A Mother’s Grief: Mental Health Resources for Families Affected By Gun Violence

June 6, 2024

In communities faced with persistent gun violence, the specific needs of grieving families, particularly mothers, often go unrecognized. Addressing these needs, Elizabeth Robinson and her organization, C.H.A.N.G.E. (Communities Healing And Nurturing Growth through Edification), provide an essential lifeline. The organization's mission is clear: to offer targeted support to those left after the tragedy of violence, especially focusing on the profound impact on mothers. While C.H.A.N.G.E. provides several avenues of family support, Liz has a personal connection to grieving mothers. 

"When you get that knock at your door, life changes," Robinson shares, encapsulating the immediate and irreversible alteration in a family's life following the loss of a child to violence. Her tearful words stem from the loss of her son Lewis in 2018 and the feelings of intense grief and loneliness she experienced. 

C.H.A.N.G.E. operates on the principle that grief support must be accessible and ongoing. "It's not a one-time thing... it’s an ongoing service they can come to as needed," Robinson explains. This perspective acknowledges the enduring nature of loss, providing a space for healing that matches the persistent shadow cast by grief. The organization’s approach includes in-person sessions at the Martin Luther King Center and virtual gatherings, ensuring broad accessibility to those in need.

Robinson's advocacy extends to prevention, where she addresses potential perpetrators with a stark reminder of gun violence's lasting consequences. "I would tell somebody that's about to go pull that trigger to think... once you pull it, the bullet doesn't go back in." Here, Robinson underscores how violence creates ripples, affecting not just the immediate victim but entire families and communities.

Robinson also emphasizes the critical role of parental involvement in the broader conversation about gun violence and its prevention. With a firm belief in the power of family to influence outcomes, she directly addresses parents in the community. "And if you know your kids are out there toting guns and killing people, shame on you," Robinson declares, challenging parents to take active roles in their children's lives to steer them away from violence. 

This call to action for parents reminds us that the fight against gun violence begins at home, with the awareness and involvement of those closest to young individuals. Through her work, Robinson advocates for a community-wide approach to prevention, where parents are critical stakeholders in safeguarding their children's future and, by extension, the community.

Central to Robinson’s and C.H.A.N.G.E.’s work is the act of memorialization, which serves as a personal coping mechanism and a form of outreach to other grieving mothers. "Everywhere I go, I wear my son," says Robinson, highlighting how physical tokens, such as earrings or shirts bearing the images of lost loved ones, keep their memory alive and visible. She encouraged mothers to find a way to talk about their children through visible trinkets or even by telling their stories. “Talk about your baby. Don’t let him die in vain.”

Robinson's initiative to provide plants and personalized memorial items to grieving mothers embodies the organization's hands-on approach to support. These gestures, though small to some, signify a deep understanding of the needs of those mourning the loss of a child. "When I go visit them, I give them a plant, I give them our sympathy card, and I give them our card with our information and contact information on it to let them know to contact us," she details while holding up a card with the organization's information. 

Through C.H.A.N.G.E., Elizabeth Robinson offers more than just grief support; she provides a framework for understanding and addressing the complex list of needs faced by families, including funeral planning, court proceedings, or even memorable gifts to remember their loved ones.  Her efforts highlight the necessity of targeted, empathetic support systems after an act of violence–a need we wish to see decrease through community violence intervention.

How to connect: 

C.H.A.N.G.E. hosts a virtual grief session every third Thursday of the month at 6:30 pm on Zoom. Contact info@ChangeBR.org for more information or call 225-267-7252

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Program Manager-Partnerships