Searching For Answers When Someone We Love is Murdered
We’ve all been there at one time or another, sitting in front of an evening newscast, our eyes roaming around the room in an attempt to avoid the harsh reality that there has been another senseless slaying. We reach for the remote and click the painful reminder off of the television screen and try to put the scenes out of our mind. Surely such atrocities would never happen to us. We comfort ourselves believing that prudent people such as ourselves could never suffer the loss of a family member at the hands of another. Murder, homicide, and massacres must be reserved in our minds for those other than ourselves; otherwise we are vulnerable to the pain and suffering we view with such disdain.
The harsh reality is that none of us are exempt from horrible tragedies in life. The Scriptures make it clear that Christians are not spared from suffering trials. Many examples are given to us in the Bible of the suffering that took place in the lives of innocent people. Christians in the New Testament were not spared sickness, nor were they spared persecution. Although early believers did not seek after suffering, it was accepted by them. Paul stated that he desired to share in the sufferings of Christ. Suffering, as heartbreaking as it is, is designed to strip away all the external trappings we have surrounded ourselves with and take us to a place of total dependence on our Savior.
Suffering, heartbreak, and tragic loss are not strangers to Elisia. Pregnant with her third child, her life was filled with everything she had dreamed of. A wonderful husband and children filled her days with bundles of blessings. The most remote thing from Elisia’s thoughts was delivering her child without her husband by her side.
Join Elisia and FOYCWW as we chat together.
FOYCWW – Elisia, how did God bring you and Brad together?
Elisia - I met Brad at a college Christian conference, and two years later, we were married. We were so sure we were meant for each other. We were both business majors in college and enjoyed making friends with the international students on campus. We even had a weekly Bible study with them. Brad and I worked well together in ministry--reaching out to foreign students.
FOYCWW – How long were you married?
Elisia - We were married for 8 1/2 years. When he died I was 5 months pregnant with our third child.
FOYCWW – You had a solid marriage and precious children, and were ready to serve the Lord. Then something happened to shatter that perfect world.
Elisia - Brad was murdered through a botched kidnapping-for-ransom plot devised by his office secretary and her boyfriend.
FOYCWW – I can’t imagine what confusion and terror must have gone through your mind.
Elisia - Just being told by the police that Brad was dead and not being allowed to see his body made it difficult for me to fully believe he was dead. However, because he didn't come home when he was supposed to, his car was still parked at the office parking lot, he never answered the phone when I tried to call him, and one of the officers who identified him was a family friend of ours, I couldn't doubt Brad's death. Part of me still wanted to question whether he was really dead or not. I didn't know whether or not his face would be recognizable or suitable for a funeral viewing. I had to wait for three days after the autopsy was done to see his body.
FOYCWW - Can you give us any insight into the thoughts of a young widow/widower during that waiting time?
Elisia - I wondered what his killers did to him, how they physically hurt him.
FOYCWW – When you lose a spouse through the violent actions of another person you have no control over what has happened. How incredibly painful and fearful! How did you react to such an enormous life-changing tragedy?
Elisia - I did not feel secure that his murderers, who were not caught yet, were done with their crime. I didn't know their intentions or reasons for killing my husband or their reason for wanting to kidnap him until a few months later. So in the first couple of months, I was very paranoid about my safety and my children's safety. I prayed a lot. But I also made changes that made a lot of common sense. I got rid of my personalized license plates. I changed my house locks and alarm security codes, installed security cameras around my house, and was aware of my children's whereabouts at all times. I felt compelled to do these things since my husband’s killers took his keys, wallet, and everything in it. I kept in touch with the investigators and they assured me that neither my family nor I was in danger.
FOYCWW – The brutal crime of murder holds great fascination for the public as well as the news media. How did your family deal with the insensitivity of others in respecting the gravity of your loss?
Elisia - We told the media we didn't want interviews because it was a difficult time, and we sent a family letter and released it to them to broadcast. However, when we needed their help to promote the reward money for anyone with information about Brad's killers, we contacted the media to give us airtime and they were very helpful. You just need to communicate to them how you want them to treat you.
FOYCWW - In the midst of trying to cope with the loss, the spouses of murder victims often find they must put their feelings on hold as they follow court hearings, trials, and appeals. The insult of the loss continues to be inflicted as the legal system deals with the murderer. Tell us what impact this had on your life.
Elisia -I felt my life was "on hold" as I waited for the trials to end. Attending the trials and testifying was very difficult physically, mentally, and emotionally. I surrounded myself with many friends and family to go to court with me, sit with me, pray for me, and eat lunch with me. It is difficult to hear the details of the murder discussed in court. It's reliving it, each time you hear the details. And when Brad's name was mentioned, it sounded like it was just a name. The real issue in the trial was whether or not the defendants were guilty.
FOYCWW - How did your family work their way through the complicated legal justice system?
Elisia - We were fortunate to have the best DDA’s to defend us. My family and I kept in close communication with the District Attorney's office and knew the date for each hearing, and I always asked questions to make sure I understood what was going on. It is very important to do this.
