In Coppell tragedy, we must start grieving and stop screaming

Do we get mad at the Coppell mayor for killing her daughter and herself?

Or do we cry for Jayne Peters, and call her and her daughter, Corinne, victims of yet another tailspin into desperation, mental illness and depression?

I've written about suicide and mental illness for 23 years and lived with them at home years before that. And I still don't know whether to scream or grieve first.

The director of Fort Worth's family violence shelter says: Do both.

"It's a natural response to be angry," said Mary Lee Hafley, in her 20th year as director of the shelter now known as SafeHaven.

So go ahead. Call radio shows. While you're at it, bellyache at Coppell officials who lowered city flags to half-staff for a murderer-mayor, even one going broke and suffering from depression.

No. Wait. Don't.

"We have to remember that our anger is partly out of our own guilt," Hafley said.

"Could someone have known? Could anyone have done something? Could someone have seen warning signs?"

We get mad because we don't understand it.

"It's surprising that a woman in her position somehow didn't have enough of a support system in place to give her other options," Hafley said.

If the mayor of a suburban city doesn't know how to react or where to get more help -- where does that leave everyone else?

"That's what's really hard to understand," Hafley said. "I mean -- this was the mayor."

Now, stop screaming.

Start grieving.

In particular, stop screaming at Coppell leaders.

"They flew their flag at half-staff for a government official without passing judgment," Hafley said. "I think that's fair."

And start seeking.

"In the face of unthinkable tragedy, many of us find ourselves feeling ... shocked, heartbroken, confused," read the written statement from the Peterses' pastor, the Rev. Dennis Wilkinson of First United Methodist Church of Coppell.

Wilkinson was quoted as saying at their funeral on Friday that Jayne Peters was in "acute financial difficulties" and was a "deeply troubled and, finally, desperate soul."

In the written statement sent earlier, Wilkinson asked us not to judge.

"This is a tragedy which reminds us that most of us have no clue as to the depth of heartache, fear, despair or hopelessness some people are experiencing," he wrote.

"We can do nothing until we stand in the presence of God's healing grace."

Maybe that comes first.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538

Twitter @budkennedy

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