I have NO financial ties to this book or this author. I am sharing my opinion for your information only.
“No parent should ever have to bury their child.”
A much used, and somewhat cliched statement. Yet, that despairing sentence attempts to capture the essence of the excruciating pain endured by a mother who learns of her son’s death. In Remembering Kennedy, author and grieving mother Kimberly Best beautifully illustrates how her strong faith sustains her. In this poignant memoir and ode to her son, we can all relate to how Ms. Best shares the honest ups and downs of her parenting journey. Parenting is challenging! Balancing our children’s safety with their need for independence keeps us all awake at night.
Young Kennedy was a bright and ambitious boy, excelling in sports, surrounded by the love of his family and church community. Like all teens, he wanted to be accepted by his peers, to “belong.” And like most teens, Kennedy was not sure who he could trust in his circle of friends. At the tender age of 16, Kennedy’s prefrontal cortex was not yet fully developed. This rational part of the brain allows us to understand long term consequences and use logic to make decisions. The prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until around age 25.
Unfortunately, Kennedy’s slightly older “friends” were able to exploit his developmental vulnerability for their benefit. Despite his strong family and faith support system, this misplaced trust led to a tragic end.
The series of events that led to Kennedy’s disappearance and violent death were heavily publicized in his rural county. The lengthy legal process to prosecute this evil crime continued the ongoing trauma for Kennedy’s family. Grieving after a community-involved death is especially difficult because privacy is lost. Everywhere you go, people are asking questions in either a helpful or oh-so-human “just to be nosy” way. Even a benign trip to the post office becomes a reminder of your loved one’s death.
Stigma is a factor in crime-related death. Even in the most supportive community, homicides often involve misplaced blame for the innocent family and victim. One of the reasons this happens is because folks feel safer if they can distance themselves from a tragedy by rationalizing: “it can’t happen to me because I make different choices.” This gives onlookers a false sense of control in the face of senseless tragedies.
Even if we can understand why homicide is often stigmatized, this information does not help smooth the intense grief process of the victim’s family. After a homicide, grievers are less likely to receive the emotional and material support that is vital to healthy coping. Ms. Best illustrates how her Christian faith and church family filled that need.
I recently had the privilege of meeting Ms. Best and her family. She shares her story to honor Kennedy’s memory and to advocate for others. Please support her mission and Kennedy’s legacy by purchasing her book and sharing it with friends and colleagues.
Who Should Read this Book and Why
All parents, whether you have lost a child or not: you need to understand the seriousness of what our teens are dealing with everyday.
All adult members of the extended family after the death of a young person: you need to understand the struggle of the parents and how you can best help.
Church members: you need to understand how to support your fellow church members after a traumatic death.
Grief outreach providers: you need to understand how violent and public death influences the grief experience.
Victim advocates: you need to understand how best to support trauma survivors through the legal system even as they are deeply grieving.
Community members: we all have a responsibility to raise awareness and support efforts to reduce teen homicide risk, as well as to support the survivors of violent crime.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, homicide accounts for 13% of all teen deaths, with black males facing 15 times more risk of dying by homicide than white males. It is easy to sit back and point fingers at the scourge of “gangs and drugs,” but the serious risk is present in every neighborhood and school system in the United States. If your family has avoided this danger so far, count yourself blessed. But I promise that eventually this issue will affect your community too. I pray that our children stay safe.
Statistics source: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db37.htm
NC Victim Assistance Network: https://www.nc-van.org/
Surviving Violent Crimes Handbook: http://www.nc-van.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Handbook-2018.pdf
Grief Recovery After Substance Passing support groups http://grasphelp.org/raleigh-chapter/
Call your local District Attorney’s office to ask about their homicide support group
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