Bereavement due to traumatic death

Support from charities

Many people need help after a traumatic death. It may come from many different sources, among them charities which may give telephone and face-to-face support, and provide counselling and helpful literature. Counsellors contacted through charities are likely to have had at least some training and some may be professional counsellors. Many charities have a website and run one or more support groups.
Some charities such as Cruse Bereavement Care, help anyone bereaved by death. Others offer help in particular types of bereavement, such as through murder or manslaughter, or support particular groups of bereaved people (e.g. widows or children).    
Victim Support is a national charity. Volunteers give free and confidential support to help people deal with their ordeal as a victim or a witness of crime. Volunteers from Victim Support had greatly helped some people we talked to.

Patsy was glad that someone from Victim Support visited her and explained the Criminal Injuries...

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Age at interview: 61
Sex: Female
They [the police] came to the house afterwards, yes the police came, the people from Victim Support came, spoke to me, she was a Christian woman, which was really quite nice, to talk to her and she was trying to encourage me and everyone who come to the house and everyone who came to the house actually, you know, I would encourage them, rather than them encourage me, which was the other amazing thing that people found and people said to me and afterwards, you know, because I felt that everything happened for a reason and it was all going to work out.
What did the lady from Victim Support have to offer you?
Well she offered me a form to fill in if, you know, to claim compensation, that was something and I didn’t know about it, so I was really glad that she came because if she hadn’t I wouldn’t have known about it and I wouldn’t have claimed anything.
Could you say a bit about that for other people?
Well one of the things that happened was that she came and she had a form and she said, “This form is for compensation, if your child has never committed a crime then they can get the maximum”, which at the time was £10,000 but if they had a record of any kind then that could hamper it. So then I said “My son has never committed any crime and he’s not got a record” and she said “Oh good you should get that” and so she helped me to fill that in and she gave me leaflets and told me if I needed someone to call and if I needed to come to them, so all the information was in the leaflet. And she visited me maybe another two or three times after that and told me if I needed their help then I should get in touch.
So you can send this form and the Government pays?
Well I think she did all that for me, I signed it and she did it and sent it off for me and, yes, we got the money.
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After Julie's sister was murdered, volunteers from Victim Support offered to help in any way they...

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Age at interview: 38
Sex: Female
Did the family liaison officer suggest where you might find some help?
No. They brought Victim Support to see us. They help victims of crimes and things.
What were they like?
They were quite nice actually. They had a chat with us. And said if there was anything that they could do, they’d be there, but there was nothing really that we wanted them to do. We were just kind of in shock for weeks on end.
Did you want any sort of counselling at that stage, did you want to talk to anybody else about it?
You had your own support and everything?
Yes. My nephew sees a counsellor. He’s seen her for, since probably about two months after his mum died. Victim support helped us with that. And he still sees her now and it’s over two years.
So did they find somebody?
They found someone, yes… they because of the circumstances of my sister’s death and the fact my nephew found her.
They pushed this counselling through for him. They said, “He really, really needs it”.
Is the counsellor a volunteer or somebody with professional training?
She’s trained but she is a volunteer.
I see so she’s a professionally trained counsellor, working for Victim Support as a volunteer?
She doesn’t work for them. She works for another group.
Oh I see, so she’s doing that as voluntary work.
Yes. Yes.
That’s good. And is that free?
Yes it is. Yes.
So they have helped you in that way?
Yes they have helped us in that way. And they did… and when Shirley first died, it was because everything from Shirley dying to her actually being buried was nearly two months, we didn’t actually have the funeral until December. So it was quite a long time. So in that time Victim Support arranged for my nephew to go and have a couple of outings out to do things you know, just to take his mind off everything that were going on. Because he’d come home from school and the liaison officers would be here and he’d go, “All right.” And it would be just, there were that… he was that used to them being there.
You know and he just took it in his stride that they were there.
Did someone from Victim Support come and pick him up to take him on these outings?
No they arranged for us to take him and we, and we took him.
Oh. And did they pay for them?
Most of the things were free that we wouldn’t have known about if they kind of hadn’t known about them. Like we took him out on Halloween night to this museum that does… like a Halloween… it’s not a party, but it’s a walk through. But they change the atmosphere of the museum.
And I’ve lived here all my life and I’d never ever heard of it. Yet the chap from victim support was involved with that so he arranged for us to get tickets to go to that.
And it free when you got there?
So he helped in that he told you about things that your nephew might like to do?
Might interest him, yes.
Oh that was good. And they all work as volunteers do they for Victim Support?
Yes Victim Support, they’re all volunteers.
I mean they did say that they’d if I needed counselling they’d arrange that. But at the time I was at college doing a course to get onto to do my nursing. And all my friends were just so supportive. 
Someone from Victim Support looked after Martin's family when they attended court. Lisa said that a person from Victim Support explained what would happen during the court case. A volunteer from Victim Support helped David to get a photograph of their son back from a local newspaper. However, David felt that though the volunteer meant well, he was out of his depth and ended up just sitting in their house for hours. Some others felt that Victim Support was patchy, inconsistent and sometimes even insensitive – suggesting that the volunteers might need more specialised training.

Michelle, whose mother was murdered, felt a bit sorry for the people from Victim Support who...

