Coping With Trauma: A Decades-Long Fight - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Coping With Trauma: A Decades-Long Fight

Posted: Updated:

POST FALLS, Wash – Every time Eric Haines of Post Falls sees a tragedy unfold in the headlines, like the massacre in Newtown, he panics.

That's because he knows what those kids will be going through 30 years from now.

He's one of them.

"I keep these articles hoping - doing everything I can to get through it, weed it out, try to make myself feel better," Haines said, sorting through newspaper articles in his Post Falls living room.

On July 19, 1981, when Haines was just 7 years old, he witnessed his grandmother's murder. 

It happened at his grandmother's house in New Mexico; he was there with his mother and 3-year-old sister when he says his mother's abuse ex-boyfriend, Alex Gonzales, came in armed with a gun.

He chased his mother around the house before she escaped over the fence in the backyard.

"I know he took at least one shot at her," he recalled.

But then, Gonzales came back inside with a new target: Eric's grandmother.

Haines remembers taking his little sister to hide, when he heard noises.  He said his grandmother made it to the kitchen and was trying to get a knife to defend herself, when he heard gunfire. 

"When she hit the floor, I was told I went and got a pillow and put her head under the pillow and sat there by her, and I couldn't help her I couldn't do anything," Haines recalled, tears coming to his eyes.  "I didn't have anybody to say, hey look, are you okay?"

As a little boy, Haines had to walk police through the house describing the horrific scene, and at just 8 years old, testified in Gonzales' trial.

"I remember looking at him, and he looked at me," he said.

Haines bottled up the pain and trauma of that day for decades.  He says his family never talked about it, and he never learned to process all he went through.  To this day, it's affecting his life as a husband and father.

"I blame myself that I could have done something, and the guilt - I know I couldn't have done anything but I still feel that way," Haines told KHQ.   "I have to deal with this because I've lost out on a lot of life."

Clinical psychologist Dr. Jennifer Van Wye told KHQ it's normal to have changes in your life after you've been through something traumatic.

"The first thing is to understand that what you've been through is very hard and you're going to have a reaction to it, and that's totally okay," she explained.

Dr. Van Wye said there are chemical changes that happen in the brain and body that can stay with you for months – even years.

"They may not be the same at work or at home, they probably don't sleep very well, they can be irritable or sad," she added.  "That doesn't mean anything's wrong, that's a normal response."

She says the most important thing to do is talk about what you've been through, even if you're not sure how you feel.

"The thing we know about people's reaction to a traumatic event is, often times they get better on their own," she explained.  "If you don't though, you're not going to get better on your own."

That's when you may need to call a psychologist, therapist or counselor to seek help, and Dr. Van Wye says it's never too late – even decades later.

"You can't ignore these traumas that these kids go through.  They have to be dealt with," Haines added.  "Don't let them do it by themselves.  Take me as an example."

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • 44 Riverside homes destroyed or damaged in storm

    44 Riverside homes destroyed or damaged in storm

    Thursday, July 24 2014 3:46 PM EDT2014-07-24 19:46:53 GMT
    RIVERSIDE, Wash. - Many families were still at the Red Cross Shelter set up at Riverside High School in Riverside this morning.An afternoon storm destroyed or damaged 44 of their homes and knocked down close to 100 trees in Riverside Village Mobile Home Park.Many residents said the storm looked like a tornado as it swept through their neighborhood.>>
    RIVERSIDE, Wash. - Many families were still at the Red Cross Shelter set up at Riverside High School in Riverside this morning.An afternoon storm destroyed or damaged 44 of their homes and knocked down close to 100 trees in Riverside Village Mobile Home Park.Many residents said the storm looked like a tornado as it swept through their neighborhood.>>
  • 10 Cheapest Houses For Sale In Spokane

    10 Cheapest Houses For Sale In Spokane

    Wednesday, November 27 2013 2:35 AM EST2013-11-27 07:35:08 GMT
    Whether you are in the market for an affordable place to live or are in the business of flipping houses, here are the 10 cheapest homes for sale in Spokane according to AllSpokaneHomes.com.>>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Whether you are in the market for an affordable place to live or are in the business of flipping houses, here are the 10 cheapest homes for sale in Spokane according to AllSpokaneHomes.com. Yes, they all need some work and some need a lot more than others, but when your mortgage payment is around the $200/month range there's at least something to stay positive about.>>
  • Person injured by falling tree branches outside Spokane courthouse

    Person injured by falling tree branches outside Spokane courthouse

    Wednesday, July 23 2014 9:35 PM EDT2014-07-24 01:35:37 GMT
    One person was injured when strong winds caused tree branches to fall to the ground outside the Spokane County Courthouse in Wednesday afternoon.Fire crews and police officers told KHQ the person who was hit by the branches was quickly taken to the hospital.>>
    One person was injured when strong winds caused tree branches to fall to the ground outside the Spokane County Courthouse in Wednesday afternoon.Fire crews and police officers told KHQ the person who was hit by the branches was quickly taken to the hospital.>>
  • Top Stories from KHQTop StoriesMore>>

  • NOTICE: Possible water shortage in Boundary County; Conserve water!

    NOTICE: Possible water shortage in Boundary County; Conserve water!

    Thursday, July 24 2014 5:06 PM EDT2014-07-24 21:06:19 GMT
    KHQ.COM - Cabinet Mountain Water District in Boundary County, Idaho is asking all customers to curb their water usage because of the power outage. In the event that power is not able to be restored, there could be a water shortage. Again, this is only for Cabinet Mountain Water District users in Boundary County, Idaho.>>
    KHQ.COM - Cabinet Mountain Water District in Boundary County, Idaho is asking all customers to curb their water usage because of the power outage. In the event that power is not able to be restored, there could be a water shortage. Again, this is only for Cabinet Mountain Water District users in Boundary County, Idaho.>>
  • PHOTOS: Severe storm causes power outages, damage to homes

    PHOTOS: Severe storm causes power outages, damage to homes

    Thursday, July 24 2014 5:37 PM EDT2014-07-24 21:37:32 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash. - A storm seemed to leave just as fast as it arrived Wednesday in Spokane. High winds blew over trees and utility lines, causing widespread power outages and some severe property damage. INSIDE>>>| Power Outages | PHOTOS |>>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - A storm seemed to leave just as fast as it arrived Wednesday in Spokane. High winds blew over trees and utility lines, causing widespread power outages and some severe property damage. INSIDE>>>| Power Outages | PHOTOS |>>
  • Pend Oreille PUD: Wind storm power outage

    Pend Oreille PUD: Wind storm power outage

    Thursday, July 24 2014 5:36 PM EDT2014-07-24 21:36:36 GMT
    PEND OREILLE COUNTY, Wash. - At this time, Pend Oreille PUD has approximately 4,000 customers without power, primarily in the southern portion of the county. Line repair estimates available at this time include the following areas: Gregg’s Addition and Conklin Meadows, Deeter and McCloud Creek Roads and South County. >>>MORE INFO>>>>>
    PEND OREILLE COUNTY, Wash. - At this time, Pend Oreille PUD has approximately 4,000 customers without power, primarily in the southern portion of the county. Line repair estimates available at this time include the following areas: Gregg’s Addition and Conklin Meadows, Deeter and McCloud Creek Roads and South County. >>>MORE INFO>>>
    >>