Complicated Grief after Murder of Deaf Young Man
Deaf Counseling Center’s Dr. Candace McCullough and Sharon Duchesneau share some thoughts on the complicated nature of grief after murder of Grant Whitaker by Mavrick Martin Fisher and offer support to the national Deaf community in the form of pro bono counseling sessions to those who may be directly impacted by the situation, yet lack insurance to access therapy.
Candace: Sharon and I would like to share some thoughts after this past week’s news about Grant Whitaker’s alleged murder by Mavrick Martin Fisher.
Different Grief Process
Sharon: The grief process following a death by murder is very different and more complicated than that of a death by natural causes such as a heart attack or illness.
Anger as Normal Reaction
Candace: This is because the death is caused by another person, and not simply a natural cause. Anger is a normal reaction and it is okay to feel angry. To add to the complexity, many people in the Deaf community may know one or both of the people involved. For example, we know Grant, with whom we traveled to China on a Deaf school trip with our daughter, and we all have memories of a wonderful time with him. We also know Mav, whom we met with his dad at a national Deaf Academic Bowl reception back when he was young. I’m sure that many people are impacted by this situation, including teachers, friends, and family members. The fact that Mav was well-known on a national basis for his vlogs in which he shared his dreams with the community makes this hit even closer to home for many people.
Danger of Assumptions
Sharon: The public nature of this situation adds to the complexity of grief in the community. People have been sharing their opinions, perspectives, stories, and assumptions online – and these can be difficult for family members and friends of the men to see. None of us have all the information about exactly what happened and the history behind this. Some people have shared concerns that the Deaf community should have been able to prevent this from happening somehow. Again, we can’t assume anything. It’s possible that help was offered or that Mav sought help in the past. We just don’t know, so it’s important that we be mindful of what we say in public, especially online.
Duty of Confidentiality of Professionals
Candace: It’s also interesting that if Mav did get help, those professionals are not able to say so, due to confidentiality reasons.
Sharon: I think when discussing this – of course, it’s important for us as a Deaf community to discuss how we can support people who may be dealing with difficult situations. When we say that no one helped him, however, we may be indirectly placing blame on people close to him, such as family, friends, teachers and others who were close to him and knew him well. We can’t assume they did nothing. Maybe they didn’t or maybe they did.
Deaf Mental Health Stigma
Candace: Also, it’s important to address stigma related to mental health, which is likely to be a factor here, but again, we don’t know the full story. In general, only a very, very small percentage of people dealing with mental illnesses commit crimes like murder. The majority of these people are fine and harmless – we don’t want to see the stigma about people with mental illness being blown out of proportion and spreading unnecessary fear. Let’s be careful about this.
National Legal System and Deaf People
Sharon: Yes, that’s right. Another issue that is coming up here relates to the national legal system. Now we have an alleged murder, which means we are looking at issues related to the court process, a trial, lawyers, interpreting access, fairness, individual rights – all of which are triggers for our Deaf community.
Candace: I think that Deaf people as a whole already have a difficult experience with trying navigate the legal system.
Sharon: Yes, that’s something to keep in mind with the many layers of complexity in this situation, in particular, while we are waiting for answers and things are still unknown. This makes people feel sensitive. It’s a difficult thing.
Pro Bono Deaf Counseling and Therapy Services
Candace: We’d like to offer free counseling/therapy to anyone who is directly impacted by this situation, but who may not have insurance to access counseling/therapy. Please feel free to contact us and we can discuss how we can provide support through the grief process.
Sharon: Thank you.
Candace: Good bye.
(video description: Sharon and Candace, Deaf therapists, (l-r) are seated on a sofa, signing their comments.) Deaf Counseling Center offers national Deaf therapy services.
https://www.deafcounseling.com/recommended-films/ Films on Grief/Loss