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Age at interview: 40
Sex: Female
Were you met by anybody from Victim Support?
Yes, they were on the scene. They came to see us at my Dad’s house but I feel like they were quite out of their depth. They didn’t quite know how to relate to us with what, what was going on. I don’t mean that unkindly, I felt sorry for them.
They just, you felt they didn’t know what to say?
Yes, they just, it was just like they were, well they were obviously shocked about what had happened, and they just had difficulty knowing how to communicate with us, on what level, what to say, what was the right thing to say, what was the wrong thing to say. They were sweet, they were lovely ladies, but I felt sorry for them because they were in a very difficult position.
Was it the same two ladies who met you at the court?
No, I don’t think they were at the court.
Oh, they just came to your house?
I just remember them coming to the house.
Did they just come the once?
Yes, because we said we said we didn’t want them to come again. We just said we were going to deal with it privately.
Did they approach you, or did you get in contact with them?
We were asked if we wanted to contact them, and we did. Yes, it was a lot for them to come and do, you know, they’re not used to doing that sort of thing down here. So it wasn’t their fault. 
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Ann felt that she did not get enough help from Victim Support. She decided that some volunteers...

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Age at interview: 57
Sex: Male
Did anybody from Victim Support ever come and visit you?
Yes, Victim Support did. But I feel that Victim Support should have further specialised training to deal with murder victims families. I am not one to sit and criticise systems and say well they don’t do this, and they don’t do that. But what I would say is, they need to do better. It’s not just me saying that, anyone that works within the realms of Victim Support genuinely do so because they want to do good work. It’s not a question of that but many families say the same, that Victim Support hasn’t really given them the support they needed, and I believe that to be because the trauma that victims families go through is not understood enough, and again to, there has been as I understand it and probably you, you could clarify this, there was research recently done where 93% of families interviewed that had suffered sudden death and serious violent crime were suffering post traumatic stress, various symptoms within the strata of post traumatic stress. And of that 93%, 64% were severe symptoms. And I think that if that was taken on board more, by people such as the Criminal Injuries Compensation, and Victim Support, if that was understood and recognised, more widely, then I think we wouldn’t have the problems that are, that are being expressed. Often if a family are feeling that terrible rage, and a nice person comes from Victim Support, or even a Family Liaison Officer, and because of that person’s grief and frustration they start getting very angry, and displaying that anger to the Family Liaison Officer, or the Victim Support, the person that’s come to help, and that person doesn’t understand that’s part of their post traumatic stress, then they take it personally, and they go away often, and don’t come back again?
Is that what happened in your case? What actually happened to you with Victim support?
Well a Victim Support lady came, a very nice lady. And when the actual funeral was due to take place I actually invited her to the funeral. And she explained that she was very sorry that she couldn’t come to Westley’s funeral because she was actually dealing with housing for a family of illegal immigrants. Now, I felt that if she’d have understood the pain that we were going through  the fact that her work necessitated her, quite reasonably to look after a family that were in Britain that shouldn’t have been here, one would have thought she would have had the sense not to impart that information to me. Because how can a family of any other set of circumstances be more important than my dead son? No-one could expect me to be able to say, “Oh yes, well of course that’s much more important.”
So it upset you?
So that was upsetting to me.
That was quite insulting really to my son. I felt, you know as I’ve said earlier I’ve tried throughout the whole process to try and take the weaknesses of the criminal justice system and say well rather than jump and down and shout and holler about the fact that it’s all wrong, let’s pinpoint it, lets say well this section applies, and that’s got to be changed to give a better situation for future victims families.
Did the lady from Victim Support do anything to help at all?
Well she came round, and she gave me information about CICA, but I didn’t really feel that she gave me support, and she didn’t because she didn’t know how to. That’s the simple bottom line. It wasn’t that she was coming here to you know, to make herself feel good, that’s not why people do that work, but the fact of the matter is that if you don’t know how to help somebody you’re not going to be able to help them. As simple as that. And for the person on the receiving end they just get frustrated and think, “Oh well go away don’t bother to come back”. You know, to me the way to support somebody is to always let that person know that you’re there, you’re here if they need to pick up the phone and talk about jam doughnuts, if that helps.
Could you have done that for her?
With her, no. No because I think she, I think when I said how disgusted I was at certain elements of the criminal justice system, instead of just listening I think she felt that I was directing it personally at her, I don’t know because I never actually had any personal arguments, but I think I probably displayed a negativity.
I think it as simple as pie to help families that are going through this kind of grief, and it’s simple by the mere fact that sometimes the desperation is so great that you just need somebody to listen, that’s the most important thing, so really Victim Support just could do with some tweaking, if you like, some training in dealing with serious victims’ families. I mean they receive an awful lot of money from the government to, to do that service, invariably, and that service is given to everyone, which is fantastic, it you know, somebody that suffers a burglary or a minor, you know incident, has the right to have Victim Support, and that’s fantastic. But dealing with victims’ families that have suffered sudden death through, and when I say sudden death, it’s not just murder of course, sudden death that is shocking, it can be somebody run over, suicide, which must rate very closely in that, in what that must do to a family, and there’s no-one answerable, so I think that specialised, there should be within victim support certain people that are specially trained to deal with.
So you don’t think she had any specialist training this person?
Well, I understand that Victim Support do have training, but, as I say.
She couldn’t answer certain questions that you wanted answered for example?
Well I don’t think she was consistent. You know, a month down the line did I get any phone call, two months down the line, did I get a phone call?
A year down the line did I get a phone call? You know to me somebody that’s prepared to support, is someone that thinks, “I wonder how Westley’s Mum is at the moment?” Oh…
You’ve never had follow up phone calls?
No. And I don’t think that’s uncommon, you know, you know other families that I am involved with have said the same. It may not be the fault of Victim Support people individually, I’ve got no criticism, I must emphasise that, you know the lady that came was very nice, it’s not that I’m criticising her, but I am criticising the training perhaps that they’re getting. I know that I used to think well perhaps it was me, but there are far too many other families that say the same. 

