LEWISBORO, N.Y. – The tragedy of the murder-suicide of the Friedlander family that took place in Cross River on Tuesday has left stunned parents grasping at ways to help their children understand what transpired and guide them through the grieving process.
Police investigators say that Samuel Friedlander, 50, killed his wife, Amy Friedlander, 46, and their two children, Molly, 10, and Gregory, 8 as the couple struggled through a bitter divorce. Both children attended Lewisboro Elementary, where two members of the Lewisboro Town Board – Supervisor Charles Duffy and Councilman Frank Kelly – also have children enrolled.
Kelly has four children in the Katonah-Lewisboro School District, including a son in the same fifth grade class as Molly at Lewisboro Elementary.
“He’s really too young to process it,” Kelly said. “We told him about it and he was troubled by it. But the main thing you can do is to assure the child that he is safe and limit its effect. It’s horrible, but it’s wildly outside the normal experience. They don’t understand violence and that their classmate isn’t going to be there anymore.”
Duffy’s daughter was a year behind Gregory and his son was a year ahead of Molly before he recently graduated from Lewisboro Elementary. He said both his kids understand the concept of death.
“We have discussed grieving and dying because both of their grandfathers have passed away over the past two years,” he said. “It’s not their first experience with death.”
Nonetheless he said, the school day on Wednesday took a toll on his son.
“When I got home Wednesday night my son was already asleep,” Duffy said. “Typically, he will wake up and say, ‘Hi, Daddy!’ But he was out like a light. It’s indicative of the emotional toll that this is taking on all our children.”
Duffy and his wife decided to keep their son home from school on Thursday.
“He was just a little upset and we decided to let him have a day with mom and dad,” he said. “He was distracted and couldn’t focus on his homework, as I suspect many children were. I think it’s expected and warranted for us all to stop and take a breath.”
The Duffys opted to send their daughter to school on Thursday, but not before telling her what to expect.
“We told her that she could expect to see a few more adults than usual at the school and maybe even some camera trucks,” Duffy said. “She said, ‘Is Daddy OK?’”
Kelly said it was important to maintain normalcy around the children and that after time, parents will see what, if any, effects from the tragedy will resonate.
“We told him about [the tragedy] this morning and asked him what his questions were and he said, ‘What questions?’”
Councilman Peter DeLucia’s son, who attends second grade at Meadow Pond Elementary School, knew Gregory through the Lewisboro Baseball Association.
“Gregory was quite a little athlete,” DeLucia said. “He was a very good baseball player and from what I understood, he played basketball too. This tragedy has reached out into the sports community too.”
As a result of that, DeLucia said it has had an impact on children outside of Lewisboro Elementary.
“The amount of question coming from my son is amazing,” he said. “His biggest fear is, could this happen to him. He wanted to know if someone was running around town doing this. It was difficult to explain, but I told him those kids were in heaven and Gregory is looking down on you playing baseball.”
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