Not all grief is the same. Every person manages and displays their grief differently, and different types of loss can result in different emotions. When someone we love is murdered, we, and our families, embark on a rollercoaster of emotions, experiencing wave after wave of anger, guilt, blame, depression, shame, fear and denial. Unlike other losses, homicide is sudden and intensely traumatic, adding to the intensity of grief.
This is often further complicated by added stresses like having to unexpectedly finalise your loved one’s estate, applying for financial compensation to assist with funeral costs, dealing with employers for unplanned time off, fielding enquiries from the media, and assisting Detectives with their investigations. The intensity of loss associated with homicide in particular can remain with us for many months and even years, and over time, can bring further pressures. Often individuals in our families struggle to communicate with each other, we struggle to retain concentration at work, our kid’s schooling can suffer, and we can begin to feel despondent about life in general.
Society has many misunderstandings about grief. Many wrongly believe grief is a lineal experience, where we will go through various ‘stages’ of grief, before eventually reaching a level of ‘acceptance’. At QHVSG our experience is that whilst various emotions crop up for grieving members, they rarely come and go in stages, and can actually co-exist simultaneously. When a homicide occurs, our grief is often worsened by a seemingly drawn-out legal process that involves several mentions, mental health applications, and adjournments. The constant involvement with homicide investigations can cause us to re-live the horror of what has happened to our loved one time and again.
Once the investigation becomes a matter for the ‘State’ or the ‘Crown’ we might feel dissatisfied with the level of involvement we actually have in the investigation and for us, having lost someone we love, the law can seem ‘black and white’, in other words, murder is murder. You will however, soon realise the law has many shades of grey, and this can often make us feel lost or swept up in a never-ending legal system, while trying to manage normal everyday tasks.
So, how do we move forward from here? Firstly, terms such as ‘get over it’ and ‘move on’ must be removed from your vocabulary! No one who has lost a loved one to homicide should ever be expected to ‘get over’ the loss, however allowing the grief attached to this tragedy to consume us to the point that our entire life dissolves around us is no solution either. Many counselors talk of “accommodated grief”, the point in a bereaved person’s life where we begin to reinvest in the world again; for example, we might accept an invitation to a party, and while that doesn’t mean we necessarily have to enjoy the experience, by simply accepting and honouring this commitment is a huge step towards reinvesting back into the world.
We often find that in time, we and our families develop a new relationship with our lost loved one. This can include having a cake on their birthday, purchasing a gift at Christmas (either on their behalf or to place at their gravesite), spending time doing something we both enjoyed doing together (ie gardening), or simply speaking to them in our quiet moments. Whilst it is impossible not to think back on the incident at times, perhaps with anger and or distress, gradually over time the bad days will lessen and we will be able to remind ourselves about the special memories and adventures we shared together. Although our lives may never return to what was normal, a new type of normal can be found, and we gain enormous perspective about what is most important and meaningful in our lives.
QHVSG staff and volunteers can support you and your family through these times. Please, remember you are never alone, and no subject is too difficult for us to talk through with you. Please call QHVSG on FREECALL 1800 774 744 and let us guide and support you.