Dealing With a Murdered Family Member or Loved One

Published September 23, 2014, updated October November 6, 2020

The homicide of a family member or loved one is earth-shattering. There are so many mixed feelings — shock, anger, depression, and more, that swirl all at once, creating deeply rooted emotional wounds. The grief that comes with a murdered family member, friend, or loved one is different than most other forms of grief because it is unexpected. Murder is not a normal occurrence. 

According to Statistica, in 2018 over 13,000 individuals were victims of murder in the United States. This staggering statistic has left behind thousands of grieving homicide survivors coping with the death of a loved one. Here we’ll go over the types of emotions you can expect to have and ways to cope with a murdered family member.

The Most Common Reactions to a Murdered Family Member

Homicide survivors may experience a wide range of emotions following the tragic event. The initial shock and sensations that any individuals feels after learning of a loved one’s murder are sudden, intense, and often challenging to understand. This unfortunate crisis can be even more difficult to come to terms with depending on the following:

  • The intensity and abruptness of the crime.
  • The survivor’s capability to comprehend the event.
  • The survivor’s mindset before the event occurred.

Common reactions to a murdered loved one include:

  • Shock/Numbness. Such an event is so traumatic it may not even feel real at first. Confusion and shock are extremely common. These natural reactions are your brain’s natural ways to soften the impact of what’s happened.
  • Denial. Going hand-in-hand with shock, you may not even be capable of believing what has happened. 
  • Intense grief. Once shock wears off and denial fades away, the gravity of the event starts to set in, giving way to extremely intense grief. Crying uncontrollably and intense feelings of anxiety are quite common. It is important to allow yourself to grieve. Bottling up your emotions can make the pain last even longer.
  • Fear/anxiety. Some people find it hard to go about daily routines because of anxiety. They feel skittish, are wary about leaving the house, and fear the murderer will return. Being impacted by such an intense event often completely shatters one’s sense of security and causes fear of the uncontrollable.
  • Guilt. Survivor’s guilt aka survivor’s remorse is a very real phenomenon. Often, people prefer to blame themselves for the event so they feel that they have some semblance of control. But this simply is not the case. Dwelling on “If I had just…” is common, but futile and ultimately unhealthy for your mental health.
  • Anger and Depression. Survivors of those lost by homicide are often angry at the murderer, themselves, family members, or even God. This is often quickly followed by a deep depression with feelings of loneliness, which could lead the grieving person to isolate themselves. They feel as if no one understands what they’re going through because murder is so abnormal. Therapy and support groups are crucial in this stage, especially if the affected loved one is self-harming or contemplating suicide.

Read: Warning Signs of Suicide

Ways to Cope With Tragedy: Dealing with a Murdered Family Member

While no one grieves the same way, professional therapists and counselors advise that there are a few trusted ways to help process the initial disbelief and depression that occurs when losing a loved one to homicide.

  • Search for a local support group for families of murder victims. If you prefer an individual setting, there are many counselors who are trained to help people cope with their sudden loss.
  • Share your feelings with close family members. It is very likely that they are experiencing your same grief, and communicating your emotions can help all parties build a support system while mourning together.
  • Simplify your life. Try to take away normal everyday stressors by taking time off work or school and stick to the bare essentials.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. Take care of your body by getting exercise, staying active, and socializing even if for just a little bit each day. Alcohol and drugs inhibit your ability to emotionally recover in the long-term. 
  • If speaking about your trauma is too difficult, try writing a letter to your lost loved one. Tell them about your feelings of anger, sadness, or regret about their murder and the criminals involved. Put the letter in their casket or attach it to a helium balloon and release it into the air.
  • Sometimes, the most healing way to deal with loss is to find outside outlets to release your feelings. Start keeping a journal to free your emotions when they become overwhelming. Take up exercise, music, art, yoga, or any other creative means to relieve tension.

Aftermath Services is Here For You 24/7

We empathize with people who have recently suffered a staggering loss, and we make it a priority to treat each residence with compassion and care. Leaving death cleanup to Aftermath Services can help you and your family properly focus on managing the emotional stress and shock that accompanies such devastating tragedy.

When you are recovering from a devastating loss, safely removing the physical remains should be the last thing you worry about. Our highly trained professionals will take their time walking you through our process to give you peace of mind. Contact Aftermath Services at (877) 872-4339 for a no obligation estimate today or learn more about pricing and payment options.

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