Monday, July 30, 2012

When A Child Has Been Murdered: Ways You Can Help the Grieving Parents

By: Bonnie Hunt Conrad

Death, Value and Meaning Series, John D. Morgan, Series Editor


"This book is about parents and their relentless pain following the tragic, traumatic homicide of their child and the ways they are coping. Every parent experiencing this type of grief will be able to relate to the book. Every professional who works with parents affected by homicide will welcome this book as a ready reference in their work. Every law enforcement person who deals with homicide, including police officers, prosecuting attorneys, and judges, will want to read this and learn how to better be with survivors. It is a must for all interested persons who want to help. It is interesting, informative, sensitive, and easy to follow."

—Constance M. Read, DPC, NCC, CPC, R.N.C.S.-P

"Conrad has offered providers and parents a sensitive, insightful and well-crafted book and friend to the very battered and bruised parents (and others close by) now forced to deal with the outrage of a child's murder. It also forces society and community, often unwilling to even see the raw data of violence in our community, to wrestle with this most painful journey of despair and hopelessness, albeit a journey still open to some measure of hope and healing. This book keeps up the publisher's high standards for content, but with welcomed refreshment of more room for the experiential ... connecting our heads with our hearts. The book will be equally friendly to the bereaved parents.

The book states right at the beginning what is at the center for this most difficult loss experience. It does wander back into a general discussion of grief (so useful for this subject, but also for a wider readership), but it is so well crafted that, while being informed, we are building up steam, or at least a running start, to get back into focus on grief that responds to, but dare not succumb to, violent death. Conrad has served us well. More important, she has served grieving parents very well."

—Reverend Richard B. Gilbert, Executive Director of The World Pastoral Care Center

"This is a powerful yet sensitive book with personal accounts by parents who have experienced the saddest loss in a parent's life. The book is easy to read and has a comforting sense of style, which helps to fight back the tears that it evokes at times. The death of a loved one is difficult to discuss. When the death is caused by murder it is even more difficult to comprehend. Conrad addresses areas beyond the funeral and offers insight for those who will be working with the grieving family. . . .I found this book to be both practical and informative. I would highly recommend it to grieving parents, family members, relatives, co-workers, and friends who are dealing with loved ones who have been killed or are dealing with the stages of death and dying."

—Doreen Head, Wayne State University, Detroit, USA, Journal of Family Studies, Vol. 5, No. 1, April 1999

"I would recommend this excellent book to anyone bereaved through murder or manslaughter, not just bereaved parents. It will also be of benefit to professionals working with families who have been bereaved in this way. It is one of the best I have read dealing with this painful subject."

—Rose Dixon, Training and Development Officer, SAMM, Bereavement Care, Volume 20, Number 3, Winter 2001


When a Child Has Been Murdered: Ways You Can Help the Grieving Parents is a concise, easy- to-read guide that begins with a general discussion of the types of grief that result from death and non-death losses. Then, using statements made by parents whose children were murdered, it discusses the specifics of murdered-child grief including: the complex emotions felt by the grieving parents, how the necessity of interacting with the criminal justice system can alter and enhance these emotions, short- and long-term methods these parents employ to work through the grieving process and to reconstruct their shattered lives, and how anyone who comes in contact with the parents can help them survive their grief.

This book deals with an issue making headlines throughout the world—the murder of our children, teenagers, and young adults. We all know that murder occurs much too frequently. But do we know that frequency is only half the problem?

The other half is that every time a child is murdered another parent joins thousands of other parents who are struggling to cope with one of the most devastating and debilitating forms of grief. Too often, because the subject of murder is terrifying to all of us, and because too few of us fully understand the complexities of murdered-child grief, these parents are left to grieve alone.

This new work was written to fulfill two objectives. The first is to describe the excruciatingly painful, and sometimes terrifying, emotions of murdered-child grief, and to let newly bereaved parents know that the emotions they are feeling are normal and necessary to the grieving process. The second is to make the bereaved parents' relatives and friends, and all others who come in contact with them, aware of the many ways they can help the parents to survive their devastating grief.

