What is natural grief?

Natural grief is a human experience following the death of a loved one. Grief is natural and spontaneous. It is a complex process, a deeply personal and painful experience. It is an array of mixed feelings, sensations, thoughts and behaviours. Grief is the pain, and mourning is how we express it.  

What is homicide grief?

Homicide grief is similar to natural grief, but is unique by its profound and lasting effect on the victim's family. The additional distress knowing someone purposely took the life of your loved one is unimaginable. That is then combined with having to deal with the police, the media and the courts. It all tends to re-victimize the survivors for a long time and in some cases, for years. It can effect all aspects of life, such as personal relationships, work, and social life, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

The impacts of homicide grief

People may experience intrusive thoughts about the violent way in which their loved one died. They may suffer from flashbacks or memories from the scene of the crime, or from having to identify their loved one in a morgue. Also, people may feel that their own safety is at risk.

Survivors of homicide victims may feel isolated and alone. It may seem that society blames the victim and may attach a stigma to their death. Many feel as though no one understands the depth of their grief, and others have unrealistic expectations of the time it takes to grieve the loss of a loved one as a result of murder.

Dealing with the police can be particularly difficult, especially in the early stages when families are in shock and trying to come to terms with what has happened. The police may not be able to give out any details of the murder due to the on-going investigation, which leaves the family feeling angry, more isolated and confused.

Reporters and the news media can be acutely persistent in their endeavours to obtain "the story" from the family. This has the potential of re-victimizing a family and effecting their emotional, mental and physical well-being.

The funeral is an important process in the grief journey. It provides the opportunity to say goodbye to the victim. While viewing the body provides a final opportunity to say goodbye, the lasting image may worsen the pain. It is a personal choice and can become an internal emotional struggle with some survivors.

Our right to grieve

It is important to take the time to grieve. Everyone will grieve differently, but they each deserve respect, understanding, patience, and compassion.

As survivors of homicide victims you are going through the worst possible unimaginable grief you will ever experience. There is no roadmap on this journey. Our needs and intense feelings are normal under the circumstances and we have the right to have them respected. Total resolution or closure for some survivors cannot be expected. Very slowly we integrate the tragedy into our lives, painfully reconstruct ourselves and strive for a "new normal."

Only you can be the judge of time, be gentle with yourself.

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