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The Homicide Griever’s Bill of Rights

You have been injured by great loss. As a homicide griever, you have certain rights that bear repeating and upholding.

1. You have the right to emotional and spiritual intensive care.

Homicide creates a two-part grief experience like no other. You have been deeply wounded by a traumatic loss, and you need and deserve emotional and spiritual intensive care.

2. You have the right to feel safe.

The manner of this death may have made you feel anxious and unsafe. You may be experiencing some degree of post-traumatic stress. You have the right to get extra help and to do whatever you need to do to feel safe again.

3. You have the right to experience your own unique grief.

No one else will grieve in exactly the same way you do. So, when you turn to others for help, don’t allow them to tell you what you should or should not be feeling.

4. You have the right to talk about your grief.

You have the right to talk about both the cause of the death and the forever loss of the person who died. Talking about your grief will help you heal. Seek out others who will allow you to talk as much as you want, as often as you want, about both parts of your grief. If at times you don’t feel like talking, you also have the right to be silent.

5. You have the right to feel whatever you feel.

Shock, numbness, confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt, and sadness are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey. Others may try to tell you that certain feelings- anger, for example- are wrong. Don’t take these judgemental responses to heart. Instead, find listeners who will accept your feelings without judgment.

6. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits.

Your feelings of trauma and loss will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. And don’t allow others to push you into doing things you don’t feel ready to do.

7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality.

Express your spirituality in ways that feel right to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious or spiritual beliefs. If you feel angry at God, find someone to talk with who won’t be critical of your feelings of hurt and abandonment.

8. You have the right to search for meaning.

You may find yourself asking, “Why did they die? Why in this way? Why do bad things happen to good people?” Some of your questions may have answers, but some may not. And watch out for the cliched responses some people may give you. Comments like, “It was God’s will” or “Think of what you have to be grateful for” are not helpful and you do not have to accept them.

9. You have the right to treasure your memories.

It’s true that the person who died will live on you through memory. Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. Instead of avoiding your memories, intentionally befriend them, and find others with whom you can share them.

10. You have the right to move towards your grief and heal.

Reconciling your homicide grief will not happen quickly. Remember, there are no rewards for speed. Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who are impatient and intolerant with you. Neither you nor those around you must forget that the homicide death of someone loved changes your life forever.

Alan Wolfelt, Ph.D.


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