Bereavement due to traumatic death

Adjusting to life without the deceased

Adjustment to any loss can take months or years, but it may be particularly hard to rebuild one’s life after a sudden traumatic death. Martin couldn't imagine a time when he would not recall the horror of seeing Steph’s body seconds after she was killed. Many who had lost a loved one in a violent crime often remained anxious about their own and other people’s security. However, people respond to traumatic grief in many different ways; some people recover relatively quickly.
The Potters Bar Rail crash, and her husband’s traumatic death, had turned Nina's life upside down. She feared leaving the house, but she was glad she had written the book, “Dear Austen”, a letter to her husband to tell him what had happened. Nina had started to write a new novel, something she had thought she would never do again. Others, too, had slowly regained their optimism.
People often felt a particular sense of loss when looking at old photographs, or on birthdays or anniversaries (see ‘Anniversaries and other special occasions’) but over the years feelings became less intense and memories less painful.
However, others were still haunted by what had happened and were more pessimistic about the future. Sometimes some people felt that life wasn't worth living and that it was very, very difficult to ‘move on’. Two years after her daughter died, Elizabeth and her parents still felt distraught at times.
David’s son, Simon, was murdered in 1992. David said that he had learnt to live with his grief but that his son’s death had changed their lives in many other small ways.
Some people worried about how they would cope alone. Sarah, whose husband, Russell, died in a bus crash in 2006, feared a lonely retirement without him. The future seemed 'very scary'. Martin, whose wife, Steph, had died when a bus hit her, wondered how he would manage to bring up his children without her and his fear of the future was ‘quite overwhelming’.
The death of a brother or sister can have long lasting consequences for the surviving sibling. Susanna, whose brother died in the Bali bombing in 2002, missed him very much and worried about having to care for her elderly parents single-handed. She regards the whole idea of ‘closure’ as unhelpful after such a traumatic death.
Tamsin, whose brother, Matthew, died in a motorbike crash in 2006, said that she was dreading having to cope with the death of one of her parents without her brother’s support. Adam feared the time when both his parents might die and he had to grieve alone and sort out the will and make decisions without his brother. Adam also regretted that he and the rest of the family would never see Lloyd get married and that he would never have a nephew or niece.
Dean and his wife feared their own old age because they had hoped that their son, Andrew, would look after them when they needed care. When Andrew died the future seemed very bleak. Their lives feel empty; they take one day at a time.
Jayne’s husband, Jonathan, was killed in 1992. Jayne thinks she will never get over his death. She worries about what will happen when the offender is released from a secure hospital and she grieves for the person she was before Jonathan died - a young woman who was happy and in love.
Some said that their whole view of life had changed. Things that once seemed important no longer seemed important. Rachel said she had been a keen golfer before Dave died but after his death she really wasn’t interested in it anymore. Her views about death had changed too. She no longer feared death for herself because she believed that if she died she would see her son again.
Although people often find it impossible to concentrate and need to take time off work, others find work a welcome distraction. It helped Rosemary, for example, to resume work fairly soon after her son died.
Campaigning for change helped some people cope with grief and changed their lives completely. After Cynthia's daughter died she was determined to seek justice for her, and fight on behalf of others killed on the roads. She wrote to the Home Office and complained about the coroner, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. She also bought shares in the company that owned the concrete mixer lorry that killed her daughter, went to an Annual General Meeting and told people how her daughter had died. The company made changes to their vehicles to improve safety and invited her to help with driver training. Cynthia also wanted to change attitudes and the way people drive. She still supports those bereaved through road crashes, and works with RoadPeace (see ‘Support received from Charities’).  
After Ann’s son died she campaigned to prevent other knife crime. That work kept her going through a very difficult time. She founded an organisation called
Adam has also spent much time on his campaign against violence, in memory of his brother Lloyd. He created a website, Stand Against Violence, gives talks in schools and is making an anti-violence DVD.
Working as volunteers for the organisation, Mothers Against Violence, has also changed volunteers' lives. Patsy has met ministers and the Queen through her work, which aims to prevent other violent deaths (also see ‘Support received through charities’.) Angela and others have also worked tirelessly to bring about change and to reduce violence in the community.
Shazia lost her best friend due to murder when she was a teenager. The work she does to try to reduce violence based on the notion of ‘honour’ or ‘izzat’ has helped her to cope with what happened.

Last reviewed May 2019.


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