After Uber driver killed on the job, family finds solace in other violent crime victims – Chicago Tribune


It’s at a bereavement remedy group that meets on the Southwest Side of Chicago, removed from her North Shore house, the place Tina Nelson has discovered some measure of consolation and validation as she copes together with her son’s sudden and violent demise.

Grant Nelson was killed in May whereas driving for experience-share firm Uber. A 16-year-previous Chicago woman is accused of attacking him with a knife and a machete that authorities say she had simply stolen from a Walmart in Skokie.

Since July, Tina Nelson has been attending a help group for crime victims’ households that’s held every month at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago.

Tina Nelson had skilled other losses in current years. A sister-in-law died unexpectedly of a mind aneurysm. And only a month earlier than Grant, one other sister-in-law died misplaced a “torturous battle with cancer.”

But her son’s dying is “a different sphere of experience,” Tina Nelson stated.

“You have to reconcile the fact that someone chose to take the life of your loved one,” stated Tina’s daughter Alex Nelson, who additionally has been attending the bereavement group. “It is not a freak accident or illness. It’s that someone made a conscious choice, and that adds to the grieving process. You are not just mourning the person. You are trying to reconcile the feelings about (the accused), whether it be forgiveness or anger.”

Tina and Alex Nelson spoke with the Tribune on Dec. four — what would have been Grant’s 35th birthday — about how the family is coping. Tina Nelson describes how she finds herself day by day longing to speak to him, notably to inform him issues she is aware of he’d discover humorous. She demonstrated how he would throw his head again when he laughed.

He had “the best laugh,” she stated. “I miss his laugh.”

For Alex Nelson, life has been utterly upended since her brother was killed.

Alex had moved to California eight months earlier. But after Grant’s dying, she needed to be nearer to her family and to have the ability to attend the courtroom hearings for her brother’s suspected killer, Eliza Wasni, so she moved again to Chicago.

“No one in California knew Grant, and returning to that life would be weird,” Nelson stated. “I couldn’t share my grief with anyone there.”

Besides the help group, she additionally credit Penny, the canine she adopted weeks earlier than her transfer again to Chicago, with serving to her handle her grief.

“She forced me to take her on walks,” Alex Nelson stated. “And dogs are pure joy and happiness.”

What’s compounded their grief, they each stated, is the sluggish-shifting authorized course of. Besides the legal expenses towards Wasni, the Nelson family has additionally sued Walmart for not stopping the alleged theft. And in contrast to Wasni herself — who has missed a number of courtroom hearings due to hospitalizations or the many disciplinary issues she’s had in juvenile detention — Tina Nelson has attended each certainly one of the hearings.

“Grant’s death is an ongoing process,” Alex Nelson stated. “Because we are involved in the legal process, we can’t just move on.”

Confronting the first vacation season with out Grant has been a specific problem. This yr, the family determined to eschew a standard Thanksgiving dinner at their Wilmette residence and as an alternative dined at a downtown lodge.

And even now, seven months later, they encounter individuals who haven’t heard the horrible information about Grant. Tina Nelson relayed how, only recently, a cashier at the native grocery retailer requested her husband, Leonard, how Grant and his brother Todd have been doing.

“Often when I tell someone, they dissolve in tears,” Tina Nelson stated.

It was a neighbor, she stated, who instructed she take part in a bereavement help group. She tried an area group however discovered it was principally individuals who’d misplaced family members to sickness.

“My experience is not that,” she stated.

A social employee at Cook County’s Skokie courthouse, the place Wasni’s case is being heard, instructed Tina Nelson attend a victims’ group at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago.

Like Nelson, lots of the members are ladies who’re grieving losses from violent crimes. Some have been by way of the judicial course of; others are awaiting the decision of instances towards their family members’ alleged killers. They come from totally different elements of the Chicago space and have totally different backgrounds, however they’ve bonded over the similarities of their experiences, Nelson stated.

Lori Smith is the director of the Cook County state’s lawyer’s sufferer witness help program, which runs the bereavement group. There are three such help teams that meet repeatedly, with one carried out in Spanish.

She stated each participant in the Family and Friends Support Network has misplaced a beloved one by way of violence, which Smith stated outcomes in “trauma with a big ‘T.’ ”

Some members have attended for years, even many years, as a result of they need their very own experiences to assist these extra newly bereaved, she stated. New arrivals are sometimes hesitant even to stroll in the door, she stated, however are sometimes engaged after a few visits.

A violent demise “is the great leveler,” Smith stated. “To experience a violent loss is the same emotionally for the family in Roseland as it is in Winnetka. Someone is snatched out of life. There is no closure, and there is often an aching, rage and unspeakable emotions towards the person who committed the crime.”

Johnnie Mae Glenn has attended the group repeatedly since 2005.

Glenn misplaced each of her sons to violence. Patrick Glenn was shot and killed in Florida in 2003 at age 33. The case stays unsolved.

Her oldest son, Henry Glenn Jr., was killed at age 40 after an altercation in Maywood in 2005. He had served in the Navy for 19 years, together with throughout Operation Desert Storm, and suffered from submit-traumatic stress dysfunction, she stated. She and her husband, Henry Glenn Sr., attended her son’s killer’s trial and, though he was discovered responsible and sentenced to 39 years in jail, the trial was traumatic, and the proceedings took eight years. She recollects a very traumatic day when the decide made her depart her the courtroom after an outburst introduced on by seeing a photograph of her deceased son. She stated she was not allowed again into the courtroom till the sentencing.

In 2006, Glenn and her husband, Henry Sr., began attending help teams provided by the state’s lawyer’s workplace, first in Oak Park, then Bridgeview and now in Markham.

“It has been a lifesaver for my husband and myself,” she stated. “It’s the camaraderie. You get to know people that walked in your shoes. And no one looks down at you. They are all sympathetic.”

Tina Nelson stated she’s discovered the bereavement group so useful that she was moved to write down to County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to inform her. Preckwinkle wrote her again to elucidate that providers for the victims of violent crimes and their households are largely supported by federal grant packages.

“Giving voice to those going through this experience, and with people who are in the same boat, is helpful for processing the shock, grief and horror,” Tina Nelson stated.

At most of the periods she’s attended, solely about six or seven individuals present up.

“There should be more,” she stated. “There is so much violent crime in Chicago. If people don’t get help, I don’t know how they deal with.”

Though they’ve needed to “reset” their lives since Grant’s dying, as Alex Nelson stated, the family can also be making an attempt to hold onto previous traditions whereas beginning new ones. They’ve determined to maneuver ahead with their annual New Year’s day dinner for pals. Tina Nelson, who just lately discovered the power to go to her son’s grave for the first time since his funeral, additionally lights a candle day-after-day in Grant’s honor.

“Somehow lighting a candle reminds me of his presence,” she stated. “… Sometimes it’s hard to believe he’s not here.”

Susan Berger is a contract reporter.


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