Over the last few months, I have spent time speaking with both mental health professionals and the loved ones of police brutality victims. It’s been an experience like no other. Nothing can prepare you to listen to the stories of families who have been robbed of those they love and justice. As a society, we don’t care how they are affected by the cycling of brutality related videos and we do little to aid the families in their time of need.

No event happens in a vacuum, including brutality. As a result, each death leaves a trail of heartbreak and trauma forcing these families to develop a new normal. I have listened to these individuals say how their communities turn their backs on them and label their loved ones as criminals even when they did nothing wrong. I have cried with these individuals as they recount the heartbreak and pain of hearing their children cry for their lost parent.

I had to opportunity to speak with loved ones of four police brutality victims. Each story had its own circumstances and are each painful to recount.

Laurie Valez and Antonio Guzman Lopez.
Laurie Valez and Antonio Guzman Lopez.

Laurie Valdez, longtime partner of Antonio Guzman Lopez, killed Feb. 21, 2014.

“Nobody is taught to understand trauma and the impact it has on small children as young as my 4-year-old son, when they are affected. It’s something serious that our government needs to start paying attention to. We are jeopardizing the mental health and emotional well-being of these children. My son had is birthday on Sunday, Sept. 3, and he told me the only thing he wants for his birthday is to see his dad and tell him he loves him again. That is something I can never give him back and it hurts like hell.

It brings back all of the emotions — anger, frustrations, helplessness and hurt all over again. Since Antonio was killed three and a half years ago, I have not had a peaceful night sleep. I go to bed at two in the morning and I wake up at six [because] my mind is on overdrive.”

Mary Stewart, mother of Darrius Stewart, killed July 17, 2015

“You can’t sleep or eat. You wish and pray that all of it is just one horrible nightmare. It seems as if you’re living someone else’s life. The pain in my heart is the worst I’ve ever experienced, I visualize my son being brutally murdered over and over again every time I close my eyes. Speaking the truth about what really happened to my only son is what gives me the strength to fight for his justice.”

Lisa Simpson, mother of Richard Risher, killed July 25, 2016

“Stay strong and never give up the fight. Your child’s life matters. Richard was so full of life. He was only 18 and he had so much to offer. He was very loving towards everyone, especially children. He was a comedian, and he loved to a smile. It’s been almost 14 months. I don’t have a police report or an autopsy report. All I have is a dead son.”

Alicia Alvarez, mother of Johnathan Cuevas, killed on Oct. 10, 2010

“I wish more families would come together to help other families going through this process. I was so lost at the beginning. I had no clue [what to do] and had no guidance. I still have days where I feel lost and I want to give up. I want people to know everything. I want them to know the pain and the emotional pain. It’s an emotional roller coaster you go through everyday. It never goes away. Until you are in our shoes, you don’t understand what we’re going through.

I wish there was more help for their children to keep them from going down the wrong path from the hurt of losing a parent. I don’t want my grandson to grow up with hatred because of what they did to his father. You wonder when is the right time to tell them but if you do, you open that wound again. There’s just so much you don’t think about until you are in those shoes.”

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