After Terri’s son was murdered, a woman from Victim Support called on her, but Terri did not...

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Age at interview: 43
Sex: Female
Did Victim Support get involved at all at this stage?
Can you say a bit about their involvement?
If you, I didn’t like, I didn’t like the lady. I, I didn’t like them. Sorry to say that. But
We want you to be honest…
She came round and she was absolutely bizarre. She came here and then ranted and raved for 10 minutes about another case that she’d been working on, which I just thought was really unprofessional. Naming names. And going on about why did I not feel bitter at the fact that what had happened with the court case, because this is how she would feel. And I asked her not to come after that.
She was a volunteer in her late 60s and a very, very angry woman.
How strange.
Ohh. And, and the irony of it was that she’d been to see my mum and my mum had got the same opinion but didn’t want to tell me because she didn’t want me to have any opinions of her before she arrived. And we both; and, she’s only professional I met in the whole of it where I thought, “Good God, you, you’re not in the right job.”
Erykah worked for Victim Support for a year and now volunteers for Women’s Aid. She was intrigued about how the witness protection system worked and why it was that people were reluctant to be witnesses – she now understands this as more a ‘wall of fear’ rather than a ‘wall of silence’.

Erykah worked for Victim Support and thinks it does its best in the circumstances; she thinks...

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Age at interview: 36
Sex: Female
Did Victim Support get involved at all? Did they come and see you?
Victim support did get involved yes, they did. I’m not sure if they did, they didn’t see me they saw my Mum, but my point is that everybody comes in the first three months.
And you’re not ready to access help then. I think they should’ve come a lot later. I think perhaps initially come then, but then followed up the call maybe six months later. Because that’s when people are more willing to talk, and as a result of that I ended up doing some work for a year for Victim Support actually.
Did you?
Yes. Just to see how it all works and so that perhaps, I wanted to really get inside the courts, to see how the witness protection scheme runs because I couldn’t understand why nobody was coming forward, and I just assumed that they would, and I found some, an insight into how it all works really.
Could you say a bit about Victim Support?
The work that I do, or I did or…?
Well perhaps both, in general a little bit and then what you did?
Right okay, well initially when you first start working for Victim Support you’ve got to go out and be filling out criminal injury forms and, with some people who’ve been burgled, before you’re allowed to go and do the witness protection work. And that’s based in the courts. The witness protection help, they are there to help victims of crime, and I was really concerned that with all gun crime people aren’t prepared to come forward for fear of intimidation, for fear of reprisal. I wanted to know how Victim Support supported victims in this way and was it enough. I found that Victim Support do their best, with what they’ve got, however it’s not fair that as a victim if you give information you’ve got to change your whole life. You can be put in a safe house, you have to change identity you know, I mean are you going to, are you prepared to do all that to, because most people aren’t. And this is the barrier that people face.
And it, it’s also the same with when there’s shootings and the police and the media say, “There’s a wall of silence.” Well it’s a wall of fear, because people do come forward, people are prepared to talk but they’re not prepared to sign what they’ve said, for fear of you know. And then having to move and uproute themselves, that’s the big problem.
And so how can Victim Support help?
Well, gosh.
You don’t know?
Yes, I don’t know, I think they should come, I think with what they’ve got, and what they, what they work with in terms of supporting victims, I think that they should go out perhaps after three months, not; initially go around yes. But its, you’re in such a daze after someone’s killed, I mean the last thing you want to do is sit down and talk and I don’t even think you you’re emotionally ready to start, even accessing counselling and things, so if nothings took up in the three month they don’t make another call.
And what did you do yourself for Victim Support?
We made a visit to victims in houses.
And what sort of help would you provide for them, a listening ear or anything else?

Yeah, but not for gun crime or anything like that, it was for people that was distressed from burglaries and robberies and things like that.
And it was listening ear and support. The role that I do now with Mothers Against Violence, we do provide that role. We do go out and see people, we do support women for as long as it takes and we do keep going back, and that’s where, a need that we’ve met, you know it’s like a gap that we’ve met. And also now with my other job, my paid work, working for Women’s Aid, I work very closely with Victim Support now, because we get a lot of referrals from them, so, there’s a lot of gaps but I think there’s other agencies as well working alongside that are meeting them.
Cruse Bereavement Care is another major national charity providing support, information, counselling and advice. Cruse calls its volunteers Bereavement Volunteers rather than counsellors, but clients often call them Cruse counsellors. Pat said that she benefited enormously from seeing a Cruse counsellor. She was fortunate to find a volunteer who had had some professional training.
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Pat contacted Cruse because she desperately wanted someone to talk to who wasn't a family member...

