The Most Common Feelings Of Grief
Searching For Understanding
Coping With Reactions Of Others
Coping With Holidays
Coping With The Justice System


Someone you love has been murdered or was killed by a drunk or reckless driver. It is an understatement to say that your life has been changed. The feeling of loss and pain are deep and it will take a great deal of hard work and time to heal. You may never feel as if you have "recovered" however, many people that have been in your situation learn to "manage their grief". You will need the determination and often the support of a caring listener.

The feelings you experience are likely to be very difficult and foreign to you. Most likely they will be similar to what others have felt.

This information was provided by counselors from Polk County Victim Services who work with survivors and with help from people who have lived through the loss of a loved-one.
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In the beginning mst people feel a profound numbness. Some liken it to being in a "fog". It may be this fog that allows you to accomplish the necessary arrangements for the funeral and other duties.

When the fog clears, most people's emotions fall into turmoil. You may have flashbacks of the moment you were notified of the death, or the last time you saw your loved one alive. You may dream of your loved one, or believe he or she will soon "walk through that door". Part of you will deny that your loved one really is dead.

You may experience many grief spasms at first, crying as if you could not help it. The spasms gradually will come farther apart. You may have panic attacks or feel afraid for your life or the lives of other family members. You may be filled with energy or restlessness and be unable to concentrate on anything. You may be unable to sleep at night or find it very hard to get out of bed in the morning.

As the reality of death sinks in, depression usually is not far behind. Things you enjoy may seem to lose their meaning to you. Activities that you once enjoyed may now seem like a burden. You may feel as if there is little point in going on, or you may want to withdraw from everyone.

During all of these emotions and phases, you need to keep talking with someone you can trust and with someone who will listen with a non-judgmental mind-set. Talking is only one way we know to keep from getting stuck in one of the phases.
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You will probably experience a great need to understand why this tragedy happened. in your search for understanding you may feel the need to find out everything there is to know about what happened, where it happened and who did it. If someone is arrested, you may want to know as much as you can about the person.

You may expect the criminal justice system to work more quickly.

Rumors and opinions of many people may come your way concerning the motivation, and the criminal. You may decide to attend the trial, if it is part of your search for why this happened. Oftentimes you will not get answers to all of your questions. (If a survivor is a witness at the trial, he or she may be barred from attending the remainder of the trial, if the witnesses are sequestered. You can ask the County Attorney for information on this.)
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Each survivor lives with what-ifs. "Why did I let her go home alone?" - "What if I had been there with him?" This is a normal reaction. Please remember no one can predict the future or recreate what might have been. We cannot change the events that took place and to continue blaming ourselves will only be counter-productive.
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Anger can be both frightening and motivating. Sometimes it may feel that it will overwhelm you. It may be directed at the murderer, society or the criminal justice system, family members, friends. It is not uncommon to be angry at God. Many people feel guilty about their anger but it is a completely normal feeling that many people experience.

Anger may immobilize you or move you to relentless activity. it is a nasty reaction to severe loss. your anger will never completely go away. With support your anger can be managed and may even contribute to help take back some control in your life.
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For the first time in their lives, many survivors find themselves thinking about how to kill another human being, the killer. Understandably, some people are very disturbed by this emotion. You may wonder if you are losing your mind but you aren't. You are normal. Counselors of survivors find that almost everyone they work with thinks about revenge. Having these feelings does not mean you are going to act on them.

Some people will tell you that wanting revenge is unhealthy and that the est way to find peace is to forgive. If forgiveness is in your heart, fine, but do not allow people to place unnecessary guilt on you. Chances are they haven't been through what you are experiencing.
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Each of us is an individual. We like different foods, wear different clothes and choose unique lifestyles. It stands to reason that at the most painful time in our lives we would grieve in our own way. how we choose to grieve is determined by three things: Our personal view of death, how society views death and our individual personalities.
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When a homicide happens to a family, you might expect it to pull them closer together. this is not always true. It is not unusual for counselors to see people separate, both physically and emotionally. At this time, communication is very important. Work hard to express your feelings within the family and work with supportive friends.
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When you hurt, you turn to people who have always been there, your friends. Where are they a month, six months or a year after the murder? Often times they have gone back to their lives, but you still need to talk.

If you bring up the homicide, some people will change the subject. Many do not want to listen to the details of the tragedy, even though survivors need to talk about details. People often can't bring themselves to talk about the homicide. They may feel they do not have the words to say or the ability to help. They may feel hopelessly inadequate. the loss of your loved one will leave them with a stark reality: If it happened to you, it can happen to them.

You may notice that people you have known for years avoid you on the street or in a store. Your co-workers may avert their eyes and "not see you." They have no idea that this feels like rejection and only adds to your grief.

You can face this problem in various ways. You can write these friends or stop seeing them. You can continue contact but avoid the subject you need to discuss. You can raise the issue directly with your friends, which might encourage you to deal openly and honestly with each other. you can add to your circle of friends, other people who have lost loved ones or who are willing to share your experience. Many people are ready to respond when they understand how important it is to talk with you about the experience rather than avoid it.
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Holidays can be very difficult. They usually are an accumulation of traditions and customs created by families to be shared with family members. When one of the family is no longer there to share a cherished tradition, the holiday can become a painful reminder instead of a time of joy.

The first time you celebrate a holiday after a death, it may become a routine that Holiday gifts that were once ripped open immediately may sit for days. thanksgiving is hollow. ("What do I have to be thankful for?") New Year's Day and birthdays, which celebrate another year of life, become reminders of death.

You may find the need to develop new traditions. For some, a trip but holiday time is beneficial. A birthday can be observed by donating to a charity organization or doing something that is meaningful to you. there is no chart to follow on how to "get through" a holiday. You will grieve. Allow yourself to do so. It is a key part in the healing process.
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Most victims are new to the workings of the criminal justice system. As you progress through various stages, you may "become angry and frustrated". Your impressions of the justice system are false. People naturally want justice done swiftly so that they can heal from that part of the trauma. The criminal justice system often seems to prolong people's grief.

For example, you may find that justice does not always prevail. Some of the guilty are released on procedural grounds. many homicide cases are not solved or do not result in convictions, even if the identity of the offender is known. Sometimes, the only ones serving a "life sentence" are the victim and his or her loved ones. Cases may drag on and on. Many cases never go to trial or it may take years for a conviction. If there is a conviction, it likely will be appealed. A small fraction of cases find their way back to court for another trial.

Those who administer our laws - law officers, prosecutors and judges must deal every day with the most brutal crimes. Sometimes they build up protective barriers that come across to victims as insensitivity.

To help you through this ordeal, seek out supportive friends, counselors and advocates.

Remember too, that various State's laws gives survivors of homicide victims certain information about pending cases, and other assistance.
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The rest of your life is the epilogue. The widow of a homicide victim says, "My life has been permanently changed. I don't know who I am anymore." A common reaction for most homicide survivors.

Your life has changed. You will see things differently now. You may not want to watch violence portrayed on television. You may have to struggle with stronger prejudices for the rest of your life. you may feel irritated by "little things" in life. incidents that once seemed to be a catastrophe will appear to be minor aggravations because you have already survived the worst.
Your faith may be shaken. You may find it impossible to trust strangers or feel that laws you thought were designed to protect you are really designed to protect criminals. you may wonder if the victim has any rights.

Most survivors slowly heal. Meaning comes back into their daily activities. They find people to stand by them and give them support. Some find time for activities they never experienced before. Most find joy in the treasured memories of their loved ones. Many join others who want to carry on the vigil for those who have died as a result of violence.
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