Remembering Lashanda—so we won’t forgot other silent mothers
Lashanda Armstrong was “a happy, loving, bubbly child who would come through the door and tell you jokes to get you to laugh. She loved to dance, she loved music. She loved Beyonce!”
That’s how Armstrong’s aunt, Angela Gilliam, described her niece, saying that was the Lashanda everyone knew and loved—not the Lashanda who made international headlines last week.
I urge each of you to not forget this tragedy. Armstrong’s death, and that of her three young children, can impel us to help other single, struggling, overwhelmed young mothers—so they don’t repeat her fatal mistake.
Armstrong was yet another young mother who imploded—when she drove her van into the Hudson River last week, killing not just herself, but three of her four young children: Landon, 5; Lance, 2; and Lainaina, 11-months-old. La’Shaun Armstrong, her firstborn at age 10, survived the tragedy when he escaped from the van and swam to shore—and then went for help. Sadly, it was too late for his mom and siblings.
Every time I hear of another tragedy like this one—and it hasn’t even been a year, since that this same scenario played out in another town, when Shaquan Duley killed her two little boys.
No, Duley didn’t take her own life, but that doesn’t mean much in cases like these. Experts recognize that—just as Susan Smith planned to kill herself, too—when the survival instinct takes over, these mothers who have already killed their children can’t follow through and commit suicide.
That’s why Smith and other mothers like her more often end up in prison, than dead.
I know what’s needed to keep from taking that final fatal step. It takes an intense and burning desire to keep going, to stay alive, so that you don’t cross that line and become another terrifying statistic blasted by people who know no better. It also takes faith, that you can do it, and, quite simply, just living life one day at a time, so it doesn’t overwhelm you.
It also takes reaching out to others, and not being afraid to ask for help, graciously accepting it when help is offered, and not feeling guilty for needing it. Life is too short to spend it blaming ourselves for such stuff, especially when you’re a single, stressed-out mother whose life consists of being the sole party responsible for four other lives!
As Gilliam told me today, other young women like her niece need to “open up and tell somebody. There’s too much help out there” not to do so.
“I hope they remember her story. Don’t let life stress you out,” Gilliam pleaded to these young girls and women, so they won’t repeat Armstrong’s mistake.
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My next book, Guilt by Matrimony, about the murder of Aspen socialite, Nancy Pfister, comes out November 17. My memoir, Sister of Silence, is about surviving domestic violence and how journalism helped free me; Cheatin’ Ain’t Easy, now in ebook format, is about the life of Preston County native, Eloise Morgan Milne; The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese (a New York Times bestseller, with coauthor Geoff Fuller) and Pretty Little Killers (also with Fuller), released July 8, 2014, and featured in the August 18 issue of People Magazine.
For an in-depth look at the damaging effects of the silence that surrounds abuse, please watch my live TEDx talk, given April 13, 2013, at Connecticut College.
Have a great day and remember, it’s whatever you want to make it!
Editor’s Note: Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author and a recipient of the Pearl Buck Award in Writing for Social Change. She has won several other awards, for investigative journalism and her weekly newspaper columns, and her memoir, Sister of Silence, placed first in the West Virginia Writers’ Competition. Ms. Berry speaks about overcoming abuse through awareness, empowerment and goal attainment at conferences around the country. To read an excerpt of her memoir, please go to the Sister of Silence site. Check out the five-star review from ForeWord Reviews. Or find out why Kirkus Reviews called Ms. Berry “an engaging writer, her style fluid and easy to read, with welcome touches of humor and sustained tension throughout.”