The death of a child is devastating regardless of their age. When death results from a murder, the pain and heartbreak are challenging to define. Parents and other family members may face complicated issues as they try and make sense of their child's murder. Most parents dealing with the sudden death of a child find themselves living in a nightmare they can’t escape.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Steps for Coping After Your Child Was Murdered
- Steps for Remembering and Memorializing Your Child After a Homicide
A parent whose child is murdered will generally go into shock after receiving the news. They'll find it difficult to believe that this could happen to their child, and they may struggle with feelings of confusion, anger, and denial.
As the news sinks in, their attention may turn to bitterness, seeking revenge, feeling anxious, and sometimes even hopelessness. These reactions are all a normal part of grief and may surface in the bereavement process.
Steps for Coping After Your Child Was Murdered
If you're the parent of a murdered child, it's not unusual to feel frustrated and depressed following their death. There's a myriad of different feelings and emotions that you'll experience due to fear and anxiety over how your child died. You may have worries that the murderer might target you or the rest of your family.
Feelings of self-blame or survivor guilt may also creep in and are a normal part of the grieving process. They are related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and are shared responses with survivors. The following are ways to cope after your child is murdered.
1. Prepare for triggering events
Expect your feelings to change from one day to the next, and even from hour to hour. There's no right way to process your grief and emotions. Every person and family member will grieve in their own way. Remember that your child's death affects you differently than others. It can take many years for you to stabilize and recover from the pain of your loss.
Sadly, you can expect that this traumatic event will stay with you for the rest of your life. Recovery will not be easy and will take a long time. One way to help you as you begin to heal is to recognize your grief triggers and anticipate them as much as possible. It helps when you don't pressure yourself or others as you go through your grief.
2. Be selective in who you ask for support
Not everyone will understand what you’re going through or feeling after the violent death of your child. The grief and suffering caused by a child’s murder are incomparable to any other type of loss.
When seeking support from others, choose carefully. Try and steer clear of those who try and tell you how to get over your loss. Some people use hurtful and unhelpful cliches as a way of dealing with your pain and sorrow.
Even when coming from a place of love, some people will never be able to comprehend just how devastating this loss is for you. Consider seeking the support of others who’ve experienced a similar loss.
You can find online support groups for parents of murdered children, and you can also find useful information by reading books about losing a child.
3. Shield yourself from constant news reports
Continuous exposure to and hearing the details of your child’s murder in the media has a detrimental effect on your healing progress. If this was a high-profile or newsworthy event, it’s not unusual for the press to cover the murder several weeks following your child’s death as the investigation continues.
Whenever the murderer stands trial, it’s also likely that the media will cover the proceedings. Try to limit the time you devote to watching news stories detailing your child’s murder.
4. Prioritize self-care
Coping with the death of an adult child or a child of any age is a stressful life event. Getting proper rest, eating nutritious meals, exercising, and taking breaks from your grief is all part of the healing process as you grieve your loss and prepare for what lies ahead following your child's murder.
When you take proper care of yourself, you will be better equipped to handle all of the stressful events following your child's death at the hands of someone else. You'll need the energy to deal with police investigations, court hearings, and other related events. Not to mention, you'll need the strength to get through your grief.
5. Connect with others
After suffering the murder of your child, it’s natural to want to withdraw from others. You may feel as if no one understands what you’re going through or that condolences aren’t doing much to make you feel any better.
After allowing yourself the needed time to process your child’s murder, consider reconnecting with your loved ones for the necessary support to get you through the initial stages of grief. If you feel that you need to seek outside help, consider online support groups or professional grief counseling.
Steps for Remembering and Memorializing Your Child After a Homicide
The unexpected and violent death of a child can be unimaginable to accept. It leaves you with deep emotional wounds that are challenging to overcome in any circumstance, especially when dealing with their murder.
You'll face recurring challenges as days go by, including how to tell a child about the death of their sibling and how to remember your child best. Here are some ideas to help you memorialize your child's life in a way that allows you and your family to heal from this significant loss.
1. Hold a memorial service
A memorial service allows your friends and family the opportunity to gather in memory of your child to offer you love, comfort, and support. This type of service not only honors your child's life but allows others to demonstrate the impact your child's life had on them. Grief rituals such as this help bring everyone together to remember your child and mourn their loss.
They also help bring joy and laughter by highlighting the good times in life they shared with your child. Encourage others to share their stories of special times shared with your child.
Although you may not feel like celebrating your child's life right now, your pain will eventually ease, and these unforgettable memories will bring you happiness and comfort when most needed.
2. Install a headstone or bench
A memorial headstone or bench is a beautiful way to remember your child. Monuments come in many different colors, shapes, and sizes that are customizable to reflect your child’s unique talents or favorite things. For some, a custom headstone may be out of reach financially, and a memorial bench might make more sense.
In either case, you can create a beautiful space to visit and reflect on your child’s life and the special meaning it brought into yours. Consider adding a meaningful epitaph of your child’s favorite saying, poem, or scripture.
3. Put together a scrapbook
Scrapbooking is a unique and therapeutic way to cope with your grief as you’re dealing with your child’s murder. The physical act of putting something creative together distracts your mind temporarily from focusing on the pain and sorrow of your loss.
It also provides therapeutic effects by incorporating elements of journaling into the craft of scrapbooking. It may also help you investigate your feelings and emotions as you put together a book filled with memories of your child.
Scrapbooks provide a creative outlet that enables you to deal with the challenges associated with grief and mourning.
4. Introduce legislation
Depending on the circumstances resulting in your child’s murder, the introduction of new legislation to protect others from a similar fate may be a unique way to find meaning in their death. You can devote some of your time to advocating for enacting new laws to help others from a similar fate.
Your local lawmakers can introduce bills into legislation to help shape, change, or reform existing laws or enact new ones to bring attention to ensure the safety of other children who may be facing similar circumstances as your child.
Changes in the law can range from parental visitation, violence against children, gun safety laws, who are allowed access to areas where children congregate, and other similar situations.
5. Play their favorite music
The immediate days following your child's death due to homicide can be challenging to live through. You'll feel like you've fallen into a deep hole of despair with no way to come up for air.
Coping with the pain and sorrow of your profound loss may seem an impossibility. Playing and listening to your child's favorite music may help you through the most challenging days ahead.
Consider playing selections from your child's playlist daily to remember them by. At their funeral or memorial service, ask others to contribute a list of songs that help them think of and remember your child.
In the weeks and months that follow, you can turn to this special compilation of music to continue the bond you had with your child to help ease your grief.
A Child’s Murder
There's nothing that prepares you for the day that your child's murdered. Murder is not an expected way to die, especially for a child. The typical reactions to grief following a murder are vast and powerful and can't be measured linearly.
For some, the intense emotions and reactions of shock and disbelief may come and go for years following the murder. For others, the first year is the hardest. Remind yourself that grief doesn't follow set order or timeline. Take your time to process your loss and to heal from your sorrow.