Thursday, October 22, 2009

Somer Thompson: Hearing the Unthinkable the Wrong Way

The body of 7 year-old Somer Thompson was found in a Georgia landfill yesterday. She was on her way home from school in Orange Park, Florida on Monday when she ran ahead of her friends and disappeared. The landfill where her body was found is about 55 miles north of there, and receives garbage from the Orange Park area.

As a mother, I cannot imagine anything worse than the murder of your child. It upsets what all of us perceive to be the natural order of things -- that parents outlive children, and children are protected. I imagine that Somer's mother had considered the possibility, between Monday and Wednesday, that Somer was dead. Still, I don't think anyone can truly prepare themselves to hear something like that.

The Clay County, Florida Sherriff, Rick Beseler, reflected this when he shared how hard it was to notify Somer's mother. He said,
It was the hardest phone call I've ever had to make in my life, and I hope I never have to make another one like that.

This quotation gave me a great deal of pause. First of all, I believe it comes from the heart. I'm sure that was an awful conversation to have. I'm sure it's not the only time he's had to do a death notification, but I am willing to believe it was the most difficult. What made me reread that quotation several times, however, is that he is talking about a phone call. He did a traumatic death notification by phone.

Think about the cop shows you've seen on TV. Think about how death notifications are done in the military. Someone goes to the house and rings the doorbell and sits down with the family. There are really good reasons for that. You are delivering news that will cause a traumatic stress reaction in the listener. You want to be there to assist when that happens. You want to make sure they are not alone afterwards. You want to get medical attention for them, as needed. You want to be humane. You want to make sure they understand what you are saying, and they know you are not joking. And you want, when they remember this awful moment, for them not to remember that you didn't have the decency to drive to their house.

There are people in law enforcement and the military who are specifically trained to do death notifications. In my wallet, I have an entire set of 5 credit-card sized cards with notes on how to deliver bad news. This isn't easy, and it's easy to mess it up. You can't make the truth of the situation any more palatable. But at least you can be compassionate enough not to deliver that truth over the phone.


Alan said...

Florida... yeah.

Anonymous said...

our good lord will set all things right one day. your angel is with him now. i pray the lord will take care of you and your loved ones in this time of sorrow. paul

Colleen said...

The phone isn't "real".

I didn't think of that, at all, when I read your quote of his quote. I was trying to guess why you quoted it (you are such a knows that there is a reason for almost everything in your posts!).

I bet that cop simply wasn't trained to do this part of the just showed one reason why they need to be.

Anonymous said...

The reward should be for the childs killer just to be found dead, in a thrash pile. I am trying to pray the killer into hell. Fast. I hope God is listening. No child just be done this way. My prayers go out to her mother and family.

Anonymous said...

I think the mom has something to do with it. On all the TV interviews her feeling don't look real for a loss of a child, looks so fake, no tears, fake cry noises, rolling her eyes.

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