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Murder support

Support for children bereaved by murder

For a child bereaved by murder, the support they need will be very similar to that given to a child bereaved by other traumatic events. However, the child can feel particularly vulnerable because:

    • They are trusting and therefore may find it difficult to understand that a person has killed someone;
    • What happened to the murdered person is very frightening;
    • They may not understand the way in which the person died because of the language used, e.g. asphyxiation;
    • They may feel that they too could be murdered, especially if the perpetrator has not been caught;
    • Their home may become the focus of attention for the media, asking questions and taking photographs;
    • The police will also be in their home, taking statements, asking for recent photographs and possibly arranging TV appeals;
    • It will be painful to see reports of the crime, watching people talk dispassionately about the event and the deceased in TV news bulletins;
    • The funeral may be a very public affair;
    • If and when the perpetrator is apprehended, there will be a court case, which will also attract media attention;
    • The family will relive the nightmare during the court proceedings;
    • The family will have to come to terms with the court’s verdict and sentencing;
    • They will continue to see murder ‘acted out’ on television. A child is expected to cope with all of the above, attend school, listen, learn and keep emotions under control.

Observing a child’s grief is not easy and adults often try to protect the child by not giving them the full facts,but children, with support, can deal with hearing the truth. Children will also try to protect the adult by hiding their feelings and appearing to be over their grief long before they are. Adults can help children with their grief by:

    • Being honest with them as they are likely to hear what has happened from other sources;
    • Explaining why professionals are involved and what their role is;
    • Helping them to explain what has happened if they are asked questions;
    • Answering their questions when they are ready to ask them;
    • Involving them in the funeral arrangements
    • Talking about the dead person and sharing memories of them
    • Sharing that is normal to have lots of different feelings when someone has died;
    • Finding ways to help them to express their feelings;
    • Acknowledging their anxieties and reassuring them that they are safe;
    • Recognising that the child may need professional help
    • Keeping open lines of communication between home and school.

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