By Dr. Gloria Morrow
The worse thing a parent can ever experience is the death of a child. However, the depth of that loss may be intensified when you learn that your child has allegedly committed a heinous crime. When children of any age are implicated in a violent attack, especially one that is the focus of media attention all over the world, it may be difficult to believe that someone you raised and love could do such a horrible and senseless thing.
The parents of the Boston bombing suspects, Tamerlan and Dzhokhai Tsarnaev are no different. Zubeidat and Anzor Tsarnaev maintain their sons’ innocence, even with overwhelming evidence of their guilt. Parents may have a hard time accepting the idea that the children they raised and love could become monsters with no regard for the sanctity of human life.
While very little is known about this family and the dynamics within the family, and we do not know for sure that the parents were unaware of any terrorist ties to their children, it is safe to say that these parents are not faring very well psychologically and emotionally during this time.
From a psychological perspective, these parents and others in their situation are undoubtedly going through their own process of grief, which usually begins with denial. It tends to be easier to remain in that first stage of the grief process, especially if one is questioning oneself about where one went wrong as a parent, and/or feeling burdened down with feelings of guilt and shame. The constant internal questioning a parent may engage in may cause the parent to look for others to blame, which allows the parent to lose touch with reality.
It may also be difficult for a parent to reconcile what they believe about their children with what others believe about them. However, failure to move successfully through the stages of grief and loss successfully can create mental health challenges for them. This is especially probable when the reality is much too difficult to face. Not only do these parents have to deal with the death of one of their sons and the possible death of the other, but they also have to deal with losing their image of who their sons are.
Now they are left with trying to understand how and why their sons were capable of doing such horrible things, and what role they may have played in their sons’ behaviors. This article is in no way designed to minimize the pain and suffering of the victims of the acts allegedly perpetrated by the Tsarnaev brothers.
The tragedy has been monumental for the family, friends, and the entire world of all those affected by this horrific attack. Rather, it is to shed light on the fact that no one walks away unscathed when troubled people act out with disregard for others, even themselves. Further, it is also important to point out that it is possible to raise children in the right way, and they go astray because of strong external forces. The question remains, can your child become a monster without you knowing it?
It is my opinion that there are signs, although subtle at times that clearly confirm that your children may be having a difficult time. Therefore, it is important for parents to work even harder to listen to their children and to pay attention to small and subtle signs that signal their children may be in trouble. Be willing to ask tough questions, and always seek help immediately.
Dr. Gloria Morrow is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Rancho Cucamonga, California. Visit her website at www.gloriamorrow.com for additional information about services, speaking engagements, and available product.