The voices heard in this book are those of actual parents whose children were murdered. Despite their pain, they talk about the brutality of their children's murders, about their experiences with the criminal justice system, and about their short- and long-term efforts to reconstruct their shattered lives. By telling their stories they hope to educate those who have not experienced murdered-child grief as to what it is like to be the parent of a murdered child, and to inform them of the many ways they can help bereaved parents work through the grieving process.

Baywood Publishing Company, Inc.

Phone: 631 691-1270
Fax: 631 691-1770
Toll free order line: 800-638-7819

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Coping with Grief and Loss


Coping with Loss: Guide to Grieving and Bereavement
Losing someone or something you love or care deeply about is very painful. You may experience all kinds of difficult emotions and it may feel like the pain and sadness your experiencing will never let up. These are normal reactions to a significant loss. But while there is no right or wrong way to grieve, there are healthy ways to cope with the pain that, in time, can renew you and permit you to move on.

What is grief?

Grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away. You may associate grief with the death of a loved one – and this type of loss does often cause the most intense grief. But any loss can cause grief, including:
  • A relationship breakup
  • Loss of health
  • Losing a job
  • Loss of financial stability
  • A miscarriage
  • Death of a pet
  • Loss of a cherished dream
  • A loved one’s serious illness
  • Loss of a friendship
  • Loss of safety after a trauma
The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief. However, even subtle losses can lead to grief. For example, you might experience grief after moving away from home, graduating from college, changing jobs, selling your family home, or retiring from a career you loved.

Everyone grieves differently

Grieving is a personal and highly individual experience. How you grieve depends on many factors, including your personality and coping style, your life experience, your faith, and the nature of the loss. The grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually; it can’t be forced or hurried – and there is no “normal” timetable for grieving. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, the grieving process is measured in years. Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold.

Myths and Facts About Grief

MYTH: The pain will go away faster if you ignore it.
Fact: Trying to ignore your pain or keep it from surfacing will only make it worse in the long run. For real healing it is necessary to face your grief and actively deal with it.
MYTH: It’s important to be “be strong” in the face of loss.
Fact: Feeling sad, frightened, or lonely is a normal reaction to loss. Crying doesn’t mean you are weak. You don’t need to “protect” your family or friends by putting on a brave front. Showing your true feelings can help them and you.
MYTH: If you don’t cry, it means you aren’t sorry about the loss.
Fact: Crying is a normal response to sadness, but it’s not the only one. Those who don’t cry may feel the pain just as deeply as others. They may simply have other ways of showing it.
MYTH: Grief should last about a year.
Fact: There is no right or wrong time frame for grieving. How long it takes can differ from person to person.
Source: Center for Grief and Healing

Are there stages of grief?

In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced what became known as the “five stages of grief.” These stages of grief were based on her studies of the feelings of patients facing terminal illness, but many people have generalized them to other types of negative life changes and losses, such as the death of a loved one or a break-up.

The five stages of grief:

  • Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”
  • Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
  • Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”
  • Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”
  • Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”
If you are experiencing any of these emotions following a loss, it may help to know that your reaction is natural and that you’ll heal in time. However, not everyone who is grieving goes through all of these stages – and that’s okay. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to go through each stage in order to heal. In fact, some people resolve their grief without going through any of these stages. And if you do go through these stages of grief, you probably won’t experience them in a neat, sequential order, so don’t worry about what you “should” be feeling or which stage you’re supposed to be in.
Kübler-Ross herself never intended for these stages to be a rigid framework that applies to everyone who mourns. In her last book before her death in 2004, she said of the five stages of grief, “They were never meant to help tuck messy emotions into neat packages. They are responses to loss that many people have, but there is not a typical response to loss, as there is no typical loss. Our grieving is as individual as our lives.”

