TAPS: Processing grief in wake of recent violence

WASHINGTON — Anywhere there was a television this past week, there were people staring at the news, faces stretched into a rictus of horror.

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First, there was Tuesday’s police killing of Alton Sterling, captured on video. The 37-year-old African-American man was shot several times while pinned to the ground by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. On Wednesday, another chilling video showed the aftermath of the fatal police shooting of Philando Castile, 32, in Minnesota as his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter watched.

Then, on Thursday, gunfire rang out during a peaceful protest march in Dallas, Texas, leaving five police officers dead at the hands of a man who said he was upset about the police shootings and wanted to kill white officers.

“It really moves the grief to a different level,” said Bonnie Carroll, founder of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), a nonprofit based in Arlington, Virginia, that helps military families deal with the loss of loved ones.

Carroll said TAPS has received a number of calls from families worried about what their children are seeing and the fear that the week’s events is causing them.

“Whether [it is] African-American children wanting to feel safe in their community, to the children of police officers who are out and about, we must give meaning and purpose to this circumstance by knowing police are rising to a higher standard and knowing our communities will look at this and recognize [ …] we must stand up and be our best selves and come together,” Carroll said.

She said the public nature of Sterling and Castile’s deaths means families are grieving not just with the nation but also privately. For the families of the Dallas police officers killed while they were trying to fulfill their mission to serve and protect, targeted by someone filled with hate, Carroll said the grief is also very deep.

“These were fathers and sons and brothers [ …] they were people who lived in the community and intended to do good, and it is tragic for the families that their deaths had so many complex factors to them,” she said.

The nation is united in care and concern for all those impacted by these tragedies, she said, and people intend to live peaceful lives and protect our society.

“We must be part of that to move forward, and give meaning and purpose to the lives lost in all cases,” Carroll said.

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