Holt Uncensored
Home Up

by Pat Holt

book Tuesday, November 30, 1999:




Violence breaks out so often and unexpectedly in modern society that Bill Jenkins, a professor of speech and drama at Virginia Union University, decided to write a book about the lessons he learned when his son was killed late one night at a local restaurant.

At 16, William Jenkins had been at work on the second night of "his first 'real' job" when three people attempting to rob the restaurant started shooting. William was killed instantly.

"My family and I desperately wanted some guidance through the first days of our loss," Bill Jenkins writes, "but none seemed to be available."

So Jenkins, comparing notes with others who have lost friends and family through homicide, suicide and accidents, and working with the Richmond, Va., Victim/Witness Program, has written and self-published an invaluable guide, WHAT TO DO WHEN THE POLICE LEAVE: A Guide to the First Days of Traumatic Loss (WBJ Press, http://www.willsworld.com ; 122 pages; $10.95 paperback).

All the expected advice is here - how to talk to reporters, notify family, form a quick support group, attend to funeral arrangements, stay in communication with police and be prepared for "grief beyond your control."

But so are the tips that could only come from one who's been there. "Consider putting off limits" such things as cleaning the dead person's bedroom or dirty clothes, says Jenkins, because when everything's laundered, "the smells disappear. This is something people rarely think about," he adds, "but you may want to have those smells around for some time yet, preferring to let them fade away naturally."

What "normal" shock feels like, how eating habits change, what to do when scam artists and burglars inevitably come looking, how to work with medical examiners, lawyers, insurance adjustors, victim assistance officers - and especially children of all ages - are explained in sympathetic, careful detail.

Jenkins is not the best writer in the world, but he may be one of the wisest. He not only begins where the reader begins, with news more horrible than anything ever contemplated; he keeps our eye boldly focused on finding a "transforming resolution."

Nobody understands more than Jenkins that "accepting a situation doesn't mean liking it." Nor does acceptance mean "that [the perpetrators] could ever repay the debt that they owe you." It does mean, he says, that "you are no longer going to let them influence your feelings or control your life, no matter what happens." That could be the first step toward transformation, something that awaits everyone.

"One of the things which I decided the very first day after William's death was that I wanted only good things to come out of this tragedy," he concludes. "I can now say that there are MANY good things which outnumber this one bad thing. And though I would trade them all to have him back with us safe and sound, it is my hope and prayer that this book will be one more triumph of good over evil and order over chaos, and that it will in some ways help you as you begin your walk with grief." So it does.

It is of course a sad comment on American life that a book like this is "popular" - published in June, it's already in its second printing. But what a relief to know that when something like this is needed, Jenkins is the guy who wrote it.


The above text is excerpted in its entiretly from Holt Uncensored, by Pat Holt.  All copyrights and licenses remain the property of the author.

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