How to help grieving families
Families that lose someone to homicide not only experience all the symptoms of grief, but compounding the loss is often trauma. Homicide, it is so sudden, unexpected and violent that our own sense of safety and trust in the world around us can be shaken. Regardless of how your mind is thinking at this time, it is completely normal for you and your family to feel angry, shocked, guilty, ashamed and more. It is important to recognise the intensity of these emotions can be further complicated by the criminal process involved in bringing the perpetrator to justice. Add to that media interest in and possible public coverage of your loved one’s case, and you can begin to see just how much you are dealing with.
At QHVSG our aim is to assist grieving families of homicide to come to terms with their loss by understanding that what they are going through is both normal and common. When multiple family members are all struggling to cope at the same time it can be challenging to find individual solace, and it is important to help each person to find strategies that will help them cope during this time. We hope the following information helps you on your path to healing.
What can I expect to feel?
- Intense shock and unable to comprehend what has happened
- Intense anger toward the individual(s) who did this
- Guilt that you could or should have protected your loved one
- Helpless and powerless over your world
- Angry at the world – the perpetrator, yourself, witnesses, God, the media
- Ashamed and blamed – by yourself, your family and friends, police and doctors, media
- Anxious and paranoid about your own safety
- Distracted and haunted by violent flashbacks, nightmares and visual images of the murder, even if you weren’t present
- Distrusting of people in general, and especially strangers
- Overly protective of loved ones
- Avoidance of places and people that remind you of your loved one or the homicide
- Fearful the perpetrator will strike again
- Preoccupied with your own personal safety
What can I do to help myself?
- Contact QHVSG if you are struggling at any time to cope, either immediately following the incident or at any time afterwards
- Take your own time to grieve and in your own way. No two people experience grief in exactly the same way, and this is especially true of homicide, so don’t pressure yourself to ‘get back to normal’ before your mind and heart are ready
- Regain a sense of control in your life by sticking to basic routines wherever you can
- Take care of your self by listening to your body and resting, eating properly and exercising
- Keep a journal of what you are thinking and feeling. You might find it helpful to write a letter to your loved one or a poem that expresses how you feel
- Release your anger safely, ideally with a counsellor or supportive family and friends
- Seek solace with others who can relate to what you have been through – a peer group such as QHVSG where others have experienced the loss of a loved one through homicide, they will be able to relate to what you are dealing with and help you move forward with coping strategies
- Stay connected – this is one time in your life when you need the emotional support of family and friends, and likewise they may need yours
- Set boundaries – make sure the police, DPP, media and even friends and family know exactly how much you can and can’t deal with
- Don’t ignore trauma-based nightmares, flashbacks, avoiding of people or places, but rather address them with a counsellor or mental health professional so you can slowly start to regain your sense of personal safety
- Consider a personal ritual where you can safely say goodbye to your loved one in your own special way
- Honour your loved one, support their favourite charity, volunteer your time with a homicide support group such as QHVSG or other, set up a website memorial where you and others can share fond memories of your loved one