*The Michigan Chronicle is discussing violence against youth in Detroit, and why it’s happening, especially after four children were shot in four days in June. In the finale of this two-part series, we delve into how healing can come despite the devastation, how community organizations are here to help and what needs to be done to protect the most vulnerable.
If she had her way, Marie Ganaway would never have to hear about a mother or father burying their child prematurely due to violence, especially in Detroit.
Ganaway, a Detroit-based spiritual coach at Autumn Experience Life & Spiritual Coaching, knows that even with that sad improbability, things can be done to bring healing in the community that has fallen victim to violence against children time and time again — and it starts with doing internal work first.
“We have to recognize the emotions that come with losing a child,” she said, adding that the family members of lost loved ones – especially parents of young children – should let go of the sense of guilt. “You have the mentality that you should always go first, not the child… there was something you could have done to prevent it.”
A Grief-Stricken Response
There was nothing that could have prepared the Christian family for Thursday evening, June 17.
On the way home from basketball practice, the family of four – a husband and wife and two sons, 2 and 9, were the target of a freeway shooting that killed the youngest child, Brison Christian.
His father, Brian Christian, spoke up about the violence against his family which turned out to be a case of mistaken identity and said previously during a press conference that he felt guilty about his son’s death.
“I feel like none of us, none of my family was supposed to make it out that truck. I keep replaying the incident in the back of my mind and thinking what I could have done differently?” Christian said during the press conference. “When the situation happened, I kept saying, ‘Man what did I do for someone to want to kill me and my family?’”
He made peace with the what-ifs and he and his family are now working on ensuring other families don’t have to experience tragedies like this through Operation Brison – a multi-jurisdiction freeway crime prevention plan.
The Christian family is getting their healing by giving – Ganaway said that during grieving, it is important to turn those emotions into remembering how the person was loved. Also, using that energy to help the community heal, too, when the time is right.
“Take the energy of the loss and put it into the love of that person … or giving energy to the community,” she said, adding that giving energy back out can simply be volunteering or by having a conversation with elders and hear them talk about what’s happening in the community. Talk to the youth and learn about the adversity they are experiencing.
“Lead by example — you give that same energy of defeat and put it into the community,” she said, adding that this is all part of the healing process — communication is also important. “Share your story with others who can actually relate. It will give you a sense of relief that you are not the only one experiencing this. … Recognize what you are going through and take steps to make it better.”
A Child’s Advocate
Melanie Richards, director of Kids-TALK Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) in Detroit, said that for children who experience violence from adults, it’s a different ballgame and it requires having open communication in a mentally appropriate way.
“I think parents or caregivers know their children best,” she said, adding that if they see behavioral changes or see something that may trigger them it is important to ask a few questions to see if everything is OK…not underestimating that they are an expert of their own child.
CAC focuses on the safety, social and emotional health and stability of children and families throughout Wayne County, according to their website. Located near the Detroit Institute of Arts, CAC envisions a place where the most vulnerable population is not on the receiving end of abuse, neglect and trauma, and receives the protection, support and treatment needed to heal.
Richards said that from forensic interviews and medical care to cross-collaboration with law enforcement and other entities, CAC uses a multidisciplinary approach to create a “safe place” for children to be seen and heard so they go from surviving to thriving.
“We would love to be a resource for the community,” she said, adding that the organization is more than happy to be that for the Detroit area still reeling from violence against children. “We have advocates — this is what they do; they help support and help link people to services … being mindful of where people are, where they live, what’s important to them culturally [and] religiously …so we can make sure it’s a good fit.”
For more information visit https://www.guidance-center.org/kids-talk/.