Grief, loss and trauma
After domestic homicide, children and young people are confronted with a complex combination of trauma, loss, grief, guilt, shame, fear, isolation and hardship.
While children and young people show incredible resilience, the homicide is often the result of years of domestic violence and has a profound impact on mental health and wellbeing. Many deal with negative outcomes across social, psychological, academic, and physical domains.
Grief and mourning among children and young people is sometimes dismissed or misunderstood because it can present differently compared to adult responses.
Children and young people may experience profound internal shifts that impact their sense of safety or understanding of the world and their relationships, and their concept of self or identity.
They may have a deep connection and attachment to the parent who was killed and/or the perpetrating parent, with a strong desire for stories, mementos and information that will help them remember and understand.
Grieving experiences may be complicated due to developmental age, the stigma associated with homicide (and potentially suicide or imprisonment), the traumatic nature of the loss, and new caregivers’ own mourning processes, among other factors.
Some children and young people who were very young at the time of the homicide may need additional support to comprehend the meaning of death, and to express and make sense of their experiences as they age.
Overall, children and young people show a wide diversity of strategies to cope with their experiences.
Questions for reflection:
- How can we help children and young people remember and learn more about their deceased parent when they need to?
- How can we help children and young people grieve and cope with their experiences depending on personal preferences and culture?