Coping With Loss

COPING WITH LOSS… following the Trauma of Murder or Manslaughter. In the weeks, months or even years after a murder…you are bound to experience many reactions to this traumatic and abnormal event!

Albeit you may feel that you are ’losing control…or your sanity is in question’ these reactions are quite normal, understandable and healthy.

Advice & Support

Bereavement due to Traumatic Death...Real interviews/Experiences:  


Although ’traumatic loss’ is more painful than loss of a loved-one through natural causes, these heightened emotions are part of the long recovery process of learning to cope.  Acknowledging and talking about these feelings is very important.  It's important to know that these emotions can remain dormant for long periods...sometimes, the emotional reaction can take months or even years to come to the fore.  Family members bereaved through violence may experience varying levels of Post Traumatic Stress causing them to: 

  • Become irritable towards others
  • Feeling isolated or guilty
  • Suffering from insomnia and interrupted sleep
  • Frequently reliving the event
  • Increased feelings of anxiety and/or anxiety attacks 

You may well relate to the reactions listed below…or have experienced similar feelings of 


Emotional reactions:-

  • Inability to attach importance to anything other than the murder.
  • Feelings of fear of something specific, or more general morbid thoughts.
  • Thoughts of revenge.
  • Guilt, shame or self-blame for some aspect of the death…or, ‘if only’.
  • Feeling numb and unable to feel any clear cut emotions.
  • Over-sensitively, becoming upset and angry more easily than usual.
  • Intense rage and anger with the offender, another member of family or yourself.
  • Irritability ‘snappiness’…short-tempered.
  • Feelings of isolation, helplessness or a sense of ‘loss of control’ over your life or sanity.
  • Anxiety, worries about the future…depression, extreme sadness and ‘sense of loss’.

Thought pattern changes:-

  • Extreme difficulty with concentration and problem solving.
  • Flashbacks to the scene of the murder or haunting thoughts of the murder…often, these imagined details that are worse than the reality.
  • Haunting dreams and exaggerated nightmares of events surrounding the murder.
  • Memory disturbance, particularly short-term memory. Absent-minded or forgetful!

Physical effects and reactions:-

  • Sleep problems such as insomnia…disturbed sleep and nightmares.
  • Fatigue, feeling exhausted/tired and generally unwell.
  • Hyperactivity or feeling unable to stop and relax.
  • Lethargy/under-activity…can’t be bothered with anything.
  • Repeated health problems, such as colds, headaches and general aches and pains.
  • Loss of appetite or comfort eating to excess…and/or drinking!
  • Exaggerated reactions…over-sensitivity to noise, sudden movements or just feeling frightened of everything!
  • repeated stomach problems…feelings of nausea, panic and breathlessness.
  • Out of Body experiences. 

There are things you can do which help alleviate…the emotional pain associated with this traumatic experience. It is important to talk to anyone who will listen…a counsellor or other supportive person. It goes without saying that someone who has been through this kind of trauma, surviving members of other families…will understand the kind of feelings that you may experience. Here are just a few of the general principles that may help to guide you through this most difficult time. Try and recognise that you have suffered an event which is ‘abnormal and highly stressful’…give yourself permission to feel sad, angry or at times rage. Denying your emotions may delay the healing process. Allow yourself to feel the pain and step along aside it ‘a little at a time’…there are no rules, set sequences of events or timetables for the ‘pain of loss to lessen’ and you have every right to feel ‘rotten’ to say the least.

Practical Support. If you can, allow others to help in practical/supportive ways…people who care about you will want to help (albeit at times people may not know what to say…or in their well-meaning attempts to help, be insensitive). It’s often hard for them too. Try not to avoid all reminders of what has happened or block out all thoughts of the murder…as you will need to talk about it - for some people it may take many weeks, months and years ahead to slowly ‘come to terms with this dreadful experience’. However, do not push yourself until you are ready.

Life will never be the same, but with time it can again have meaning. The loved-one lost…would want your life to have worth, happiness and joy ’in their memory’.

The most important thing to remember, particularly in the early days is that whatever feelings you are going through…you are not going mad, crazy or insane - this is how it is for all of us. Those that tragically have experienced this kind of grief know that ’pulling yourself together’ as that old phrase goes…is not an option. Take each day…one step at a time. The time frame is different for different people and the manner of coping is very much a ’personal experience and journey’ for each member of the family. The time we need each other most is often when the pain is too much…to deal with even ourselves let alone others. In time all will piece back together…normality does return, along with family harmony!  But...'normal' will be different...a new normal, from what we previously knew!




SIBLING GRIEF...When a Brother or a Sister dies the sudden reality may be too much for families to accept.  Siblings who are left with this pain may experience extreme loneliness, because they one understands what they're going through.  They may feel they cannot share their feelings with other members of the family because they want to protect them from additional pain.  Due to the shock and confusion that murder brings, there's no comprehension of 'why' their Brother or Sister was so quickly taken from them.


WHY SIBLING GRIEF IS DIFFERENT...Siblings have their own method of grieving.  Their parents lost a child, they have lost a Sibling and the relationship is completely different.  Often the bereaved Sibling(s) will experience a 'loss of identity' as their self-image is inter-related with the Brother or Sister lost.  Siblings may also experience varied emotions, including anger, guilt, grief and abandonment.  They may attempt to deal with these powerful feelings through denial or suppression.


Sometimes the Siblings' emotions may be further complicated by the failure of others to recognise their loss.  They may feel that are not only coping with the loss of their Sibling, but also with the loss of functional parents.  Examples of emotions from bereaved Siblings:-


*  DENIAL..."Because 'Murder' is too difficult to accept, I denied it happened...for my own protection."


*  ANGER..."Verbally, I would lash out at everyone.  I couldn't express any other feelings.  My Brother was gone and as far as I was concerned, it was the world's fault."


*  GUILT..."My guilt led me to ask questions like 'Why am I still here?'  'Why wasn't it me?'  'What did I do wrong for this to happen to my Brother?"


*  FEAR..."When my Brother was murdered, I thought who is next in our family?  All of a sudden our family is a target and we can't hide and protect ourselves...the world seemed 'unsafe' and we are vunerable."


*  PHYSICAL DISTRESS..."I couldn't relax and felt constantly anxious.  My body suffered from stress with headaches, neckaches, back pain.  Only managing a few hours sleep including nightmares (which made sleep worse)."


*  LONELINESS..."Friends tell me they find it difficult being my friend, my girlfriend told me she couldn't handle our relationship."


*  DEPRESSION..."I didn't want to get out of bed.  When I did, I would dread going outside.  I didn't want to see anyone.  I felt that I couldn't trust anyone anymore, so I didn't want to make eye contact."


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