Angel Hands

I wish I could make your pain disappear;

Make your world right once more.

I wish I could say some magic word

To make you feel happy again.

I wish I could give you a rainbow

And make your tears go away.

I wish I could so much more than just say;

I am your friend and I am here if you need me.

By Donna Wayland

Those who are indirectly affected by a homicide are often called seriously(? Just checking, is this meant to be serious?) secondary victims; this term includes family and friends of homicide victims, even those who were not there when it happened. The effects of homicide are far reaching and it is generally accepted that extended family members will suffer greatly as a result of the crime. People in the community can also be affected by the death, for example emergency service personnel work colleagues and acquaintances.

Although not all violent deaths are recorded as ‘murder’, at angelhands, we believe that violent deaths caused by another human being can be extremely damaging and distressing to those who remain. We hope the information and links to other services provided here can help ease the distress you and others may feel.

Please

Confronting The Issues

While you are trying to deal with the emotional impact of homicide on you and your family, other issues are likely to emerge. You will deal with them at the time of great vulnerability, therefore information and support from people who can respond to your needs with compassion is important. The following overview touches on some of those issues you are likely to confront.

 

Dealing with Police

Dealing with the police can be difficult for families of homicide victims, particularly in the early stages where people are in shock, confused and trying to cope with their loss. The police may have arrested someone for the murder or may still be investigating. Either way, they will need to have contact with the people closest to the victim to provide or gain information to assist with their investigations. This may mean that family and friends may be treated as suspects until ruled out and understandably, this can be enraging and distressing.

The police may not be able to give out details of the homicide because of their continuing investigations and this too may be difficult to cope with. Not having answers, while imagining what might have happened, can be distressing for homicide survivors. The police may also need to keep the victim’s clothing and other possessions as evidence and these may not be returned for some time.

It is important that you identify someone within the police who can provide accurate and clear information. The Major Crime detectives are the police officers most likely to be involved and you can direct your questions to them. However, if you are unable to contact a detective investigating the crime you may phone the Victim Contact Officer (VCO) at Major Crime on 8463 7840 (or in your police local service area) for information.

 

Dealing with the Coroner's Office

The police may need someone to identify the body of the victim; this is usually a family member or close friend. This identification usually happens at the Morgue or Forensic Science Centre. This can be a difficult experience as nothing can prepare you for it. The victim may have physical injuries and the body cannot be touched or only limited time can be spent with the deceased.

An autopsy or post-mortem will be performed to find out the cause of death. This can be traumatic for families and can mean a delay in the body being released and therefore, the funeral being delayed.

Other issues to be considered include learning about the cause of death, getting a copy of the post-mortem report and the possible retention of organs for further testing and investigation. The social workers at the Coroner’s Office can help with these matters and you can contact them on 8204 0600.

 

Dealing with the Funeral 

Funerals are an important part of the grief process. They provide an opportunity to say goodbye to the deceased. In the case of homicide, people may be discouraged from viewing the body because of injuries. However, doing this may be important for some people as it is the last opportunity to see the deceased and to say a personal goodbye.

Careful consideration should be given to this decision and funeral directors can often arrange ways for this to happen even when there are severe injuries.

Although you may be experiencing shock and numbness it is important to carefully consider what you want to happen at the funeral, so it has meaning and says something about the person who died.

If no offender has been arrested the police may be present at the funeral and may videotape the service as part of their investigation. The media may also attend. This may feel like an invasion of privacy and be difficult to cope with.

 

Dealing with the Media 

The media will want to report the details of the homicide to the public. This can mean the family is approached for comment, for photographs of the deceased and for further information about the crime. The media can be persistent, including phoning and visiting you at home, following you and so on. The media often sensationalise a story and can print inaccurate information about the case and may present information in a way that blames the victim. This can cause further trauma to the victim’s family and friends.

Sometimes the media need to report on a case to help the police with their investigations or to appeal for public help. The media may print further stories about the case after court hearings and even many years after the event, which may bring back feelings of grief.

