Looking ahead after a bereavement through murder or manslaughter
‘Moving on’ and facing the future with hope does not mean forgetting. There is no such thing as ‘getting over’ the death of someone important.
If the death was violent, memories of how someone died can simply wipe out good memories for a long time. Feelings about the death often have to be faced and worked through before other, more positive memories can return. To move on, we need to be able to handle all sorts of memories: the ordinary, the difficult and the precious.
“I tortured myself with ‘if onlys’. If only she hadn’t worked late. If only I’d gone to collect her. If only the police had caught him earlier. Of course I still have regrets for all we lost but I’ve finally managed to leave the ‘if onlys’ behind.” Sanjeev
Facing the future
Murder is so shocking and disturbing that it can shake everyone’s confidence in the ways of the world and it can be hard to look to the future with any optimism. For children, a
belief in the future is very important. Try to plan small events they can look forward to. Praise and encourage children’s achievements whenever you can as a way of helping them to believe in themselves.
A secure, consistent home life with support from good friends will also help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to accept it. It may be helpful for you and your children to meet others who have been through the same experience.
“It was so hard to ask for help but that’s what we needed.“ Diane
Winston’s Wish currently has funding to offer residential groups for children to spend time with other children who have been bereaved through murder or manslaughter on a programme that combines creative activities with grief work. Parents or carers spend time nearby following a programme that offers them time to reflect on their own stories as well as considering how to support their children. These weekends are making it possible for many children and young people to face and rewrite for themselves a brighter future with hope beyond the headlines. Opportunities to meet other children and young people from diverse backgrounds who share similar experiences have proved invaluable to many in decreasing their sense of isolation and in building confidence and finding ways to cope with difficult feelings and thoughts.
These weekends have been independently evaluated and this is what some of the children, young people and their families have said about how the Winston’s Wish residential weekend for families bereaved by murder or manslaughter has helped them:
“It was good that I was around other people who had an idea of what I was going through. I was proud of being able to open up to people that I didn’t know. Knowing that I won’t be judged will make it easier to tell my story in the future.” Alesha (12)
“I still get upset thinking about my dad, but I have met others who get upset too.” Sean (6)
“Winston’s Wish really helped me. They showed me how other people are feeling in the same situation as me. They taught me how to really control my anger. If it wasn’t for them I don’t know how I would cope now.” Jay (15)
“The residential weekend is what gave Jay the breakthrough to express his feelings and his thoughts about how he felt about what happened to his brother, because he had other young people of his age who have been in a similar situation. Going to that residential weekend was the best thing that ever happened, really, to both of us.” Gill (Jay’s mother, who attended the parents/carers group)
“It made such a difference to my family. It’s been so painful to talk about what happened that we’d all rather lost sight of each other, we were grieving so much. The weekend has helped us start talking about the death – but most importantly, to start talking about their dad’s life. We’d begun to forget what he was like – he was a very special dad.” Sarah (parent)
“What will be different now will be my life, my personality, who I am inside.” Bharat (8)
“Our experiences at the weekend helped us to remember Val and re-mourn her loss, something we perhaps didn’t do at the time of her death because of the anger and soreness of the event that caused it.” Joan and Geoff (maternal aunt and uncle now caring for children after their father murdered their mother)
Looking after yourself
You may get all the help and support you need from your family and friends. But complicated feelings may make you want to turn to those outside your immediate circle. You may find it helpful to ask others to read this booklet to give them some idea of what you are trying to deal with.
If, up till now, you have been the one who has had to cope, holding things together for the family – it can be hard to give up the coping role and acknowledge your own need for support.
Above all, be kind to yourself and give yourself time. It is hard to cope with any death, but the extra pain associated with murder or manslaughter probably means the healing will take longer. Letting go and moving forward does not mean forgetting.
Winston’s Wish has supported hundreds of families who have somehow managed to piece their lives together again after a violent death. All of them would have thought this impossible in the early weeks and months after the death, but they have found a balance between remembering the person who died and continuing to live their lives.
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