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Sharper Point: I’d rather be an emotional mess than a monster

A Phoenix woman has been arrested on suspicion of killing her three children after they were found dead inside the family home at this location Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, in Phoenix. (KTAR News Photo/Jim Cross)

Appalling. Horrific. Atrocious. Horrendous.

Whatever adjective we apply to the story of the 22-year-old south Phoenix mother who allegedly smothered her three tiny kids, we need to add these adjectives: depressing and distressing.

How do we process awful things like this?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but simply acknowledging our feelings and, sometimes, our inability to deal with them, might be the first step.

We’ve been talking on KTAR News 92.3 FM about how first responders mentally and emotionally process these situations and seeing them over and over.

I’m glad our fire and police departments recognize that post-traumatic stress can be a result their stressful jobs.

And I’m glad that this story started a conversation in the newsroom about how covering these stories affects those of us in the news business. I actually found myself asking Jim Cross, a grizzled, news reporter/cowboy (who was live at the scene of the triple murder), “How are you doing?”

I did so because while surviving an explosion in Iraq didn’t give me post-traumatic stress, covering stories like these creates huge stress for me.

But I’d like to take it a step farther and suggest that for some people, just hearing these reports can cause stress.

That’s why, through the years, KTAR News has tried to help parents help their kids process awful news and tragic events.

But what about us adults? Even adults who don’t work in the news business can’t … stop … thinking … about … kids killed by a mom.

My wife had trouble sleeping last night. She blamed Girl Scout cookie sales (I’m not kidding). But I suspect at least some of her tossing and turning was because she couldn’t stop thinking about the court documents I mentioned to her right before putting our babies to bed.

You don’t have to be a parent to be an emotional wreck when you hear about a mom killing her own kids. Maybe it’s not full-blown PTSD, but I think it’s good to talk to like-minded people about our awful feelings regarding awful situations.

A priest, a rabbi — or just a good friend.

At the very least, we shouldn’t deny that we are feeling bad about that which we hear – instead of only that which we experience.

Embrace those feelings. They show us that we are human. Humans capable of feeling empathy. Those feelings set us apart from the people who have had such a break with reality that they become unfeeling monsters capable of killing their kids.

Arizona's Morning News