Not all grief is the same. Every person will manage and display their grief differently, and certainly different types of loss can result in varying emotions for the bereaved.
When someone is murdered, the family left behind embark on an unwanted emotional rollercoaster, experience wave after wave of anger, guilt, blame, depression and denial. Unlike other losses, this sudden and traumatic loss plunges the family into the middle of these emotions which only adds to the intensity of their grief.
This is often further complicated by added stressors placed onto the family such as finalising their loved one’s estate, applying for financial compensation to assist with the funeral, dealing with employers when needing unexpected time off, fielding enquiries from the media, and assisting Detectives with the police investigation.
The intensity of this loss can remain with families for many months and even years after the actual incident, and over time, can result in further pressures. Often, family members struggle to communicate with each other, individuals struggle to retain concentration at work, children’s schooling suffers, and people generally begin to feel despondent about life in general.
Society offers many misconceptions about grief. Many people believe it is a lineal experience where the bereaved person goes through various ‘stages’ of their grief, eventually reaching some kind of ‘acceptance’. Our experience is that whilst various emotions crop up for those grieving, they rarely come and go in stages, and can actually co-exist at the same time.
When a homicide occurs, the family’s grief is again often worsened by a seemingly drawn-out legal process, which often involves several mentions, mental health applications, and adjournments. For families bereaved by homicide, the constant involvement in the investigation can create a situation where families re-live the horror of what has happened to their loved one.
When the investigation becomes a matter for the ‘state’ or the ‘crown’ families may feel dissatisfied with the level of involvement they have in the investigation. For loved ones of the victim, the law appears ‘black and white’ in other words, murder is murder! They soon realise however the law has many shades of grey. Families can often feel lost or swept up in the legal system, liaising between various government departments in the midst of trying to complete normal everyday tasks.
So, how does someone move forward from here?
Firstly, terms such as ‘get over it’ and ‘move on’ must be removed from your vocabulary! No one should ever be expected to ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one to murder, however to allow ourselves to be consumed by grief that our entire life dissolves because of it is no solution either. Many counsellors, talk of “accommodated grief”, that is the point in a bereaved person’s life where they begin to reinvest in the world again. For example, someone may accept an invitation to a party (this doesn’t mean they have to enjoy the party necessarily, simply accepting and honouring that commitment is a great step towards reinvesting back in the world).
We often find that in time, families develop a new relationship with their loved one. This may include having a cake on their birthdays, purchasing a gift at Christmas (either on their behalf or to place at their gravesite), spending time doing something that they both enjoyed together (i.e gardening) or simply having a chat to them now and then.
Whilst it is impossible not to think back on the incident itself at times, with anger and distress, gradually over time the bad days lessen and we are able to remind ourselves about the special memories and adventures we had together. Whilst our lives may never return to what was normal, a new type of normal can be found, allowing us a rare insight into what is important and meaningful in our lives.
QHVSG staff and volunteers can support families through these times. Please, remember you are never alone, and no subject is to difficult for us to talk through with you. Please call QHVSG on 1800 774 744 to talk.