Unsilence Voices: Why Grieving Mothers Need to Share Their Stories

Gwendolyn Baxter of The Sisterhood protests gun violence while mourning her son.

On December 16, 2003, my son Larry D. Harper Jr. was shot and killed.

Often times, when we hear about a fatal shooting, our natural passion feels a sense of sorrow. This emotion is magnified a thousand times if the fatality is a child. When a mother’s child is murdered, she immediately goes into a dark, inner place where a roller coaster of emotions begins to interact with her mind, body, and soul. These silent emotions attack her everyday interactions, be it at work, school, church or household life. There is no laughter, no peace, no joy, no happiness.

As time goes on, there will be moments when she can peek out of that dark space and maneuver into life’s daily activities. However, at any given time, she can be overtaken with heartache, grief, depression, anxiety, anger, frustration, and suicidal thoughts. Without the proper support system, a strong spiritual faith, or correct conversations, it can take years upon years (if at all) before a mother can get back to life the way she knew it.

Life continues while she slowly tries to be normal again. Most times, no one wants to talk with her about her child for fear of stirring up hurtful emotions. To add to her pain, there is the lingering thought that nobody talks about her child because nobody cares enough to remember them. While in her dark space, a mother can feel like people didn’t care that her child ever existed, let alone care that they were murdered.

While in her dark space, a mother can feel like people didn’t care that her child ever existed, let alone care that they were murdered.

It is detrimental not to recognize a grieving mother’s pain. It is critical to discuss her child at every opportunity, as well as allowing her to be a voice for their demise. She needs to know that the world is listening, and that the world knows her child didn’t just get lost or pass away. Her child was murdered by senseless gun violence. She needs to tell the story of her child and their life as much as possible because it is deeply healing.

This healing process is especially important for mothers whose child’s murder case is unsolved (which compounds the drastic chain of emotions for grieving mothers). In cases of unsolved murders, many mothers spend hours upon hours trying to rationalize who would do this to their child and why. This questioning can consume a mother as she exhausts a lot of time and energy in search of a killer. She becomes suspicious of everyone who ever encountered her child.

Talking about her child helps to shed light in the dark space. Seeing and hearing others talk about their child gives her strength to fight her way out of that dark tunnel, and gives her the drive to live again — knowing that others acknowledge her child’s life.

That is why we built The Sisterhood — to allow grieving mothers’ stories to be told, seen, and heard. The Sisterhood empowers and encourages mothers to grieve in healthy ways. We use the love we have for our children to help us come out of the dark spaces of grief — together.

— Gwendolyn Baxter, Founder of The Sisterhood

the story of a child

told and heard
- by rotunda jordan

i wouldn’t want
anyone to experience
the pain
of losing a child
that’s something
no one should endure

taking the life of someone?

after the loss
the surviving families
have to speak
and raise awareness
for the ones still living

for the victims that fell to gun violence

this is an open invitation
to those that are not aware
of the hurt
the pain
that the family has to deal with
the emotional blow
that leads to a range of
psychological and physiological problems
linked to the stress
of losing your child

it’s unbearable pain
losing a child

therefore the story
of the child
should be told and heard
through those that live

the families

Sandy Hook
Columbine
Las Vegas
each victim was someone’s child

their stories need to be told
not for the sake of a news story
or for someone to say i’m sorry for your loss
but for the living
to do more
about gun violence

and for them to live through their lost one’s stories
from whatever platform is the loudest

i am now my child’s voice
a voice that has been silenced forever

every victim’s story should be told and heard

The Sisterhood wears shirts with photos of their children who were murdered