WE hear a lot about murders, suicides and other tragic deaths in our community but no one to this point has stepped forward to support the grieving families and survivors of these heartbreaking events. Most are left alone to deal with the grief, shame and guilt of their loss and somehow finding the strength to continue.
The most difficult type of death to cope with is a sudden traumatic death, whether that be through murder, suicide or an accident. This death leaves families, friends and communities shattered, feeling helpless and not knowing what to do. Losing a loved one through a traumatic loss, whether it is a child, a spouse, a sibling, a co-worker, an acquaintance or a close friend, is an extremely difficult experience for anyone to endure.
When an individual is murdered, it is like no other experience. Traumatic loss complicates the grief process for you as well as each member of your family and extended community. As you are dealing with the loss of your loved one, your grief and mourning process becomes further complicated as you deal with the police, the justice system and, yes, let’s not forget the media who are looking for a story. All of this continually adds to yours and each family member’s stress at a time when each person’s capacity to cope is truly diminished. Unfortunately, this is a time when you and every bereaved family member needs the most support from their friends / family / community. Each bereaved person may feel isolated, judged, embarrassed, and remorseful. Unfortunately, people are quick to judge family members as being incompetent and / or the victim deserved what he / she got because they were with the wrong crowd, etc. The pain and sorrow of such actions can be overwhelming for you as a survivor.
You and your family members may be plagued with many unanswerable questions. The guilt and shame associated with the loss of a loved through murder / suicide can be lifelong. Some family members and friends may become so ashamed when someone has been murdered or someone died by suicide, that they will completely distance themselves from it all. Others carry the guilt, always there, always a burden. Some bereaved individuals’ plight can be so debilitating that they are unable to work, manage their finances, or engage in relationships. Few realize that survivors also become another victim of the crime.
Overwhelming sadness, anger, vulnerability, lack of desire to do anything, anxiousness, irritability, inability to concentrate, numbness, confusion, inability to sleep and forgetfulness are some common reactions to a traumatic loss. By sharing and listening to others who have experienced a similar loss survivors are able to connect with others who understand and have their feelings validated.
The BC Victims of Homicide, an initiative of the BC Bereavement Helpline, http://www.bcvictimsofhomicide.com will be hosting an eight-week traumatic loss grief support group to help individuals from the South Asian community, in partnership with Valley View Funeral Home in Surrey. These sessions will be in Punjabi, Hindi and English. Sharing a common experience, especially as traumatic as the murder or suicide of a loved one, is often the first step in healing and learning to live with “a new normal”.
For more information or to register, contact Jas Cheema by phone at 604-561-2700 or by email at: [email protected]
BY JAS CHEEMA, M.A.