Francine Wheeler Channels Grief to End Gun Violence


Francine Wheeler's son, Ben, was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary school in December 2012. She spoke to Bill Moyers about banding together with other grieving parents to end gun violence in the United States:

I didn't want to live, okay. And I felt, I had to ask myself “How am I going to live? How am I going to get up and raise my other child and be a partner to my husband, how am I going to do that?”
 And it just gradually, organically happened where I said, you know what, I'm going to talk to people. I'm going to tell them about my son. I'm going to tell them what it's like to be a mother. And I'm going to tell them what it's like to find a conversation about change that is love. I'm going to do it without fighting them. And I knew it. It just came to me. And I had hope. And Sandy Hook Promise was a group of people who were helping some of the families who wanted to get this message out. And that's what you have. You have many different people in this community who are in such pain. And you know, we didn't ask to be in this club together, but we are.

Later in the interview, Francine discusses her "angry days":

We have gone to a grief counselor and other counselors who talk about, you know, it's not “you're sad and you're angry then you start to get over it,” or whatever. It doesn't really apply to our situation.  
So one day, I'll tell you what happened last week. I saw one of Benny's good friends. And they were like brothers. And I saw him -- his mom, I couldn't, for like, three months, see him because it was too hard. And finally I said, you know, "Bring him over." They came over and he had a tooth missing. 
And Benny never lost a tooth. So I was angry that he didn't lose a tooth. And he kept saying, "Mama, when am I going to get to lose a tooth?" I said, "Soon, soon, soon, soon." So yeah, I get angry. I get angry that my kid's not going to get older. Yeah. I get angry.

For Francine, activism and music are crucial to her grieving process. Her involvement in The Sandy Hook Promise, a group dedicated to ending gun violence, helps her survive

Well, personally, just my path has to do with sometimes helping them with legislative change. But it also has to do with me singing through it. So I'm going to be singing through my grief. I'm going to be bringing our other son in these communities like my church has started. Because that's how I'm going to help change.

Francine's husband, David Wheeler, also spoke about his grief:

 I wear a pendant. It's a locket, well, it's a vial, as does Francine, containing some of Ben's ashes. I keep it with me. I don't hide from my grief. There is no way out but through. So I go through.

You can watch the entire interview at BillMoyers.com