Some people refuse to talk to the media; others find it helpful to choose a person to be the media spokesperson and liaise with the press. You may decide not to give the media a photograph of the victim; however, they often manage to get them from other sources so you may wish to be involved in deciding which photograph will be used.​

For further information, please see: A guide to media for victims of crime

 

Dealing with the Courts

If someone has been charged with murder, there will be court hearings and possibly a trial. Most people have never had to deal with courts and may find it confusing and frustrating. You may feel distanced from the process as the Prosecutor will represent the Crown, not the victim or their family. The language and processes of court may add to your sense of exclusion. Be prepared for a series of delays and adjournments.

The accused can apply for bail and sometimes can be successful in getting it. The accused will be in court and this may raise many emotions. Expressions of natural emotions are restricted in the courtroom. After court, your grief reactions can sometimes be revived.
If you wish to attend the court or even the whole trial it may be helpful to meet with the Prosecutor beforehand. Victim Support Service can arrange for a Court Companion to attend this meeting and the court hearing with you if you wish. A court tour before the hearing can also be arranged. If you are a witness and need to give evidence, you are prevented from being in the courtroom until after you have given your evidence.

During sentencing you have the opportunity to present a Victim Impact Statement to the court outlining the impact of your loss. For further information on this or any of the court process, please contact Victim Support Service on 8231 5626 (country toll free 1800 182 368) or Witness Assistance Service at the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions on 8207 1529 (toll free 1800 505 404).

 

Further Information

For additional information about confronting the issue of homicide, please click on the fact sheet below: 

Grieving Your Loss

Homicide is a crime that can have a deep and lasting impact on the victim’s family, friends and all other people that it touches. The traumatic grief that people experience in response to death through homicide can be intense because of the sudden and violent nature of this crime. People can feel further distressed by having to deal with the police, the media, the Coroner and the courts.

While some people’s experience of trauma and loss through homicide may be similar, it is important to remember that each person’s grief and reaction to trauma is unique. It may be experienced and expressed differently by various family members and friends. It is important to respect and recognise these differences. This may impact on the level and intensity of your own distress and your ability to support one another.

 

Some of the common grief responses following a traumatic loss include: 

 

Shock

When you first learned of the death of your loved one you probably experienced shock. You may have cried, become hysterical, got angry or lashed out at the people who told you of the loss, remained calm, felt numb, fainted, tried to run, laughed or appeared to function “normally”. These are all natural reactions and are the body’s way of protecting you from the full impact of the loss all at once. Some degree of shock can last for several days or weeks.

 

Denial 

Denial is another way the body protects you from the full impact of your loss and is natural, especially when death is sudden and unanticipated. Intellectually you know your loved one died, but emotionally you are having difficulty accepting that this has happened. You may experience seeing your loved one in a crowd, you may fantasise that your loved one is not dead but on holiday or you might forget the person is dead for short periods of time. For example, you might pick up the phone to ring them.

 

Fear and Vulnerability

Many people experience feeling anxious and fearful for their own safety and for other family members, especially if the offender has not been apprehended. You may fear what the future now holds for you and how you will manage. The emotions can be intense and can make you feel anxious, helpless and not in control. As the impact of the loss is felt, you may begin to question your beliefs about life being fair and the world and people being safe.

 

Anger and Rage

Anger is a natural aspect of a grief reaction. It can be intense for survivors of homicide. You may feel strong anger towards the person who murdered your loved one. You may also feel anger at the legal system, the media, God, your family and friends and even your loved one for leaving you. Anger may show itself in violent fantasies and dreams about what you would like to do to the offender. This can be scary especially if you have never experienced such thoughts before. It is okay to think these thoughts as long as they remain thoughts or words and not actions. You may need to find outlets for that anger. Talking about the anger with people you trust, physical exercise, writing, yelling, screaming in a safe place and being assertive about what you need and want are safe ways of dealing with the anger. Find a way that suits you.

