Support group helps grieving survivors

The group counseling session is held Thursday evenings at the Demetrious Johnson Foundation in St. Louis.

"I'm not angry at the world," said Elon Miles, "I'm just angry at the situation."

Coping with anger and grief has been a challenge for Miles since the sudden death of her son Christopher. Another grieving mother convinced Miles to join her at the Trauma Outreach Group. The group counseling session is held Thursday evenings at the Demetrious Johnson Foundation in St. Louis.

"Sometimes you need to be around other people that have lived what you're living and get that support," said a mother whose 15-year-old son was killed by an armed robber. "I knew he was going to be somebody and for someone to take his life at 15."

Mental health professionals Khatibe Haleed and Joe Yancey guide the weekly discussions.

"Most of that conversation is led by the members of the group themselves," said Yancey. "Mostly it's moms who've lost sons, but we've also had men, siblings, and we've had younger children who've showed up."

Grieving survivors of sudden, unexpected death share complex reactions: anger, depression, vengeance. A man whose teenage nephew was murdered rejected getting revenge.

"Why would I want to bring that kind of pain to another family?"

On Elon Miles' first visit to the Trauma Outreach Group, she shared her reaction to the death of her son. On July 21, Miles' 23-year old son Christopher burned to death after a well publicized police chase. Miles was a passenger in a car that police pursued from St. Louis County into the city. During the high speed pursuit, the car ran into an SUV and both vehicles caught fire. Cell phone video captured the fiery death of Miles' son.

"I'm still angry about the fact I wasn't there to protect him," said Miles. "For a minute, I was just angry at the fact God took my son away from me and I didn't know why."

As the reality sets in on life without a loved one, survivors like Miles can feel frustrated and abandoned until they realize during group therapy that others are feeling the same symptoms of grief.

"It made me deal with it a little bit better knowing that other people were going through what I was going through and I'm not alone," said Miles, "and I have other people I can talk to and I can express myself and they can understand how I'm feeling."

One hug after another is how the Trauma Outreach meeting ends every week, each survivor working toward the realization that you don't get over the loss of a loved one, but you can learn to live with it with the help of others.

"If you don't have anything to say, or you don't know what to say, a hug is better than anything else," said Miles. "No spoken words. Just give me a hug."


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