Death from violence and crime

Bereavement through murder or manslaughter may be particularly difficult to come to terms with. Read on to find information on police and media involvement, how you can help yourself or find further information.

Your feelings after a murder or manslaughter

Feelings of unfairness, disbelief and despair may be heightened and you may encounter unwanted intrusion and interest from your community. You may feel that you have little control over the public interest shown towards the death of the person you were close to and this can lead to self isolation and separation from your family, friends, community and wider society.

You may feel numb as if this isn’t happening to you. You may feel there has been a mistake. Such feelings of disbelief and shock are completely natural responses. You may keep asking why it happened and spend lots of time asking yourself if you could have prevented it. You may ask why wasn’t it you who died.

Anger and the need for revenge are also common reactions. It is OK to be angry, to feel cheated or to have ideas about revenge, as long as you recognise that such emotions are just that – emotions. If you feel overwhelmed by these thoughts please speak to someone whom you trust.

Everyone grieves in a different way. There are no rights and wrongs. Emotions may seem so all consuming and terrifying that you feel you are losing control or are “going mad”. This is completely natural, you probably won’t have felt such strong emotions before and their intensity and depth can make you feel overwhelmed. If the perpetrator has yet to be apprehended or is unknown you may feel frightened and at risk. This again is a natural reaction experienced by many people who have been bereaved through violent crime. It is important that you share you worries and fears with people whom you trust and the police.

Police investigations

A death through murder or manslaughter will often result in police investigations, a post mortem, trials and court attendance. You may feel frightened and frustrated by what seems like a never ending cycle of procedures. You may feel that you have to put your grief on hold whilst focusing on court attendances and other procedures.

Media attention

There is often media attention following a violent crime or homicide, and the person who has died can become “public property”. This is a difficult and often frustrating experience for people who are trying to grieve in private. You may feel you have lost “ownership” of the person who has died and may feel that they are being spoken about unkindly or inaccurately. You do have the right to retain your privacy and if you feel that the level of media intrusion is too great or that you are being harassed notify the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).

What can help?

  • Talking to family, friends, someone who has had similar experiences, your GP or a support organisation such as Cruse. 
  • Recognising that the initial reactions of anger, shock and fear will lessen in time. 
  • Remembering that you will have bad days and better days as you grieve. 
  • Holding a memorial service or other ritual of remembrance. 
  • Looking after yourself. 
  • Accepting that you are not to blame for the death. 
  • Taking time to do things that you like doing.

Further information

A Guide to Coroners' Inquests  is a film (about 30 minutes long) made by the Defence Inquest Unit. It is free to watch and aims to help those who face the prospect of a coroner's inquest to better understand the processes involved.

Cruse has a number of films and podcasts which can help you understand the bereavement process. These are aimed at military families but apply to many cases of sudden death where there may be media attention.