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Age at interview: 62
Sex: Female
Did you seek any professional counselling or…?
I did subsequently, I did, I have received counselling from CRUSE. I referred myself to CRUSE not until a couple of months later and then it was a couple of months after that, or almost three months after that I think that I was given a counsellor, but I have found that enormously helpful. Enormously.
But you had to wait?
I did have to wait, yes I did. And that wasn’t very helpful. The initial contact with CRUSE, with the person who I understand now was assessing me on the phone [laughs] wasn’t very helpful. And I didn’t have high expectations of the CRUSE contact at first, because of my own background, because I’ve worked with families and people a lot so I’ve got a sort of smattering of knowledge of counselling and things, I didn’t have huge expectations but I knew I desperately needed somebody to talk to that I wasn’t going to upset. That was the thing, that, who wasn’t a friend… who wasn’t going to give me advice. Who wasn’t going to make oblique references to ‘moving on’.
And who, you know, who wasn’t my daughter, you know, to upset her. So that was my, my aim in wanting to talk to somebody objective who didn’t have an axe to grind. But I didn’t have high expectations. But I have been enormously, enormously lucky in the counsellor that I was given. And I’ve benefited enormously.
What happens in a typical session with her?
Phew, we just talk. I just start to talk and it just always happens and I’ve gained a lot of important insights I think. And I’ve realised, as I was alluding to earlier, that my inability to find a voice and to defend my rights and my needs when my son died has its, has its foundation in things that happened a lot earlier in my life. And I’ve been enabled to look at those things. Since.
Did she have any professional training do you know?
Yes. The particular person that I was fortunate enough to have has.
Yes. So that’s why I say I was enormously fortunate, enormously lucky. And I’m very, very thankful for that.
So how long has that been going on for?
That went on for over a year. A long time.
Once a week?
A lot longer than normal. I have to say. It was often, it was for a long period of time once a week, and then we brought it, we started to talk about ending and so I elected that we should go to once a fortnight…
…to help me to come away from that less painfully. But that has ended now.
And that’s all free?
It is, yes it is. It’s, I can’t tell you how much benefit I feel that I’ve gained and if I had had to pay for that I would not have been able, on two counts I wouldn’t have been able to afford it, and I wouldn’t have allowed myself to move my finances around so that I did afford it, because I wouldn’t, and I think 99% of the population wouldn’t, have given myself that much importance.

Jayne found the Cruse counsellor invaluable because she listened and was interested not only in...

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Age at interview: 44
Sex: Female
So where did you turn to for support, or was it just your family, or did you have others?
Well my family were very, very supportive. You know we’re very, very close. And I think that I went to see, my Mum took me to see the GP when I came down to Cornwall, and they put me in touch with Cruse, and the lady used to come, I remember her very clearly, she used to come up to my little flat and sit with me, and I used to show her our wedding photographs and talk to her about Jon, and she was invaluable really. I was only there for a short period because I moved again, but she used to come around once a week and sit with me, have cups of coffee and let me talk about Jon, you know about things, you know how I felt about him, about the way, just try, it’s like the story of your life really, it’s like telling people about what happened, and because we’d only been recently married it was almost like I didn’t really realise I was married myself, do you know what I mean? Because we’d been courting for four months before we got married, and I suppose in a way what I was trying to do was be his wife and to tell people that we’d got married and how lovely it was, and how lovely Jon was, so it was almost like making it, the whole experience real for me, not just his death, but actually the time that we’d had together, you know to consolidate it, you know to be his wife, and after he died you know I kept my maiden name, I only changed my name to Zito after he died. It was almost like I wanted to be his wife, you know I’d made a decision to be his wife and somebody had robbed me of that opportunity, but it wasn’t a conscious thing, it was just a process that I was going through and I suppose the relationship with the Cruse counsellor enabled that to happen as well because she embraced him.
There’s something about, well you know, working, you know that when I’ve been in counselling, it’s actually the people who’ve made the biggest difference to me are people who’ve embraced, not only what has happened, but Jon himself, that he, he’s not, you know that he’s a very real tangible person to me, not in any sixth sense that he’s still you know, but that he was real to me, he was a very big part of my life, he was a very creative young man, and that she was interested in him. I felt like she was interested in him, and she, she participated in you know, not only in me, my sadness about what had happened to him, but also about how happy I was to have met him.
So she let me talk about him, and you know family members, you can’t, you can only say it to a degree. And like, do you know what I mean? Because you end up repeating yourself, you know, that you know bereaved people repeat themselves, we all repeat ourselves for years and years and years and years about, you know because we have, we have to make sense of what’s happened to us really. 
Some people had a long wait to see a Cruse counsellor. Dorothy put her name on the waiting list but was still waiting to see someone a year later. Sometimes people didn't like the counsellor they were allocated. Lisa felt that the counsellor expected her to be further along in the ‘bereavement process’ than she was. Alison had two sessions with a Cruse counsellor but didn’t go again because she found her irritating and she didn't want to hear about the counsellor’s own problems (see Alison’s account inPeople talk about professional counselling’).
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Carole asked Cruse for counselling but they had no one at the time with experience of helping...