Grief can be a roller coaster

Instead of a series of stages, we might also think of the grieving process as a roller coaster, full of ups and downs, highs and lows. Like many roller coasters, the ride tends to be rougher in the beginning, the lows may be deeper and longer. The difficult periods should become less intense and shorter as time goes by, but it takes time to work through a loss. Even years after a loss, especially at special events such as a family wedding or the birth of a child, we may still experience a strong sense of grief.
Source: Hospice Foundation of America

Common symptoms of grief

While loss affects people in different ways, many people experience the following symptoms when they’re grieving. Just remember that almost anything that you experience in the early stages of grief is normal – including feeling like you’re going crazy, feeling like you’re in a bad dream, or questioning your religious beliefs.
  • Shock and disbelief – Right after a loss, it can be hard to accept what happened. You may feel numb, have trouble believing that the loss really happened, or even deny the truth. If someone you love has died, you may keep expecting them to show up, even though you know they’re gone.
  • Sadness – Profound sadness is probably the most universally experienced symptom of grief. You may have feelings of emptiness, despair, yearning, or deep loneliness. You may also cry a lot or feel emotionally unstable.
  • Guilt – You may regret or feel guilty about things you did or didn’t say or do. You may also feel guilty about certain feelings (e.g. feeling relieved when the person died after a long, difficult illness). After a death, you may even feel guilty for not doing something to prevent the death, even if there was nothing more you could have done.
  • Anger – Even if the loss was nobody’s fault, you may feel angry and resentful. If you lost a loved one, you may be angry at yourself, God, the doctors, or even the person who died for abandoning you. You may feel the need to blame someone for the injustice that was done to you.
  • Fear – A significant loss can trigger a host of worries and fears. You may feel anxious, helpless, or insecure. You may even have panic attacks. The death of a loved one can trigger fears about your own mortality, of facing life without that person, or the responsibilities you now face alone.
  • Physical symptoms – We often think of grief as a strictly emotional process, but grief often involves physical problems, including fatigue, nausea, lowered immunity, weight loss or weight gain, aches and pains, and insomnia.

Coping with grief and loss tip 1: Get support

The single most important factor in healing from loss is having the support of other people. Even if you aren’t comfortable talking about your feelings under normal circumstances, it’s important to express them when you’re grieving. Sharing your loss makes the burden of grief easier to carry. Wherever the support comes from, accept it and do not grieve alone. Connecting to others will help you heal.

Finding support after a loss

  • Turn to friends and family members – Now is the time to lean on the people who care about you, even if you take pride in being strong and self-sufficient. Draw loved ones close, rather than avoiding them, and accept the assistance that’s offered. Oftentimes, people want to help but don’t know how, so tell them what you need – whether it’s a shoulder to cry on or help with funeral arrangements.
  • Draw comfort from your faith – If you follow a religious tradition, embrace the comfort its mourning rituals can provide. Spiritual activities that are meaningful to you – such as praying, meditating, or going to church – can offer solace. If you’re questioning your faith in the wake of the loss, talk to a clergy member or others in your religious community.
  • Join a support group – Grief can feel very lonely, even when you have loved ones around. Sharing your sorrow with others who have experienced similar losses can help. To find a bereavement support group in your area, contact local hospitals, hospices, funeral homes, and counseling centers.
  • Talk to a therapist or grief counselor – If your grief feels like too much to bear, call a mental health professional with experience in grief counseling. An experienced therapist can help you work through intense emotions and overcome obstacles to your grieving.

Coping with grief and loss tip 2: Take care of yourself

Need More Relationship Help?Need More Help?
Helpguide's Bring Your Life into Balancemindfulness toolkit can help.
When you’re grieving, it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself. The stress of a major loss can quickly deplete your energy and emotional reserves. Looking after your physical and emotional needs will help you get through this difficult time.
  • Face your feelings. You can try to suppress your grief, but you can’t avoid it forever. In order to heal, you have to acknowledge the pain. Trying to avoid feelings of sadness and loss only prolongs the grieving process. Unresolved grief can also lead to complications such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and health problems.
  • Express your feelings in a tangible or creative way. Write about your loss in a journal. If you’ve lost a loved one, write a letter saying the things you never got to say; make a scrapbook or photo album celebrating the person’s life; or get involved in a cause or organization that was important to him or her.
  • Look after your physical health. The mind and body are connected. When you feel good physically, you’ll also feel better emotionally. Combat stress and fatigue by getting enough sleep, eating right, and exercising. Don’t use alcohol or drugs to numb the pain of grief or lift your mood artificially.
  • Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel, and don’t tell yourself how to feel either. Your grief is your own, and no one else can tell you when it’s time to “move on” or “get over it.” Let yourself feel whatever you feel without embarrassment or judgment. It’s okay to be angry, to yell at the heavens, to cry or not to cry. It’s also okay to laugh, to find moments of joy, and to let go when you’re ready.
  • Plan ahead for grief “triggers.” Anniversaries, holidays, and milestones can reawaken memories and feelings. Be prepared for an emotional wallop, and know that it’s completely normal. If you’re sharing a holiday or lifecycle event with other relatives, talk to them ahead of time about their expectations and agree on strategies to honor the person you loved.

