Letter to the Editor

Murder-suicide doesn’t tell real story

Deeper tragedy goes unanswered

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Comment

The Herald recently ran the story of the 61-year-old woman who shot her 37-year-old mentally impaired daughter in an Alpharetta hotel and then turned the gun on herself.

I do not have all the details regarding this incident yet, but calling it a murder-suicide is so very wrong, because there is so much more to the story.

The individuals involved were a mother and daughter, the mother in her mid-60s and the daughter in her 30s. The daughter was profoundly disabled.

This is a tragic failure, and so very painful to imagine what drove this mother to think that this was her only means of escape.

There is more than enough blame to go around. Until this incident, the mother and child were invisible to us – just like most other families caring for a family member with a disability,

Because of the social and physical architecture of our community, these families are left in a dark corner of the room. They do not have the time, energy or resources to advocate for themselves or coalesce into a political bloc that would finally draw the interest of elected and appointed officials.

I, we, need to find better ways to articulate their reality – something that resonates with the rest of the community. We never again want to hear the words, “No interest.”

Families fracture and friends disappear within a very short span of time when a child is born with or acquires a disability. I hear the words “lonely” and “silence” over and over again from parents new to the North Metro Miracle League.

I have to admit the formation of social networks and support groups was an unexpected consequence when we started the Miracle League in 2001.

But now, 16 years later, it is one of our primary goals.

What happened a few days ago hurts. Can the Miracle League and other groups with a parallel mission of helping disable children keep this from happening again?

No, but if we stop just one tragedy, it’s a beginning. Let’s commit to the work ahead.

At this point the Miracle League does not have a formal crisis response/intervention program other than facilitating relationships among Miracle League families that share a common reality.

These personal relationships and social networks are our crisis response teams.
It is time for us to recognize the need and find a way to address that need.
When a parent like the mother in the room starts to spiral into a very dark place there needs to be someone to turn to.

What do we do if the Miracle League is a desperate parent’s first point of contact? And what could a trained Miracle League parent do if added to a formal response team?

Could that parent add an element of empathy and understanding that might make a difference? We have work to do. All of us.

– John P. McLaughlin
Executive director, North Fulton Miracle League


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