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Age at interview: 59
Sex: Female
I went to see CRUSE, with our son’s girlfriend.
Did you have counselling with CRUSE?
No, and there was a waiting list, we were told of about three to six months. The particular person we spoke to hadn’t got experience of dealing with a traumatic death like ours. They said we could probably have a counsellor if you’ve had more than one death within the couple of years, I said, “Well I’ve now had five deaths within three years.” We ended up handing the box of tissues to the Cruse counsellor, and we then left. Cruse did contact me about six months afterwards.
Could the GP have arranged professional counselling for you?
I’d been to the GP and I said that we were, we were going to a counsellor and also with me been working for who I did, I did have access to a counsellor, but I think that they find, they cannot a counsellor who has actually been in the situation.
So from your perspective there’s a lack of suitably trained counsellors who are available?
Yes there’s counsellors that are available, but it’s unique, anybody who has lost anybody through murder, it’s very difficult. Counsellors may have lost people through road traffic accidents,
But when it comes to murder or manslaughter, and the same with Victim Support, the people, the staff that we’ve experienced that work for these organisations, have not been in the position of losing somebody through murder or manslaughter.
Many people had found support through organisations for a particular group of people. Carole, for example, went to a meeting run by Support after Murder and Manslaughter (SAMM). 
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Carole made friends via SAMM. She could talk openly to others who understood, but she felt those...

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Age at interview: 59
Sex: Female
Did they [Victim Support] give you any written information about where you might find other help if you felt they couldn’t help you?
I have been given that by the police in the pack that you get, and they contacted SAMM, Support after Murder and Manslaughter, and in actual fact an office hadn’t been set up in my home town, but there was something in the pipeline. I then got a phone call from the person who was setting something up and a couple of months later I did go along to a meeting. And I felt I was with people that I could relate to and who could relate to myself, but it was more exchanging experience, the person who was actually running the group has got a good insight into a lot of things, even though the experience, his experience was twenty, well thirty odd years previous, and how things had changed. But it was, it, I felt in my comfort zone at the time. I could openly speak to people who understood.
What happened at the meeting? You had a chance to say what you wanted to say?
Yes. And then I’ve met a couple of good friends through that.
Have you been again? Do you go regularly?
I go regularly but at the moment… I think you could still go along and if there’s new people that come you feel that you can help and support them.
I’m not quite sure how, we need more, we need more going, or we need something else. Because a support group’s good but people might come once, they don’t come again. We are having a Memorial service which will be lovely, at the beginning of December, we had one last year, but the person that runs the local group his aim was to get a Memorial service in the city by Lives Cut Short through Murder and Manslaughter, and the first one was last year, and there is another one arranged for this year, and we had good support last year, because even though people don’t come to the group they were happy to come to the service. And hopefully this years service will be as well represented as last years was.
Do you get men coming to the group as well as women?
Not many, no.
So SAMM’s, they meet in somebody’s house?
No, they meet at the civic hall. It’s got to be on mutual ground, and not in anywhere where they sell alcohol because obviously some people who are distressed they might turn to drink, so there’s not temptation no. 
Some areas of the country lack a local SAMM group. After Terri’s son was murdered, two SAMM volunteers from another town called at her house. They explained how she might appeal if she was not happy with the judge's sentence. After that Terri read the SAMM newsletter, but there was no local group she could go to.
SAMM is affiliated to Victims’ Voice, an umbrella charity for its affiliated organisations and individual members. It raises issues that arise when people are bereaved by sudden or traumatic death and have to cope with police, coroners, courts, hospitals and mortuaries. Marcus valued the support he had from Victims’ Voice.

Every year Marcus attends a service in St. Martin’s in the Fields for those bereaved by murder...

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Age at interview: 38
Sex: Male
I believe you go to the service that’s held every year in St Martin’s in the Fields, do you want to say a little bit about that?
Oh yes. The yearly service in Trafalgar Square at in St Martin’s in the Fields I think is, it’s the pinnacle day of the, of my year. It’s something I’ve been going to for a number of years now, which is organised by Victims Voice. And quite a lot of my friends are involved in that. And it’s just a fantastic meeting of hundreds of people and members of families who are bereaved by murder and manslaughter. And last year I had the good fortune to be allowed to read and hopefully this year I’ll be allowed to read as well. It just is… it’s a meeting of like-minded people. And the environment and the setting of St Marin’s in the Fields church…
…it couldn’t be more perfect. You’re in the centre of the universe. You’re in Trafalgar Square. It’s two weeks before Christmas. If it snowed it would be absolutely amazing. And I remember a couple of years ago, towards the end of the service, they played ‘My Heart will go on’, which absolutely brought everybody floods of tears. But in a, I guess in a good way, not a, a disturbing way. So that service for me is a perfect end always to my year. And it and it gives me hope for the next year.
Not only for myself, but for other people. So it it’s a great healing service. It’s not just we’re going to church to pray for lost ones, it really is a nurturing… it’s a growth. It’s a growing period. In my mind it is anyway.  
Terri found a great deal of comfort from another organisation, Compassionate Friends. Compassionate Friends is an organisation of bereaved parents and their families offering understanding and support to others after the death of a child.

Terri found Compassionate Friends on the internet. There were no local groups but she went to...