FOYCWW - In such times of crisis what do you need people to say to you?
Elisia - I want people to just listen, hug me, and pray with me. Most people say, "Call me if you need anything." This is hard for me to do, especially if I was not that close to that person before. It would be better for them to call occasionally and offer whatever services they want to help with rather than wait for me to call.
FOYCWW - Friends mean well, but frequently when someone suffers the loss of a spouse some people react by saying inappropriate things that deeply hurt our wounded hearts. When a spouse is murdered well meaning people have a more difficult time knowing what to say. Believers can be wonderfully supportive, but at times, searching for comforting words, fall into the ‘Christian cliché’ trap. What comments were hurtful to you?
Elisia - I didn't appreciate comments like, "Oh you're so young, you'll remarry again." or the quoting of verses like Romans 8:28 "For all things work together for good…” I like this verse, but when people threw it at me, I felt they were dehumanizing my feelings and emotional struggles. Giving a scripture verse didn’t automatically Band-Aid the pain, especially when I was confused, overwhelmed, frustrated, and wondering WHY my husband was murdered. Where was God when my husband was killed? I think that if the Holy Spirit leads someone to share scriptures, then he should do so, and pray that God's word would uplift the person grieving. But the most important thing someone can do is to listen with his eyes and heart and make the person grieving feel normal. Make the grieving person feel that it is OK to cry, to question God, to be angry, to be experiencing a ball of emotions in their grief process.
FOYCWW - Murder involves more than death. For many of its victims, murder cuts short a healthy young life, and for all its victims it is an act of reckless cruelty. Cruelty frequently compounds the sense of sorrow and loss. The feelings of injustice, distrust, and helplessness may arise as a result. Have you experienced any of these feelings?
Elisia - I experienced all of these feelings. My husband died at the age of 31 and I was 30. It is cruel to murder a human being.
FOYCWW - In the midst of the darkness how have you channeled your emotional energy in constructive ways?
Elisia - When opportunities come, I tell people about Brad's and my relationship with God and how everyone needs to make sure they are saved and ready to meet God should they die. I put my energy in speaking about this to any well-wishers who are willing to listen. I did my best to care for my children, and as I met other widows, we shared stories. When I lacked energy, I rested, took naps, and when I was severely depressed (this saps ALL your energy), I met with a family therapist who always helped steer me to the right frame of mind.
It is important to stay close to Jesus. Read His Word daily, and don't stop talking to God about everything you are struggling with, even when you are angry and frustrated with Him. He already knows how you feel even before you tell Him. Don't stop going to Church. Your Christian family is there for you. Accept help from people. If you don't have any support group, pray for one. And finally, remember to thank God for all His blessings in your life. Worship Him.
FOYCWW – In spite of the heart storms that have loomed over you, His light is still shining that others might see. We would like to thank you Elisia for being willing to share your painful memories with us. Many would wonder at this point what good could possibly come out of such suffering. Answers to questions of that magnitude do not come easily, but we can clearly see what God wants to produce in us as a result of suffering.
It is God’s desire that His people be conformed into the image of Christ. Nothing refines our character and strengthens our faith more thoroughly than when we suffer. Growth and stability come from weathering the storms. Although we would never choose to go through such a challenge, if the outcome is becoming more Christ-like, Brad and others who have been murdered will not have lost their lives in vain. ‘
The untamed evil that causes such atrocities forces us to trust in God’s sovereignty. In the midst of such evil we may not understand or appreciate the holiness that God can produce in us as we exercise His sovereign power. When Christ faced crucifixion He trusted that His Father had sovereign control over everything. God’s sovereign power alone is enough to trust in, but to His power we must add omniscience. He knows the end of the story! Understandably we look at evil with fear, but the Bible assures us that God’s control over what happens to us surpasses any malevolent tragedy we experience while struggling to live in this sinful corrupt world.
Suffering allows us to claim and utilize more of God’s power in our lives. Suffering shows us how weak we are and forces us to rely on God for help. Our inadequacies must be acknowledged for us to utilize God’s power. We should not fear our weakness, because it is in our weakness that we find strength. Mistrusting God’s love and wisdom for allowing undeserved suffering will not allow God to prove His power in our weakness.
If you, dear widow/widower, share with Elisia a loss through some violent act at the hands of another, look for the light. Revelation 21:23 tells us that in eternity there will be neither sun nor moon, for the glory of God will flood us with light! Lawlessness, cruelty, fear, and confusion will be bound and the light will shine! As Christians we are pilgrims in a foreign land. Our true home is in Heaven. Allowing God to refine us through the fire of suffering brings greater eternal rewards. If we set our affections on things above we will see ourselves as sojourners on this earth. If we are sojourners we have little to lose on earth compared to the glories of Heaven that await us. Through the loss that murder brings, we can only long for what we have invested in our eternity. This world is just a ‘training field’ God is using to prepare us for eternity. If we endure suffering and allow it to do a work within us pleasing to the Lord, we will enter into His presence with the words, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”