On Thanksgiving Day, Nancy Gordon will set a seat at the table for her grandson, Jorge Delgado, and tape his photo to a chair. She wants him to be a part of their family’s holiday meal, she said, even though the 23-year-old is no longer there.
Delgado was shot to death while driving home from work in New Haven on April 11, 2022. He was rushed to a hospital and never came home, his grandmother said Monday.
Gordon, 75, is one of many who will mourn their loved ones this holiday season, haunted by empty seats at their tables and the lifelong sense of injustice that homicide leaves behind.
Delgado’s mother, Jennifer Shehadeh, and Gordon joined a group of grieving loved ones in Hartford on Monday morning to recognize National Survivors of Homicide Victims Awareness Month, which runs from Nov. 20 to Dec. 20.
The month is meant to raise awareness about the impact of homicide on families and communities and to help remind survivors that they are not alone, no matter how many loved ones they have lost or how long they have been mourning.
LaQuiva Jones of New Haven was still grieving the murder of her 18-year-old son, Da’Shown Myers, when her eldest son, Dontae Myers, was also shot to death in New Haven in 2023. The violence, she said, left her with no children and an indescribable, persisting grief.
Since Da’Shown’s murder, Jones said that “every day has been a challenge just to put our feet on the ground.” She has felt as if she’s been on a rollercoaster of pain and grief, she said, and she does not want any more families to have to join her on the ride.
“I pray that we get an end to this roller coaster, because every day some mother, some family member, is getting on this roller coaster,” she said on Monday, surrounded by other grieving mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers and uncles all clutching photos of their murdered loved ones.
These survivors of homicide — all once strangers from all walks of life — are now part of “ a family that no one wants to be a part of,” Jones said.
Jessica Pizzano, director of victim services at Survivors of Homicide, and Connecticut Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz joined the families on Monday and said that on average, every murder victim in Connecticut leaves behind at least 10 people who are impacted by their death.
The violence, Pizzano said, leaves in its wake a “generational legacy” of pain, loss, missed memories and trauma.
“When you pull that trigger, you don’t just take away that person that you’re trying to kill,” said Jones, looking down at photos of her sons. “You’re taking away everyone that loves that person. Everybody gets shot that day or that night.”
Shehadeh, said Monday that not a day has gone by when she hasn’t broken down in tears over her only son’s murder.
John Aberg still sheds tears for his 3-year-old grandson, Andrew Slyter, who was beaten to death 16 years ago.
Audrey Carlson, whose daughter Elizabeth Carlson was shot to death in 2002, still advocates for justice, reform and support for survivors day in and day out.
Survivors of Homicide month, Carlson said, puts “a laser focus on an important issue,” highlighting the survivors who Pizzano said are often “hidden victims” of violent crime. Losing a loved one to homicide, Pizzano said, is a complex, lifelong experience that is often accompanied by feelings of insecurity and fear. Survivors, she said, often experience a sense of losing control and are “thrust into an unfamiliar world that is no longer safe.”
By raising awareness about what they go through, Pizzano said, she hopes Connecticut residents, lawmakers, advocates and survivors understand the magnitude of each and every homicide.
“The scale of harm posed by homicide is devastating,” she said, and that pain only grows during this time of year. “When a perpetrator has taken a member of a family, holidays often become reminders of pain.”
Survivors of Homicide, a Connecticut based non-profit, issued a list of ways to help survivors who are grieving this holiday season. Their advice includes acknowledging that there is no right or wrong way for them to grieve, there is no time limit on their grief and they do not have “to be strong” while morning their loved one.
The advocates suggest avoiding phrases like “they are at peace,” “they had a long life,” or “you are lucky to have had them,” but to instead acknowledge that they were taken too soon, too violently and unfairly.
State Representative Mary M. Mushinsky, who ran Monday’s press conference, said that “this is a time of year when it’s very hard on the families. Everyone is gathering in the holiday and they, especially, feel the loss this time of year.”
Mushinsky said that, as a state, there is a collective responsibility to support survivors, make sure they know they are not forgotten and ask what else can be done to prevent further homicides .
Carlson, whose daughter was killed by her ex-boyfriend during a home invasion, said “Thanksgiving is going to be difficult (for survivors), but what they can do is be thankful for what they do have — each other.”
For more information or support, visit survivorsofhomicide.com.