Last week, we posted about the violent death of Annie Le. Since that time, we learned about the horrific death of a part-time census worker in Kentucky, another person who met with a violent death on the job. While Bill Sparkman’s death has not yet been ruled a homicide, like Annie Le’s death, his death was a violent and sad event.
We’ve been thinking of the families and colleagues of these two folks and how they cope with the aftermath of such violent episodes. It’s always hard to lose someone we love, whatever the circumstances – through age, through illness or through a sudden accident. But when the death is the result of a violent act, there is an added dimension to the death, insult added to the injury. It is often an event that is in the public spotlight and it can be extraordinarily difficult for survivors to achieve any closure.
“Violent dying is a human act, associated with human intention or negligence. Suicidal, homicidal, accidental or terrorist “killing” is followed by a socially proscribed inquiry to investigate and determine who is “responsible” because this is a dying that should not have happened. This intense inquest by the medical examiner, the police and sometimes by the courts socially reinforces the personal demand for investigation, and retribution if investigation determines that the deceased was the “victim” of a crime. Natural dying is rarely followed by such an inquiry, and it is not normative for grief following natural dying to include persistent thoughts, feelings or behaviors of retaliation or retribution or dread of its recurrence.” Violent Death Bereavement Society
This lack of closure means that family and friends of the victims of violence are more likely to suffer from complicated grief, a type of grief that can be intense and prolonged, sometimes described as having aspects of both depression and post-traumatic stress disorder:
“The risk of developing complicated grief depends on both the immediate circumstances of the death and the background against which it occurs. PTSD is more likely to follow a traumatic experience if the person who undergoes it regards his reactions as a sign of weakness, fears that he will lose his sanity, or ruminates about how he or someone else could have prevented it from happening. These are also risk factors for complicated grief, and the disorder is more likely to occur after a death that is traumatic — premature, sudden, violent, or unexpected.”
Often, the best source of support and solace comes from other family members who have lost loved ones to violent events. Eric Schlosser of The Atlantic wrote an excellent article on this topic entitled A Grief Like No Other – the article is about 15 years old, but is excellent for shedding light on a difficult topic.
We’ve previously posted Grief in the workplace – tips for supervisors – our advice there still stands.
Here are some other resources for managers in dealing with grief specifically related to victims of violence:
National Center for Victims of Crime
Friends and Families of Violent Crime Victims
Violent Death Bereavement Society
The National Center for the Victims of Violent Crime – Homicide Survivors
Survivors of Homicide – CT
National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children
Homicide Survivors – Dealing With Grief (PDF) – Prepared by the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime
Murder Victims – memorial to the many innocent victims of violent crime and a source for help for murder victim survivors