Letter to Survivors

Dear Friends:

    When someone you love is murdered, your emotions become intensified to a much greater extent than you can imagine. You may feel as though you have been thrown into an emotional tailspin. Shock, grief, heartache, guilt and self-blame, disbelief, denial, and anger seem to know no bounds. You may feel a loss of faith in both God and humanity. You may feel stigmatized and suffer loneliness you have never known, all the while confused and wondering why this horrible tragedy occurred. Overwhelmed and confused, you may think that you are losing your sanity. You will probably be depressed, impatient with yourself and others. You sometimes feel as though you have no emotional control.

The grief and heartache ordinarily associated with a loved one's death are compounded when the loved one is lost through violence. You will learn that the crime is only the first in a seemingly endless series of victimizations. Society tends to focus attention on the criminal at the same time, ignoring the victim. This unfortunate fact intensifies the victim's distress, confusion, anger, and pain.

At times you may feel the urge to cry out, "Hey, what about me?" At other times you may ask yourself, "Doesn't anybody care?" You feel victimized by public insensitivity, and the apathy of others frequently hurts you. You soon learn that those who have not suffered the trauma of victimization cannot understand. They don't realize that the victim is so traumatized that a simple courtesy shown becomes an act of caring from the victim's perspective. When a murder occurs within a family, one might expect it would unite the family more closely. Such is not the case for many times; murder separates a family both physically and emotionally. We each grieve and cope in our way. Often, it is so difficult for family members to cope with their grief that they do not have the ability to support other family members.

Society can be insensitive. Due to their lack of understanding, people may say inappropriate things to you. Implications that somehow, the victim's behavior contributed to his/her death is devastating to the survivor. Equally offensive are remarks such as "It's over now, put it behind you; you should be over that by now, it's time to get on with your life." Those of the cloth may tell you it was God's will and urge you to forgive the murderer. Remarks of this type "re-victimize" the survivor by adding the feeling of unworthiness to the current emotional turmoil.

You have experienced a nightmare, which has altered your life permanently. Your sense of awareness has been intensified; your faith in humanity has been shattered. Those things, which may once have been of significant importance to you, may now seem trivial because you have already suffered the ultimate pain in life. You have learned a kind of sensitivity, which perhaps you never knew before.

Although it may seem doubtful to you right after the murder of a loved one, in time, your pain will subside, and you will start to reconstruct your life. You will laugh again and find joy in the unexpected. You will go on with your life. You will cherish good memories of your loved one, for you are a survivor! At Violent Crime Victim Services, victims/survivors of homicide are offered monthly support groups, courtroom support/advocacy, crisis intervention, counseling referrals, and information on crime victims' compensation and victims' rights.

One of the most critical aspects of our organization centers on mutual understanding. In our peer support group, people will find others who share their anger, frustration, and grief. We have been victimized to find comfort, understanding, compassion, and coping skills in our monthly meetings. We are sorry for your loss, and if we at Violent Crime Victims Services can be of any assistance, please contact us at our Tacoma Washington office, (253)383-5254.