I was deeply moved by the story of Patricia Cade and the loss of her son, John Thomas Cade Jr. (“Death in the Family,” 12/1). The story was so detailed that it took a while for me to get through it and to keep all the names straight, but it was well worth the time.
Unfortunately, there are hundreds of people like Patricia Cade throughout the country. In addition to the trauma of losing her child to homicide, the story also points to the dearth of resources in poor communities to effectively deal with the aftermath of such tragedies. Having worked with poor children, teens, and families in Jersey City, N.J., for 13 years, I know firsthand the impact of homicide on the survivors. Mothers and other family members develop symptoms similar to those exhibited by Cade. Often, there is a numbness where the survivor shuts down emotionally. In psychological terms, it is called “blocking of the affect,” whereby the person deals with hurt and pain by not feeling at all.
But the point I wish to stress is the dearth of resources to help these families. Where does a Patricia Cade go for help with her symptoms? Certainly nowhere in the Southeast neighborhood she lives in. There are no private practitioners there, no counseling center, no outreach center, no nothing. Sure, there was mention of the support group that she occasionally attends. But apparently she does not feel totally connected to the group, or her attendance would be more consistent rather than sporadic. Furthermore, why should Cade have to travel such a distance to attend a support group? Again, she should have access to services right there in her own neighborhood. Access to a neighborhood counseling center, with trained, licensed therapists who have an understanding of the people they are there to help, would have greatly alleviated her suffering. Although counseling would not have found the person(s) who murdered her child, I am certain she would be much farther along emotionally. As it stands now, Cade is merely existing from day to day.
I am sure that your article will prompt some social workers and psychologists to come forward with offers of help for Cade. That is all well and good. If all that comes out of this article is help for her, then no one would be happier for her than I. But help for her doesn’t translate into help for thousands just like her, both in D.C. and around the country. As I read the article, the mother of a 16-year-old kid murdered in Jersey City came to mind. As in the Cade case, there were never any arrests made in the murder of her son, and like Cade, she has been transformed from a woman who had a reason to get up each day to one who on some days cannot remember the names of her own children. And, as in the neighborhood in which Cade lives, there is a lack of access to culturally appropriate counseling services to help her deal with her loss and grief.
In a city like Washington, D.C., mental health professionals are a dime a dozen. I see no reason why the city cannot contract with mental health professionals in private practice to provide services to the people in poor neighborhoods such as Southeast. These practitioners could set up shop in neighborhood churches, community centers, social service offices, and even schools in selected neighborhoods. In this way, residents in need of counseling would not have to take two or three buses to gain access to services. This type of arrangement is working in several cities across the nation. It requires a commitment on the part of city officials, mobilization of neighborhood resources, and a commitment on the part of private practitioners to devote some of their time to helping those who are underserved.
Once again, my hat’s off to you for writing this incredible story. If there were people out there who were unfamiliar with the impact of repeated exposure to violence and loss with no intervention, they should no longer be clueless.