Helping the Homicide Survivor Heal


When a homicide survivor experiences, the sudden violent death of a loved one, it creates an overwhelming grief. (Grubbs, 2016).  To a survivor, their whole world has been turned upside down. No one is prepared for the pain of the reality of the violent death of someone they love.

Survivors not only grieve the death but grieve how the loved one died. Their loved one’s life cut short by an act of cruelty. According to Doctor Grubbs, the disregard for human life adds overwhelming feelings of turmoil, distrust, injustice, and helplessness to the normal sense of loss and sorrow.

When a victim has been murdered the survivors enter into the world that is not understood by other people. Community members will often blame the victim or the survivors as a need to protect themselves from their own personal feelings of vulnerability out of a need that what happened to the victim is somebody’s fault. There is a need to “place blame” in a projective effort to fight off thoughts that such a tragedy would happen to them.

Survivors of homicide victims are often left feeling abandoned as a result of fear and misunderstanding when they need unconditional support. Homicide survivors will suffer in a variety of ways because they need to mourn the loss of someone who died, because they have experience shock of a sudden traumatic death, and because society has turned their back them and is unwilling to enter into pain and grief.

Feeling numb or dazed for the victim is a good thing. Numbness serves the purpose of giving emotional time to catch up with the trauma. A homicide survivor does not have the coping mechanism to deal with a sudden traumatic death. Shock helps protect you from the reality of the death until you are able to tolerate what you can and can’t believe.

Never assume a homicide survivor is “being strong and taking it well” he or she is really in shock. They need support and understanding until the can reconcile with reality. The homicide survivor may become overwhelmed with everyday problems and concerns.

“But why?” is the unanswerable question that comes naturally for some survivors of traumatic, violent death, The survivor is searching to understand how this could happen. This is a normal question for an abnormal situation.

A homicide survivor needs to express his or her feelings without criticism. Do not instruct, set expectations, or respond by saying “I know how you feel.” You have no idea how the homicide survivor feels.

The survivor needs to experience the hurt, pain, and sorrow that he or she is feeling. Never try and take those feelings away. Understand that when the survivor cries that tears are a natural and appropriate way to express pain associated with death.

Do not use cliché’s like “you are holding up so well,” “time heals all wounds,” “think of all you have to be thankful for.” Survivors should not diminish the pain of loss and cliché’s can cause more pain for the survivor who makes the grieving process more difficult.

If you allow a homicide survivor to share their feelings, they will teach you their faith and spirituality. They may express doubts about beliefs they had before the murder. If the survivor cannot doubt their faith will have no meaning. Never tell a homicide survivor that the murder was “God’s will.”

Never tell the homicide survivor to forgive the murderer. A homicide survivor should never feel obligated to forgive someone who killed a loved one no matter what their spiritual convictions are. Do not try and satisfy your own needs.

The best way to help a survivor of a traumatic death is to find a support group. Support groups help homicide survivors connect with other survivors who share the same experiences. They can encourage and tell their stories as they like. However, do not push the survivor into a support group if they are not ready to share their grief.

The murder of a loved one is a shattering experience. As a result of the sudden violent death, the homicide survivor needs to reconstruct his or her life. The need to talk to someone will go on for years. Encourage the homicide survivor, allow him or her to share their feelings about the homicide as a friend when other have moved on.

Include the name of the murdered victim when talking to the homicide survivor. Hearing the name can be comforting and confirms the victim was an important part of the survivor’s life and has not been forgotten.

When we experience grief, we experience the result of being loved. Homicide survivors must be guaranteed this privilege. It is important to recognize hoping a homicide survivor will not be an easy task. Give it time, show more concern, time and love. Helping a homicide survivor can be a very rewarding effort.



Grubbs, J., (2016). Millennials admit to being narcissists, but don’t you dare call them that. Retrieved from