Office of Crime Victim Services

For Friends and Loved Ones: How to be Supportive

 

As the friend or loved one of a homicide survivor, you are probably very familiar with the challenges faced by those who must live with the reality of homicide in their lives. When a homicide remains unsolved, the lack of information and lack of an appropriate criminal justice response greatly complicates the process of grieving and living with the homicide. The survivor’s desire to discuss the homicide may come and go or change over the years and it is not always easy to know how to be supportive.

 

When an unsolved case gets new attention it may seem as if the crime happened yesterday. Old feelings may rush back and memories of the immediate aftermath of the crime may return. The survivor may feel dread, anxiety and sadness. Many survivors find they must cope with trauma and feelings that they thought they had resolved. This can cause guilt, as he or she might wonder why something that they thought should be good news is producing difficult feelings. You can help support your loved one by reassuring him or her that this reaction is common to people in this situation. Optimism about a case lead cannot erase years of grief or the experience of trauma that the homicide evokes.

 

As someone affected by the homicide, you may be feeling the same thing. It can be hard to know what to say or how to help. You might even be frustrated with how your loved one is reacting. There are some things you can do to help.

 

What You Can Do

 

  • Be a good listener if your loved one wants to talk. You don’t have to have all the answers. You will make a difference just by making it clear that he or she is not alone.
  • Do not criticize or try to manage your friend’s reactions.
  • If there is media attention, help your friend identify a person who can act as a representative if he or she does not want to interact with the media. You can educate yourself (and your loved one) by reading Tips for Interacting with the Media on this website.
  • People who have gone through this experience report that focusing on short-term goals and personal strengths helps them cope. Remind your friend of his or her strengths and abilities.
  • Realize that one reaction to trauma is difficulty focusing. Be patient. Support your loved one in maintaining a routine and making decisions so he or she can regain a sense of control over daily life.
  • Be supportive of any efforts to obtain services or professional help, such as counseling. Offer to help identify sources of support and services. Read the Victims Rights and Services section for more information.
  • Offer to babysit or to take care of pets on days the case requires the survivor to be away from home (such as court hearings, etc.).
  • Offer to go with your friend to attend court proceedings. Your loved one will appreciate having someone to help locate the room and to wait with if the proceedings are delayed.

 

Take care of yourself, realizing that you have been affected by the homicide, as well. You will be better able to help your loved one if you are dealing with your own feelings in a healthy way.