loved one in this brutal manner. You are afraid to close your eyes and at the same time, want desperately to fall asleep so you can wake up from this nightmare. You are awoken in the middle of the night with tears puddling on your pillow, and what feels like fire creeping up your chest. Your arms and legs go numb. You feel as if someone, or something, is stealing your breath.
As the weeks pass on, you feel like you are being drowned in an ocean of sorrow while the tempest of anger swirls through your mind. Any time your loved one comes to mind, which is often, it is as if your heart is physically being ripped out of your chest through a pin-sized hole. You begin to fear forgetting what they look like, or what their voice sounded like, or how they smelled, and you search fervently for pictures or videos or even their perfume to keep them cemented in your memory.
Months pass, and there is still no sense of peace. You still wake up in the middle of the night, having dreamt about them, and the loss is even more tangible. You are reminded, yet again, that it was a gun...in the hands of a monster...who created this pain that you will live with for the rest of your life. As more time passes, and nearly a year has gone by, you awaken to reports of mass shootings and murder/suicides. That wound in your heart that you have been tenderly caring for, is ripped open once again, and this time does not just bleed for your own loss, but now is bleeding for the families and friends of these victims, from yet another catastrophe caused by a person who held that gun in their hands and believed that they had the right to take someone else's life. That wound in your heart now bleeds and aches for the pain you know the victim's loved ones will have to live with for the rest of their lives. The pain has multiplied.
Now I know that this is a controversial topic. I know that there are people in this country who own guns and do not turn them on their loved ones, or bring them to a concert with the intent to kill, or bring them into a nightclub to commit a massacre. I know this. I know that there are people in this country whose belief in the right to bear arms is accompanied by wanting stricter gun laws. I know there are all sorts of sides to this that I'm probably not even touching on or aware of. My goal in writing this is not to hold up the dialectical tension of this topic. My goal is to shine the light on the part of this story that will not get the media attention the way the person who committed the crime gets, or the horrific details of the act of violence itself.
This is about how those of us who have been affected by gun violence will never really heal completely. This post is for the loved ones of the most recent tragedies in Orlando, but more specifically for all of us who feel the weight and agonizing grief of losing someone to this type of violence. May peace eventually settle into the cracks in your hearts where the pain currently resides.