When grief doesn’t go away

It’s normal to feel sad, numb, or angry following a loss. But as time passes, these emotions should become less intense as you accept the loss and start to move forward. If you aren’t feeling better over time, or your grief is getting worse, it may be a sign that your grief has developed into a more serious problem, such as complicated grief or major depression.

Complicated grief

The sadness of losing someone you love never goes away completely, but it shouldn’t remain center stage. If the pain of the loss is so constant and severe that it keeps you from resuming your life, you may be suffering from a condition known as complicated grief. Complicated grief is like being stuck in an intense state of mourning. You may have trouble accepting the death long after it has occurred or be so preoccupied with the person who died that it disrupts your daily routine and undermines your other relationships.
Symptoms of complicated grief include:
  • Intense longing and yearning for the deceased
  • Intrusive thoughts or images of your loved one
  • Denial of the death or sense of disbelief
  • Imagining that your loved one is alive
  • Searching for the person in familiar places
  • Avoiding things that remind you of your loved one
  • Extreme anger or bitterness over the loss
  • Feeling that life is empty or meaningless

The difference between grief and depression

Distinguishing between grief and clinical depression isn’t always easy, since they share many symptoms. However, there are ways to tell the difference. Remember, grief can be a roller coaster. It involves a wide variety of emotions and a mix of good and bad days. Even when you’re in the middle of the grieving process, you will have moments of pleasure or happiness. With depression, on the other hand, the feelings of emptiness and despair are constant.
Other symptoms that suggest depression, not just grief:
  • Intense, pervasive sense of guilt.
  • Thoughts of suicide or a preoccupation with dying.
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness.
  • Slow speech and body movements
  • Inability to function at work, home, and/or school.
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there.

Can antidepressants help grief?

As a general rule, normal grief does not warrant the use of antidepressants. While medication may relieve some of the symptoms of grief, it cannot treat the cause, which is the loss itself. Furthermore, by numbing the pain that must be worked through eventually, antidepressants delay the mourning process.

When to seek professional help for grief

If you recognize any of the above symptoms of complicated grief or clinical depression, talk to a mental health professional right away. Left untreated, complicated grief and depression can lead to significant emotional damage, life-threatening health problems, and even suicide. But treatment can help you get better.
Contact a grief counselor or professional therapist if you:
  • Feel like life isn’t worth living
  • Wish you had died with your loved one
  • Blame yourself for the loss or for failing to prevent it
  • Feel numb and disconnected from others for more than a few weeks
  • Are having difficulty trusting others since your loss
  • Are unable to perform your normal daily activities

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Who Are M.O.M.Cs

There's no grief like losing a child, especially by homicide.

I remember the phone call telling me that my son, had been murdered. There are no words to describe the pain you feel. No one can know the pain and sorrow that survivors experience unless they themselves have gone through the horror of losing someone they love at the hands of another human being.

On this website I have included a brief description of some of the feelings and emotions you may be experiencing now and for along time to come. It is by no means meant to provide you with any answers but to help you recognize that your reactions, whatever they may be, are normal. Most of this information is from the homicide survivors booklet and some personal comments from me as I travel this bumpy road of grief.

With every passing day, though you may not recognize or accept it, the healing process is taking place. It may be two steps forward and one step back, but eventually you will survive.

There is a wealth of information and knowledge in your communities to help you during this difficult time. Contact your local mental health center, hospital grief support group, church leaders, or victim assistance program in your area.

MOMC is a place for mothers to communicate with each other, to provide some information about the GRIEF process and provide information links to other sites that have been most helpful to me.