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Age at interview: 43
Sex: Female
I joined Compassionate Friends. That was after about a year.
Can you tell me about what they do?
Yes. Well, I went on the website one night when I was absolutely despairing and I put on it, “Help, for someone who’s lost a child.” And that link came up. And Compassionate Friends, at the time, they haven’t got one now, had a forum. So I went on and said this is me, and I’ve lost a child, I’m absolutely in despair, can anyone speak to me? And within literally a few hours I had about 50 emails.
It was great. People were sharing their experiences. And I met a very close friend who I’m still in touch with today. And we meet up once or twice a year. Lost her son, similar age and [sirens in background] it also has gatherings every year for bereaved parents, either down south. So you go for the weekend. And you can just; I can be Ben’s mum that weekend without having to worry about upsetting other people, if I’m feeling a bit sad. And you meet all the parents.
Do you think you could say a bit more about Compassionate Friends. You said that they had gatherings every year?
Could you say a bit about those?
They’re absolutely lovely, because you go Friday to Sunday. You get to meet, there’s usually a couple of hundred parents that have gone that have lost children. And they do workshops. So you choose your workshop. It might be, ‘Death by suicide’, ‘Traumatic death’, ‘Death for parents that only; that have got no surviving children’. And you go on the workshops, which are in small groups of eight to ten and you all share your experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly really. And talk about things and the grieving process and, you know, sort of we all talk about our children and how they’ve died. But that’s very brief, and, and you share your experiences and you try and help other people, for the newly bereaved that are there.
Some of them have only lost their child six month ago. So its, you feel like an old-timer after you’ve been going a couple of years and you can, you can help them because when you’re in that level of despair you don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s nice for someone to say to you, “Well this is me, and I, I’ve made it and you, you’ll be all right.” Because at the time you just don’t think you’re ever going to survive.
So it’s very, very good, Yes.
And at the end of the day do they have a meal together?
We all have a meal. We all go to the bar. It’s not a morbid experience at all. Meet some other people. We have a laugh. We go to the bar. And then on the second evening in the afternoon we all go out for a walk and we all have a balloon with our child’s name on and release the balloon, which is lovely.
And in the evening we have a sit down meal. And it’s great because I meet up with people I only see once a year. And some, some of them have been going 25 years.  

Dorothy went to a Scottish gathering of Compassionate Friends and used their internet chat room....

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Age at interview: 65
Sex: Female
And then you said you got in contact with Compassionate Friends?
Compassionate Friends, that was when, that was a few months, that was probably about the end of the year December 2005. I was desperately looking on the internet to see if there was anything, and I came across the website, Compassionate Friends, and that was, that was an amazing help to me because at that point there was a sort of a chat, a chat room as well, and there was always somebody on there because, you know there was members that lived in Australia and Spain and whatever, so even at one o’clock in the morning, there was somebody on you know, and we could, that you could talk to and sort of see how you were feeling at that time. So the Compassionate Friends has been an amazing help to me, I mean I’m still, I still have contact with, I haven’t been, I haven’t been able to go to any of the groups ‘cos there are no groups near at hand here, I’ve been to one, the Scottish gathering. I would like to go this year, but we’ll probably be out of the country then, ah but its, you know it’s an amazing organisation, and its, I think the fact that you can just speak and say how you really are, how you really feel, rather than putting the mask on, I find now your all the time, you’re putting a mask on. 
William found help via a similar organisation, called Care for the Family, a national charity which helps families who have suffered family breakdown, and which also supports bereaved parents.
Gatherings of people who have been bereaved, and who have lost a child, do not suit everyone. Rosemary and her husband attended a few small group meetings of Compassionate Friends but decided that the meetings were not for them, partly because some people who attended the group were consumed with guilt.
Erykah, whose brother was killed, found help via a support network called Mothers against Violence. Members work to eradicate violence and support those bereaved by violent crime. Men can also join.

Erykah saw herself as a survivor rather than a victim. She found help via Mothers against...

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Age at interview: 36
Sex: Female
I found help from Mothers Against Violence. A member of the group who had lost her son goes to the same church as my Nana does, so she heard about it, and she came round when it happened, and they attended the funeral. I don’t quite remember them actually, I was just, I was in a daze but they came to the funeral and then, they used to send letters of their meetings and things that was going on to me and my Mum, but we just, we wasn’t interested, it was too traumatic and I wasn’t ready for going and speaking to people or helping other people.
But it was persistent in the letters even though it wasn’t the, they’d come every month letters about what they was doing, and the work they was doing, and cards of hope, and it was those cards and perhaps the persistence which wasn’t in your face because you didn’t have to open the letters, that led me to join the group in the first place. And campaigning and doing what we do, and meeting with other people in the same situation is such a help.
Is it?
It’s amazing because you, you’re with Mums that have carried the you know the children for nine months who’ve lost, who are still sat round the table with you, and it’s only though, people that have lost in that way that can kind of understand what you’re going through. So it’s such a valuable support network. It it’s so underrated, it’s such a valuable support network, yes.
Do you have regular meetings?
We meet once a month but we’re constantly, daily, well I’m still like text, but we’re constantly on the phone, because I believe that we’re a victim of our own success.
So Mothers Against Violence have their meeting where anybody can come once a month?
Do you have that in this building?
We have it in this building, in this room, but additionally the meeting was once a month, it wasn’t so much as, it wasn’t so much as a “How are you feeling?” meet, it’s more “What can we do?” meeting. The meetings have never been meetings for victims, I always think of it as a meeting for survivors because it’s strong women and I must admit I don’t know why it’s women. We are Mothers against violence, but we are open to men.
We do have a few men in the group, but you know often up and down the country wherever we go, it’s only Mums and sisters that come out when loved ones have died, and we want to see change, we want to change something. We want to change something in our society, it’s not about pity it’s about strength, and it’s about supporting those who haven’t got the strength to do that. And we do have women that come to the group that do require support and don’t particularly want to go out and do the campaigning, and we give that as well. 
Shortly before Ian’s brother was killed, Ian had been invited to a weekend Catholic counselling group for men. The group meets regularly for mutual support; it became a valuable outlet for Ian after his brother’s death.
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Ian joined a Catholic support group for men. For the first time he felt that he could cry and...