 

Guilt

You may feel guilty that you were unable to protect your loved one or may feel guilty about something you said, or did not say or something you did or did not do. You may also feel guilty that you are alive and your loved one is dead. You may go over and over “if only I had done… this would never have happened”. The media and the community may also make you feel guilty because of the stigma associated with homicide and the victim-blaming that can occur.​

 

Despair and Depression 

This is often experienced when the full impact of the loss is obvious and you begin to understand the implications for the future without this person. It may not be the same as the intense grief experience that has overwhelmed you; it could feel more like a persisting and never ending sense of sorrow that is always there. These feelings of depression are often experienced when other friends or family think you are “over it” or no longer want to talk. This can make you feel isolated.

 

Acknowledgment 

This is when you believe the crime happened, the full impact of the loss is experienced and you accept that your life is changed forever. This may involve you focusing on memories of your loved one and deciding how you will remember them. This may include looking at photos and possessions of the deceased, talking about the person and thinking about the person a great deal.

 

Focus on Life

This represents the change of life’s focus; away from the overwhelming loss and toward the future. The memory of your loved one remains, while you begin to focus on living rather than on the loss. This does not mean that you “get over” the loss. It does mean that you begin to rebuild a life for yourself without that person. When people find that they can cope without their loved one and start to find some enjoyment in life again, it can feel a bit scary. Initially it could feel like a betrayal of the deceased. This feeling will pass with time. It can be helpful to be aware that some special times like an anniversary, a birthday or hearing a song that reminds you of the person may intensify your grief.

Your body will also be dealing with grief and trauma. In the weeks or even months following the homicide, you may experience some or all the following problems: having a sick or hollow feeling in your stomach, loss of appetite or overeating for comfort, tightness in the chest and throat, headaches, fatigue and lack of energy, sensitivity to noise or sudden movements, aches and pains or frequent infections. You may have trouble concentrating, deciding and problem solving. Short-term memory problems, sleep disturbance and flashbacks of images related to the crime are also common. Your body, heart and mind will try to cope with the impact of the violent crime.

 

Further Information

Please click on the Fact Sheet below for more information about how to handle trauma and loss in response to death through homicide. If you would like more information, please contact your nearest Victim Support Service​.

How Can You Cope?

Coping Strategies

There is no single strategy that will help you to cope with the impact of losing your loved one as a result of homicide. However, there are some strategies that may help you survive each day and find ways to cope with your loss.

 

Support

Support is the key to coping. This support may come from trusted friends and family members, local community, support groups or from a professional counsellor. It is important that you talk about what is happening and how you are feeling with someone you trust. In the early stages, you may need supportive people to offer practical help such as cooking meals, cleaning, telling others about the murder, attending appointments with you, taking children to school, liaising with relevant people (such as police, media, funeral directors) and so on. Support people are those who help you, guided by your needs, who do not take over or leave you feeling helpless. Remember, you can decide about the level and type of support you need.

Later, you may just need someone to listen as you talk about your loved one and help you remember him or her; someone who is there for you when you need them. You may feel like you need to speak to a counsellor about how you are feeling. A support group for people who had a similar experience may be of assistance. Anglicare Loss and Grief Centre (phone 08 8131 3400) can provide further information about the Homicide Victims Support Group (HVSG) that meets monthly at 184 Port Road, Hindmarsh. The HVSG 24-hours number is 1800 191 777.

If you would like to know more about other community supports, please contact Victim Support Service on 08 8231 5626 (country toll free 1800 182 368).

 

Information 

It will be important for you to receive accurate and clear information about the legal process and therefore, you may need to contact a key person to do this. You can approach Victim Contact Officers and detectives involved for information about investigations. Witness Assistance Service and a Prosecutor at the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions can provide information about the legal process. Victim Support Service can provide information about the criminal justice system and assist you in your contact with police, prosecution and any other organisations you have contact with while you are dealing with the impact of homicide. Having relevant information will help you to make informed decisions.

