SAN ANTONIO – As National Crime Victims Right's Week begins, it has also been five months since the church shooting in Sutherland Springs. The violent crime killed 26 people last year and left many others injured, both physically and emotionally.
The Children's Bereavement Center on 205 W. Olmos Drive is helping a mother and her children who lost their loved ones in the Nov. 5 shooting. Regina Rodriguez's father, Ricardo Rodriguez, and stepmother, Therese Rodriguez were both killed when a gunman went into the church and opened fire.
"I had a lot of anger. Lots of anger. I was angry that someone could go in there and do something like that," Regina Rodriguez said.
The tragedy not only impacted her but her children as well, who sometimes went to church with their grandparents.
"I always tell them. But thank God you weren't there that day. Unfortunately, your grandparents were, but just be thankful you all weren't there," Rodriguez explained.
As Regina tried to deal with her mix of emotions, her children had questions she says she did not know how to answer. One of her children was also describing nightmares that centered around the shooting. Rodriguez says she tried to get help through her insurance but an FBI agent informed her of the Children's Bereavement Center.
Managing Director Blair Thompson says, "The Bereavement Center provides counseling resources to children who have experienced a death loss."
The center uses artistic therapy to guide clients through grief. Children are able to use paint, clay, glass art, and puppets to communicate and express their experience. Children are grouped with others in similar age brackets who have similar death loss experiences. The center works with youth from 3 years old to 24 years of age. The older clients are more likely to have individual counseling sessions.
The center is designed to look and feel like a home to allow children to work comfortably with licensed professionals in a group setting, free of charge. The surviving adult family members are also helped.
"While the children go off to be a part of their peer support group, the adults come into the living room and have a group of their own that is specifically designed for their needs," Thompson explains.
Regina and her children first started going to the center in December; now she says her family is looking toward a brighter future.
"I can actually see some light in my face, 'cause there was so much darkness," Regina said.
Soon other victims in Sutherland Springs will be able to utilize the service closer to home.
"The Children's Bereavement Center is preparing to open up a center very similar to this one in Floresville as part of a collaborative effort to the serve the community there," Thompson announced.
The new center will be called Paloma Place, evoking the images of a dove and peacefulness. The center is set to open in mid- to late May.
To learn more about the Children's Bereavement Center click here.
KSAT will also be hosting a phone bank on Monday in recognition of Crime Victim's Rights week. Viewers will be able to speak with experts to learn more about the services available to them regarding any type of crime they may have survived. KSAT will also spotlight other local agencies that are helping survivors of crime in the San Antonio area.
The Ecumenical Center is another local group working with adults, children and first responders following the Sutherland Springs shooting.
They have a location in Sutherland Springs at River Oaks Church, as well as in La Vernia and San Antonio.
The Ecumenical Center has a new location in the works.
They provide counseling in person and via phone.
Their number is 210-616-0885.