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Age at interview: 39
Sex: Male
You said the family is being supportive, did you look anywhere else for help, counselling or anything?
Yes, the week before my brother’s death I had been invited on a weekend with men, a weekend that was specifically for men, and it was run by the Catholic Church. And I was invited with, from one of my Catholic friends who had actually was going, and actually was going to be doing some singing. And he asked me to, would I sing? Would I help with the singing? And I said oh yes, I’d come along. And so I went on this weekend, with this group of men, and part of the weekend is to form a counselling group, a group, a supportive group.
And we had done this, and this was just a week before my brother’s death. And we had formed this group over this weekend, it was very supportive it was a, I think there was five of us in it, this small group. And we talked about lots of issues, different issues that we were going through as men, whether they’d be family, marriage, and parenting, all those things we talked about, and shared, and the idea of this was that it was supposed to be established in this weekend, and then it was to continue once a month or so after the weekend. And we had actually booked our appointment, our first appointment for the 5th August. That was in our diaries after this weekend that I went on with them. And the 5th August was a few days after my brother was killed, and funnily enough the group all phoned round and said, “We can cancel it, and move it because of what’s happened, because we don’t want to go on with our, have our first meeting without, you know, one of the members, because of what happened.” And then I got a call from my friend and he said, “Oh we’ve cancelled, we’ve decided to cancel it, just because of what’s happened, we don’t want to go on without you,” and I said, “You know something, don’t cancel, I’m going to be there, I’m going to come to the meeting,” and that was the best thing that I did.
They supported you?
Because the support, this was the first time, sorry, this was the first time I felt supported, you know because the first time I felt that people heard my grief, and heard my pain, and heard my insecurities, and heard my fears, and I was able just to be me. I was, I didn’t need to be a husband, I didn’t need to be strong as a brother, as an older brother, and there was a lot of that when a, when a, when a death takes place there’s a lot of having to be strong for other people around you, having to be strong for your Mum, you don’t want your Mum to see you broken because you want her, her to be strong. You don’t want your sisters to see you broke, you know, you want to be strong for everyone. And you don’t want to be, you want to be strong at home, you want to be still showing that you’re coping. But this was the first time I was able to just…
Did you feel you could cry?
I could cry. I was able to cry. I was able to share every emotion and feeling that I had, that I felt, and do you know something I was, I was able to hear from other men also their experience and you know, so many answers were given to me at that, that session, to so many of the things that I had, was battling, I was battling with., my personal battle in accepting this, this death. In trying to cope and move on from this; so many answers came out of that, that group of men.
Did you meet again? Did you ever…?
We met again, yes, we met, continued to meet for a number of sessions, after that, and again it was it was, it continued to be a strength and we dealt with lots of different issues, we dealt with other people’s issues as well, after that, but that first session was entirely for me I think, they had all, or whatever they, issues were going on for them, they had just put to the side.
The other thing is that they don’t live in this area, they don’t, they don’t know. You know they live in a very, very maybe affluent area, part of the city, they had never ever been in contact with anyone from violence. I was the only black male in the group you know, it was a completely different life for them, you know, and this was an experience I guess that they never ever thought that they would ever meet someone who had lost a member of their family, so it was completely new for them, and they were totally accepting. The acceptance I felt at that meeting, the fact that they were all there, they all turned up. None of them was too embarrassed to come; none of them was too embarrassed to ask questions. I mean, you know, they didn’t treat me with a sense of ignoring, or there was no difficulty there, they just they seemed to at ease with it, and I guess that came because of the week that we had had, the weekend that we had had together, we had formed such a good relationship, and I guess you know when I talk about God and my faith in him, I really feel that that group was formed a month before my brother died and it was key to seeing me through. I believe that it was him, that he, God knew that this was happening, and this was preparation for me, this was going to be my, my outlet, this was going to be the place that I found comfort and that I found him, you know and his love, and I found a great lot of love in that, in that, in those meetings with them.
Dean found support from RoadPeace, a UK charity which provides support for victims of road crashes and campaigns for justice and road safety. Others belonged to Brake, which has similar aims.

After Dean’s son, Andrew, was hit by a car and died, a member of RoadPeace called Dean and...

