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July 26, 2014

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For grief comforters, a trying week ends with a galvanized community

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L.E. Baskow

Lisa Franqui of Creekside Hospice conducts a community event in the wake of the Sunday shooting rampage hosted by Palm Mortuary on Friday, June 13, 2014. Franqui is a grief/bereavement support expert and spoke with community members about self care and finding hope.

Palm Mortuary Community Grieving Event

Lisa Franqui of Creekside Hospice conducts a community event in the wake of the Sunday shooting rampage hosted by Palm Mortuary on Friday, June 13, 2014. It's as an opportunity for community members to come together, grieve, mend and find hope. Launch slideshow »

Within moments of Metro Police arriving at the scenes of Sunday’s deadly shooting rampage, authorities requested a different kind of backup: emotional support.

And so, like they do any time there is a bad accident, horrific crime or sudden death, Trauma Intervention Program volunteers hurried to the people in need. For these comforters who work with law enforcement every day, the news was especially chilling — two Metro Police officers and one good Samaritan gunned down by a married couple bent on fulfilling their anti-government agenda.

Three volunteers headed straight to University Medical Center, where the victims’ loved ones and friends would follow; two others shuttled between CiCi’s pizza and Wal-Mart, consoling those stuck at the crime scenes.

“A lot of them need to talk about it and tell their story,” said Christian Raymer, TIP’s director of development. “It’s not so much what you say; it’s what you don’t say.”

They lent their ears, perhaps offered a hug and, at the end of the day, went home.

On Friday morning, it was their chance to grieve.

A couple dozen people — both TIP volunteers and funeral home employees — gathered at Palm Downtown Mortuary and Cemetery, where a grief counselor led a healing ceremony.

“You are the superheroes,” Lisa Franqui, a grief support expert at Creekside Hospice, told the attendees. “You are the ones who walk with those families through all those things they do … but there has to be a pouring out at the end.”

In an act symbolic of releasing bottled-up emotions and replenishing their souls, the comforters poured water into a large bowl, refilled the pitcher and tossed a stone containing a wish into the bowl.

People providing emotional support tend to walk through life empty, drained by the demands of comforting others, Franqui explained.

“We are very good at taking care of everyone else,” she said. “We are not very good at taking care of ourselves.”

The sentiment is exactly why TIP volunteers must de-brief with a fellow program member after each call, Raymer said. Providing care in times of trauma is no easy task, but that’s what TIP volunteers have been doing for two decades, since the program’s Las Vegas inception in 1994.

Every now and then, their work has a bright spot — in this case, bearing witness to a galvanized community.

“We’re one big family here,” Raymer said. “I realized that this week.”

Three heart-shaped baskets contained another release of sorts: white doves in memory of fallen officers Igor Soldo and Alyn Beck and civilian Joseph Wilcox. As the birds fluttered away, the comforters clapped.

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