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.
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.
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’.
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.
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’).
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). 
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 May 2019.

Last updated October 2011.


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