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Homicide Powered By Docstoc

             TSVAA 2008
      Amy Griffith Taylor, CMSW
Victim Intervention Program/Nashville
              Police Dept
1. Impact of homicide and traumatic grief.
2. Core components of a sensitive and
   effective death notification.
3. Practical approaches to assist surviving
   members of homicide victims.
          Myths about Grief
• All Losses are the same
• It takes two months to get over our grief
• All bereaved people grieve the same
• Grief always declines over time in a steadily
  decreasing fashion
• When in doubt about what to say to a bereaved
  person, offer a cliché.
• Family members will always help the griever
• Children grieve like adults
       These you may believe
• It is better to put painful things out of your mind
• Don’t think about your loved on during the
  holidays, it will make you too sad
• Only sick people have physical problems in grief
• Children need to be protected from grief/death.
• When grief is resolved, you are back to “normal”
• If you are emotionally strong, you really don’t
  need counseling.
• You will feel your higher powers presence if you
  are a true believer.
• Avoidance Phase                 •   Shock & Denial
• The Confrontation               •   Impact Phase
  Phase                           •   Confrontation Phase
• The Accommodation               •   Rebuilding Phase

• These are not linear phases
  one completes and then
  moves on to the next.
  Sudden verses Anticipated Death
• We know that the difference between a
  sudden death and one that is anticipated
  is not in the amount of pain that the
  survivor suffers but in the impact it has
  upon that person’s ability to cope and go
  about the rest of their life.
• The capacity to cope is diminished

Theresa A Rando, PhD - Grieving: How to Go on Living When
  Someone You Love Dies
 Differences: Unanticipated Death
• Fear/vulnerability
• Loss does not make sense
• Tendency to reconstruct prior events, did
  warnings exist, hold yourself responsible.
• Profound loss of security
• Consequences lasts a lifetime
• At higher risk for unresolved grief
         Differences: Homicide
• Acute grief is present for a much longer period of
• No question that the death was preventable-
  Someone made a choice
• Concerns about the loved ones last moments
• Guilt- (again trying to make sense of a senseless death)
• Incredible rage at the violence and their
  helplessness- must focus revenge constructively
• Often less social support-stigma and blame
  toward the co-victim
• Feeling of “out of control”- range of emotions are
  wider and more intense
• Dealing with the Criminal Justice System adds
  stress- grief can not begin to be resolved until
  after the legal process if one is involved and
  participating- one must be prepared.
             Death Notification
• One of the most defining events for a co-victim, other
  than the murder itself.
• It will intertwine with the trauma of the event and
  resurface with other traumatic memories of the murder
• A professional, empathic, compassionate, and well
  planned death notification is the first step in the journey
  to reconstructing a new life for a co-victim
• Adrenaline causes the brain to store emotional reactions
  for long-term memory-why we remember certain aspects
  of highly emotional events so vividly.
“Since no two death notifications will ever be
  exactly alike, attempting to conduct a
  death notification according to a rigid,
  memorized protocol rarely helps the
  notifier, and can come across as cold and
  unfeeling to the family”
Janice Harris Lord “I’ll Never Forget Those Words”
Best Practice: Death Notification
In person, in time, in pairs, in plain language,
  and with compassion
• Have accurate Information
• Obtain Medical Information on who you will be
  notifying if possible
• Go in person and notify in pairs
• Talk about personal reactions on the way to the
• Present credentials and ask to come in
• Sit down and ask them to sit down ( avoid the
  kitchen area)
• Be sure you have the next of kin
• Inform simply and directly with warmth and
• Don’t discount feelings, theirs or yours
• Join the survivor in their grief without being
  overwhelmed by it
• Answer questions honestly
• Offer to make calls- contact their support system
• (I would suggest not talking to the media)
• Give written information
• Transport co-victim if identification is required.
• Follow up-especially if you made a commitment
  to do so
• Let the co-victim know you care
• ( I would suggest addressing the needs of
                 What Not to Say
Discounting statements:
• I know how you feel (you don’t)
• Time heals all wounds ( It doesn’t)
• You must focus on the good memories (not now)
Disempowering statements:
• You don’t need to know that ( yes they do or they wouldn’t have
• You don’t want to see her (yes they do or they would not have
• I can’t tell you that (If you can not answer the question explain
  why and tell them when they can expect an answer)
                 What Not to Say
Religious Clichés:
• God never gives us more than we can handle
  (even if it is true the family does not need to feel guilty about how
  they are handling it)
• Someday you’ll understand why ( they may never)
Unhealthy Expectations:
• You must be strong for…… (t they don’t after hearing such upsetting
  information-let them grieve)
• I’m sure he/she will be arrested ( he/she may not)
       Other issues to consider
• Cultural / spiritual issues related to death
• Understanding more about children
• Your areas procedures for viewing of the body
• When appropriate talk to the co-victim about the
  possible media response
• Resources: i.e. TN Criminal Injury Compensation,
  counseling/advocacy support services, etc.
• How will you take care of yourself?
 What I’ve learned from co-victims
• Always use their loved ones name
• Know anniversary dates are important-and
  different for different co-victims
• Any feeling/s are OK-all actions are not
• Preparation is Very important
• For many the anticipation/thoughts are worst
  than the reality ( not always)
• Remembrances and rituals are vital
• They can return to a new normal but their lives
  are forever changed.
• When requesting to view crime scene
  photographs (counselor, photo of victim, order photos,
  describe each one before showing it, remind they can stop
  whenever they choose, they can view them later if they change their
• Co-victims must go through their grief and heal
  before they can help others or receive positive
  benefits from helping others
• Even after significant healing has occurred, co-
  victims will still have difficult times, but they are
  not necessarily taking steps backwards
• You are part of the criminal justice system and
  some of the co-victims’ anger may get directed
  toward you
• Always be honest with co-victims, they have lost
  a significant amount of trust in the world already
• If you say you will do something – you need to
  follow through- just do it!\
How to tell if you are stressed out?
• The following picture has two identical dolphins
  in it. It was used in a case study on stress level
  at St Mary’s Hospital in Boston.
• Look at both dolphins jumping out of the water.
  A closely monitored study of a group revealed
  that in spite of the fact that the dolphins are
  identical; a person under stress would find some
  difference in the two dolphins. Look at the
  photograph, if you find one or two differences in
  the dolphins, you may want to take a vacation.

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