It may also be important to provide other family and friends with information about grief reactions so they can have a better understanding of what they and you are experiencing. This may also assist in responding sensitively to each other’s needs and offer appropriate support. You and your family members may find internet based information easily accessible and helpful. The Victim Support Service Resource Centre also has many books, videos and tapes for loan.

 

Medication 

It may be useful to talk to your GP about what you are experiencing. Sometimes, medication may be helpful to take the edge off strong emotions and help you to cope. In other cases, medication may not be useful as it may only dull your feelings and inhibit you from dealing with them. It is important to talk with your GP about the choices and make an informed decision about taking medication.

 

Taking Care of Yourself 

Be kind to yourself and find time to take care of yourself. This may feel like an impossible task on some days. However, taking time out for you is important.

You could consider the following:

  • Having a quiet time alone
  • Visiting a peaceful place
  • Meditation
  • Gentle exercise or yoga
  • Gardening
  • Listening to music
  • Walking or just sitting in the sun
  • Reading
  • Massage
  • Aromatherapy or a long warm bath

 

Keeping a Diary

Some people people find it helpful to write about how they are feeling in a diary or a journal. This may also help you to keep track of how you are feeling over time and to look back at how those feelings and experiences may or may not have changed. If you are going to provide a Victim Impact Statement to the court, a journal may also provide a useful record of how you felt and what you experienced as the court case can be a long-time after the crime.

 

Further Information

For further information about how to cope with the loss of a loved one, please click on the fact sheet below:

Remembrance List
Chantal Reed (1978 - 2004)Daughter of Cheryl Reed
Date Taken: 27 Jul 2004

Birth Date: 29 Dec 1978
Grace Richardson (2002-2004)Roxanne, Luke and Grace will always live on in our hearts and the beautiful memories are one thing that can never be taken from us.
Date Taken:
11 Jul 2004
Birth Date:
26 Nov 2002
Also taken:
Roxanne Richardson (1974-2004)
Luke Richardson (2000-2004)
Luke Richardson (2000-2004)Roxanne, Luke and Grace will always live on in our hearts and the beautiful memories are one thing that can never be taken from us.

Date Taken:
11 Jul 2004
Birth Date:
1 Oct 2000
Also taken:
Roxanne Richardson (1974-2004)
Grace Richardson (2002-2004)
Roxanne Richardson (1974-2004)Roxanne, Luke and Grace will always live on in our hearts and the beautiful memories are one thing that can never be taken from us.

Date Taken:
11 Jul 2004
Birth Date:
24 Mar 1974
Also taken:
Luke Richardson (2000-2004)
Grace Richardson (2002-2004)
Christopher William Powell (1952-2001)
My brother was murdered on New Year’s Day 2002.
We have all suffered so much since Chris died.

Date Taken:
1 Jan 2002
Birth Date:
29 Nov 1952
Tania Williams (????-1999)
Tania lived in Heathridge and left behind 2 sons.

Date Taken:
17 Dec 1999
Paul Louis Summers (1968-1999)
Son of Robyn and Stephen. Loved brother of Ray, Mandy and Ingrid.
Our loved son, brother, uncle, grandson, nephew and cousin.
Missed also by his friends, army colleagues, and his musician friends.

Date Taken:
22 Sep 1999
Birth Date:
13 Sep 1968
Chantelle Simone Gorman (1979-1998)
Daughter of Peter and Annette Gorman, sister of Sean, Kimberley, Peter (deceased) and Ainsley.

Date Taken:
22 Sep 1998
Birth Date:
18 Jul 1979
Barry (1971-1994)
Son of Carole Wilkinson.

Date Taken:
9 Jan 1994
Birth Date:
31 May 1971
Anne Zappelli (1949-1969)
Sister of Rhonda Zappelli.

Date Taken:
22 Sep 1969
Birth Date:
14 May 1949