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Age at interview: 66
Sex: Male
But then I found a lot of support from RoadPeace. RoadPeace was there from day one. It’s a remarkable organisation. The founder of RoadPeace was on the phone to me for over an hour, and she gave me so much support, and strength, and offered me advice, because I didn’t know where to turn, the police liaison officer just gave me a booklet and said, “Look in there you’ll find any organisation, these are the people if you wish to contact.” There was not a question of sitting down and going through it, this is what we wanted, the support from them to guide us through this thing. We just had to find our way through, and I found that RoadPeace was there for us.
Did they contact you initially?
Yes, RoadPeace contacted me; I didn’t contact them at all?
So how did they find you?
They must have read the story in the newspaper because the, the whole thing was in the local paper and so forth, and I was so pleased when she rang me.
What sort of advice did she give you?
She said, “I will be there to give you any support you want.” She arranged to come down, and they came, we met at home here, and we sat and we talked through various things, what line of action I should take, and the support, where to go and get the support; what help; and she was literally there 24'7 for me. 
Martin joined the WAY (Widowed and Young) foundation after his wife was killed by a bus. WAY offers support and friendship to bereaved men and women up to the age of 50. Martin made good friends and tried to join in various activities, especially with the children, but after a while everyone else’s “sob stories” got him down.
After Dorothy’s son was killed in an industrial explosion, she contacted the Centre for Corporate Accountability, which looks at the role of the state in enforcing health and safety law and investigating work-related deaths and injuries. This charity gives free and independent advice. They advised her, and she also founded Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK). She also joined Compassionate Friends. Michael joined FACK after his son was killed at work.
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Michael joined Families Against Corporate Killers. He found comfort from working with others to...

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Age at interview: 52
Sex: Male
I was lucky in the fact that the people I was working for at the time allowed me time off, and actually paid me for being off. So I was off for a good six weeks before I could actually go back to work, and that process you know everybody was very helpful. But if I can go back to the court, after the court case, we were very angry. Well, I was very angry and I know, like felt let down by the whole process. And I thought, well it can’t be the end, you know there must be something else that I can do, and I started then to look at websites, where people were injured and I came across a website up in Manchester which was a Hazards Campaign and I read through some of the stuff there.
The Hazards Campaign?
Hazards Campaign and I contacted, I e-mailed a woman there, and said, you know, look I’m interested in some of the things that you’ve been saying, and I didn’t hear anything for about a week, and then I got this e-mail from her saying, you know she was so sorry to hear what had happened to me, she was involved in a group called FACK, which was Families Against Corporate Killers, and if I was interested she would send me some stuff, so a couple of days later she sent me some bits and pieces, and then she sent me her phone number so I phoned her and we spoke and she then put me through in touch with [the woman who started FACK].
Do you find it comforting to be in contact with other people who’ve been through the same thing?
I find it comforting but I also find, [sigh] it, I find it’s helpful because these people are in the same position as ourselves. And they don’t want this happening to anybody else either. And they are committed to stopping it. And this is what I want to do, and I feel, I get a lot of support from that, feeling that I’m actually doing something to help prevent it happening to somebody else’s son or daughter. 
Families bereaved when their relatives were killed in Bali in 2002 formed the UK Bali Bombing Victims Group. Jocelyn said it was therapeutic for people to share their feelings. Susanna agreed but said that it was hard to reach a consensus in some discussions when people in the group had little in common apart from their bereavement.
Some people who had been affected by the bombing in Bali or elsewhere, had joined Disaster Action, a charity set up and run by survivors and the bereaved from UK and overseas disasters.

Jocelyn chaired the UK Bali Bombing Victims Group. The group offered support to members and tried...

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Age at interview: 65
Sex: Male
I’d just like to move onto one other thing, the UK Bali Bombing Victims Group, which was set up, not by me, but by on the initiative of a wonderful fireman, who was there at the time, and some of the relatives and it grew into actually a very a quite a sort of cohesive body. There were a lot of issues related to the event that we addressed, and I think it was quite therapeutic for a lot of people, to sort of share their feelings, and a lot of friendships and warmth grew between different people there. I for some reason, and it may have been that I had to some extent; I think I recovered more quickly than some people, and I was asked to chair the UK Bali Bombing Group, which I did. I didn’t really want to frankly, but I thought it was the right thing to do, and they wanted me to do it, so I did it, and I tried, because there were, there were very different people, there was something like twenty, there were some with dual nationality, say about 28 families who had brothers, sons, husbands, whatever killed and there were of course a lot of people who had been injured, who should not be forgotten because they were traumatised too. And I saw how people reacted to it differently and how people recovered. There were a group of people who couldn’t really move forward. I know it was very, very sad and one would try to sort of organise counselling, and we even tried to get some money out of the government for that, and there was all problems about compensation, and you know, and issues like that. I mean some of the people were, were not, were not well off and it, you know, it was very, very difficult for them, and we tried to. But it was it was very interesting for me to see that, you know, some people were able to recover and move forward, and others less so. And in fact some cases, they even got worse, they got sort of stuck, and it was it was very it was, it was frightening actually. And you know people could not go back to work, and oh you know some of the, some of the cases were, were quite horrendous. And, but others were stronger, and I like to think that you know I made this early, conscious decision to move forward, you know, and not to blame people.
Lisa felt suicidal at times after two of her friends were murdered. Calling the Samaritans often gave her emotional support. ASSIST Trauma Care is another charity which offers people treatment, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), by a qualified therapist. (Some people we talked to had set up Charities themselves to prevent other violent deaths: see ‘Adjusting to life without the deceased’. Also see ‘Messages to others’ where people talk about the importance of seeking help after a traumatic death).

Last reviewed October 2015.

Last updated October 2011.

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