Not that I want to be a god or a hero. Just to change into a tree, grow for ages, not hurt anyone.
- Czeslaw Milosz, poet and novelist (1911-2004)
Marc loved his new home. What he loved most about it was that Kathy would finally have a kitchen of her own. And the three kids, Joelle, 12, Marc-Ange, 7 and Louis-Philippe, 4, would have a yard of their own to play in. In the Saguenay area of Chicoutimi, Quebec, as in most parts of North America, to be able to hold you head high in your community you have to own your own home. The LalibertÃ© family reached that milestone about six months ago. They had a home to call their own.
Then it all unravelled.
Despite falling lending rates for mortgages, people chose to remain in their old homes rather than buy new ones. A real estate agent, Marc LalibertÃ© couldn't sell enough in a failing market so his employer had to let him go not long before Christmas. Mom Kathy Gauthier had brought in some much needed cash to support the family from her Christmas rush job, but that income disappeared just before Christmas when she was laid off.
In the face of impending public shame and the humiliation expected to come with it when the LalibertÃ©s lost everything, including their dreams, what could the family do? Who could they turn to for answers?
Quebec provincial police believe, based on the evidence, that Kathy and Marc had decided on a murder-suicide pact. As the bodies of the children had no marks, they were likely either poisoned or smothered. Marc's body was hacked up enough that he couldn't survive. Kathy, slash wounds on her arms, managed to call the 911 emergency number so their bodies would be found before they decayed.
Kathy didn't die. Emergency services personnel took her to hospital where she is expect to recover. Police say they have sufficient evidence to lay first degree murder charges against her.
Consider Kathy's state of mind as she gets better. To have done what police believe she did required that she be tragically depressed and distraught. When she recovers, the thought of spending the rest of her life in prison might well prompt her to complete the job she failed earlier, taking her own life. If financial distress caused the family shame, killing her family would cause her further psychological trauma. In prison, where inmates traditionally don't take kindly to anyone known to have killed a child, Kathy would likely find death preferable to being surrounded by enemies all the time. One way or another, in prison she would be a goner.
Everyone faces bad times in their life. The LalibertÃ© family had no idea how to cope with their most critical bad time, the loss of their home, their dreams, their future. Without considering the consequences of what Marc and Kathy decided to do, they chose an even more desperate and destructive path. Ultimately, that decision destroyed five lives.
With all of the education opportunities offered in our communities, where is a course offered that can help people learn how to cope with personal tragedy? With steadily rising rates of teen suicide, what are we doing about it other than to find someone to blame? With individuals and families sinking into poverty and many people choosing to live on the street because they can't afford a decent and safe place to live, often turning to begging just to survive, what public policies do we have that will turn these situations around?
As usual, everything governments decide to do--if they choose to acknowledge a problem at all--is reactive. Try to fix what's broken after it's damaged, rather than preventing it from happening beforehand.
Part of how we cope in the face of tragedy or depression is physiological (that is, chemicals produced naturally by the body). The adrenal hormone cortisol, for example, keeps most people upright when tragedy strikes while the lack of it or low levels send others over the edge. The more important component of coping is learned skills. To learn coping skills we need to have sources. They must be taught.
Knowing what to do in a personal crisis removes the necessity for the body to use its own chemicals to prevent our bodies from damaging themselves. That "knowing" is called coping skills.
The first rule of coping is that we will live through tragedy or depression, recover, and be more capable people for it afterwards. We will survive. For someone who doesn't know that they will survive and that everything will come together again eventually, the only thing they may see is the devastation of their lives and the lives of their loved ones. If the problem is depression, they can only see the tragedy of their own lives, as depression forces people to be self-centred, solely self-interested.
Both depression and a low level of cortisone could affect the immune system, which could prolong the effects of the crisis, chemically trigger a disease such as cancer or bring about chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia or some similar syndrome or disease affected by the immune system.
Knowing that much alone could save lives. It could help people understand how they will get through their own problems that seem life threatening at the time. It will help others assist those with problems because they will know how to help.
The book Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems explains not only how to cope with personal problems, it also provides a methodology and resources whereby families, communities, schools and governments can launch programs that will give people the knowledge and skills they need before tragedy strikes.
When it comes to tragedy, ignorance helps no one. It's incumbent on each of us to do what we can to save lives. As the quote at the beginning of this article said, we don't have to be heroes, just want to avoid hurting anyone. We now have at hand the ability to prevent tragedies such as the one in Quebec from happening.
The way to help and the means to do so is in our hands.
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, a guidebook for parents and teachers who want to grow competent and confident children who can cope with life's downturns and tragedies without creating more of their own.
Learn more at http://billallin.com