grief Life after loss

Unexpected Grief Triggers bring back PTSD 5 years later

Unexpected grief triggers with police brutality and unrest bring back PTSD in 2020, 5 years after my husband's murder.

On Reuters news this morning and there was no mention of Coronavirus. It hasn’t disappeared but more pressing news across the country is broadcasting this morning.

Cities across the United States have erupted into violent scenes of protests. While some protesters peacefully object to police brutality, others have turned into rioters. Angry crowds looting stores, setting fires to police cars and barricading streets were filmed last night.

This all began last week with the death of George Floyd, a black man in Minnesota, who spent his last moments pinned under a police officer’s knee, begging for his life.

The officers filed a report regarding Floyd’s death as a “medical incident during a police interaction”. Reports from the ambulance that transported Floyd to a nearby hospital stated the male was pulseless and unresponsive .

What infuriates me is that if bystanders had not videotaped the scene, these bad cops would get away with it. The vague ‘medical incident’ would be enough to avoid blame to any of the cops involved.

The former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who refused to move his knee from Floyd’s neck for over 8 minutes despite cries “I cannot breath” has a history on the police force. He shot one suspect, was involved in the fatal shooting of another, and received at least 17 complaints during his nearly two decades with the department, according to police records and archived news reports.

Why was this man still allowed to serve as a police officer?

What good old boys club did he belong to?

The news has set off triggers for me and emotions I haven’t let surface for a while. The night my husband died I was initially told he had had a heart attack. Then more specifically that he died of cardiac arrest.

I saw his body at the hospital and was surprised to see cuts and bruises covering his barefoot, bathing suit and t-shirt attire. I had been sitting with him earlier that evening on the beach with friends and he had been fine.

Late that night, after I left my dead husband at the hospital, the police came to my house to ask questions. They asked if he had been drinking and what medications he was on. I told them. He had had a few beers, yes.

I later found out that there had been a fight. Two dads, who witnesses said had been drinking, from the party being held in our beach community house, had pushed my husband around. He had gone in to use the bathroom and these men had locked the bathroom door so you had to actually go through the party room to access the public bathroom.

When men start to get pushed around, they generally push back. Somehow Mike ended up on the floor with 2 men sitting on top of him. It took 2 years but eventually the police department released video footage of my husband’s last minutes alive. He struggled under the weight of two men and used his only weapon to fight back as he bit into the calf of one of the men.

Minutes after he stopped struggling, the men got up and left him laying on the ground while teens continued to eat at nearby picnic tables, some taking photos.

911 was called and arrived too late. Mike’s unresponsive and pulseless body was taken by ambulance to the hospital as I stood unknowingly on my deck across the street from the scene, watching as the police and ambulance lights flashed.

When alerted by a neighbor that the man on the stretcher looked like my husband, I ran around the house looking for Mike. I was sure he had left the beach and gone home a little while ago. He wasn’t home. Friends rushed me to the nearby hospital where I faced the evening that changed my life.

The next day I expected news crews to be at the beach investigating this murder. But nothing happened.

I planned a funeral.

There was a small mention in the local newspaper of a death at a party in my town. No names given.

No arrests were made.

After speaking with family and friends I began to pursue my own investigation and hire my own lawyer to seek justice for Mike.

If he had been a black man who wandered into the party house to use the bathroom and had been murdered, I bet it would somehow have been newsworthy.

Black lives do matter, but so did my husbands.

Rumors started to surface that the two men who killed Mike had connections with the local police department. They told kids at the party that nothing would happen to them. We had corrupt law enforcement leaders in our county at the time. The chief of police was indicted and imprisoned later that year due to abuse of his office and police brutality. It was suspected that these men who killed my husband were part of that good old boys club.

When we questioned the District Attorney’s office why no charges had been made against these men they put together a grand jury. The two men hired attorneys who also worked for the chief of police.  They brought witnesses to the grand jury but neither my lawyer nor I was not allowed to be part of that procedure. The D.A.  led the jurors to believe these men had acted in self defense.

The jurors were not exposed to the video footage from that night. It surfaced afterwards. The grand jury did not pursue a criminal trial.

Unable to pursue these men criminally, we filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit. My lawyer and private investigator began to interview people who had been at the party. I gave a detailed deposition and was questioned by the attorneys representing these men. Mike’s story was told to the disbelief of others in our local newspaper, by Danielle Campbell on channel 12 news, by Sarah Wallace on NBC news in New York and in a petition shared and signed over 4000 times.

After almost 3 years we won a monetary settlement. It was indeed anticlimactic. These men basically got away with murder.

I am not minimizing the struggle that people of color have had to endure. I know that the color of my skin makes life much easier for me.

My protest is against a system that allows bad cops to thrive. To feel they have unlimited power to control others. For a system that fears the consequences of questioning their own.  To allow the individuals who have hurt others to get away with it.

One of the better clips I saw today was a scene in Flint Michigan where the sheriff told protesters he agrees with them and stands against the criminal acts of police brutality. Something must be done to get those individuals off the force and prosecuted if the situation warrants action. Enough with protecting your own at the cost of justice.

I am not sure what action can be done. Protesting seems helpful, to the protestors. Rioting is definitely not. What is next?

The news this week has triggered my PTSD and brought back tears and battles with overwhelming grief. I have been reliving those days after my husband died and I became a widow. Several times this past week I just want to pull up the covers and spend the day in bed.

But that is not the way to move forward. 

Some days are just harder than others. We all go through this, but as my mom always said, this too shall pass. I believe you mom.

 

 

 

 

7 comments

    1. Thanks for reading. I think it’s important to share these stories so that maybe it can lead towards a positive change.

  1. Thank you I’m newly widowed and 48 years old it was sudden mike your story
    I don’t know where my life is going as we were married 25 years
    I want desperately to recover from my loss

    1. Thanks for reading Michele – I was married 26 years too. You will get better. Just keep moving forward, one day at a time.

  2. How terrible, you’ve had to endure such a lot, I can’t imagine going through anything like this. You’re obviously a very strong lady to have come out of this and ‘kept moving forward’, eventually the finding happiness you deserve.

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