Death through homicide

A death through homicide delivers a double blow to families – not only do they have to cope with a sudden, unexpected death, they also have to deal with the way their relative has died.

There are around 600 such deaths in England and Wales each year. Many of these will be of parents or siblings of children who are left overwhelmed and bewildered by what has happened.

A family may feel very alone in their grief but, sadly, more people are bereaved through homicide than most of us realise. Government figures suggest that a child is bereaved through homicide every single day.

These children and young people are often the ‘hidden victims’ left to exist, survive, grieve and despair ‘behind the headlines’ – behind the sensationalism and media frenzy, behind the police investigations, inquests, court hearings, trials and appeals, and behind the trauma, shock and outrage of what has happened. These are ordinary children in extraordinary circumstances.

Hope Beyond the Headlines
There is a future with hope for those children who receive timely and appropriate support. Information, advice and practical ideas in the booklet ‘Hope Beyond the Headlines’ can be used to guide and complement the efforts of parents, carers, teachers, professionals and other agencies supporting a child or young person.

The challenge for families and professionals is to try and help children feel involved, and understand enough to reach a time when they remember the person’s life more than the way they died.

Why does bereavement by homicide differ from other types of bereavement?
If you have been bereaved through violence, you will probably go through the shock and deep sadness felt by people bereaved in other ways. At the same time, you may also have to cope with extra emotions such as fear, anger, vengeance, blame, guilt and confusion. You may find yourself plagued by thoughts of ‘what if’ and ‘if only’. At the same time as experiencing your own grief, you will be supporting your children and having to deal with representatives of the police and media. Others who have been bereaved through violence have described it as “grief with the volume turned up”.

Supporting You - Death Through Homicide & Death Through Serious Illness - Winston's Wish
Winston's Wish - Death Through Homicide
Talking to Children About Death

The biggest concern that parents might have is how to tell their children that someone has died through homicide. For further information and some helpful suggestions about how these conversations could be approached please see Talking about death and Explaining homicide to children and young people.

Feelings & Thoughts

There are many complicated feelings and thoughts that children and adults experience following a death through homicide. For more information about some of these emotions and thoughts, please see Feelings and thoughts.

A Note on Language

We use the word homicide although we recognise that this term has legal differences. Sometimes we also use the expressions ‘died by violence’ or ‘killed’. A dictionary definition for such deaths is ‘had their life taken from them by another’.

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