The First Moments of Grief

After landing at Miami International Airport on the evening of June 8th, 2005, I hopped in a friend’s car and said, “Take me to William.”  Arriving at my brother’s home guarded by the City of Miami Police and covered in crime scene tape, I ran to the officer, begging, “Please, I’m his sister, I have to go to him.”

The police officer shook his head no.  Touching the front gate, my fingers slid down the tape as I collapsed in my friend’s arms.  After a while, regaining strength to hold myself upright, I said, “Take me to my mother.”

I would not shed a tear in front of another person for many years.  The grieving sister lay dormant while I fought for the life lost.  Living in armor of my own making, hiding reactions while fear, despair and rage simmered within.  I crushed the natural inclination to recoil from the circumstances I inhabited.

Reacting to Unresolved Grief

My brother’s unsolved homicide gave birth to the eternity of this coping mechanism.  I engaged my life from a traumatized state of mind, reacting at every turn, while numb to my feelings.  Eventually, with wisdom gained in each setback, I forged a way through the destabilization of the unresolved.

Unsolved homicide is, by definition, an unfinished task, keeping victims’ loved ones continually grasping for completion.  How can a wound that is perpetual, offering no closure, and requiring continued advocacy, be healed?  Loved ones of homicide victims depend on the criminal justice system to heal this soul-defining affront against our humanity.  And when it doesn’t, we are charged to find another path or become engulfed by the unresolved.

Finding a Path Through Unresolved Grief

Externalization is a strategy to bring forth and expunge.  It is the opposite of holding in. It reverses waiting and lingering through the expression of feelings and validation of experience.  Finding an avenue to feel and externalize the unresolved, as painful as it is, while living with an unsolved homicide and its partner, unresolved trauma, is a necessary precursor to healing.  It nurtures the freedom to regain control of one’s experience from the grip of the criminal justice system’s lack of resolution.

Externalization is the expression, in some form, of a traumatic experience and its aftermath, which creates a release, physically and mentally. This release can transform the control that trauma yields over one’s life.  While that which is unresolved remains, the trauma it encompasses is released.

Working with a therapist, going to a support group, speaking with a trusted friend, clergy, spending time in solitude or nature, picking up a paintbrush or a pen, or engaging in athletic expression, whatever the source, is less important than laying the foundation for externalization to occur.

Externalizing Feelings

Feelings cannot be externalized before they are known.  Developing an inner practice of questioning and reflecting on physical and emotional responses in interpersonal relationships, at work, with family members, and everyday life, allows for unseen emotions to be seen.

Externalization can separate a loved one from the continued trauma inherent in an unsolved homicide and the impact of that which is incomplete. The result is not disconnection from feelings and thoughts, rather the creation of internal space offering protection from what occurs in the case and one’s ongoing advocacy.  Externalization allows one to feel, think, act/speak the truth of experience and let the chips fall where they may; replacing dependency on the system for well-being with self-validation and resolved peace.

Externalization is rooted in three practices: 1. Questioning and feeling. 2. Articulating truth to experience, and 3. Self-validation.  Feeling and questioning one’s responses in every sector of life is the foundation.  Second, verbalizing and expressing the truth of one’s experience, even if contrary to the justice system’s narrative. Finally, choosing to forge a path to transform the experience, which occurs when validation becomes internalized and automatic.

The practice of externalization has carried me from feeling powerless to feeling an inner power, even as my advocacy for justice continues.

Read more by Lori Grande: Nurturing Oneself After a Homicide – Open to Hope

Visit Lori Grande’s website: stillibreathe


Lori Grande

Lori Grande’s first career in addictions and HIV/AIDS social work has been followed by a career in elementary school teaching. She currently teaches Kindergarten in a private school in South Florida. When a true-crime reality show’s (The First 48) filming of her brother’s homicide investigation (2005) resulted in a botched case and all charges dropped against the suspect, she was catapulted into the center of the investigation; balancing the roles of mother and teacher with advocate and detective. An emotional breakdown thirteen years into the investigation led her on a path to transform the experience of living with an unsolved homicide. Eighteen years after her brother’s murder, Lori continues to advocate within the criminal justice system for justice and offer workshops on living with unsolved homicide at the Parents of Murdered Children (POMC) Annual Conference. She holds a BA in Communications from Boston University and a MA in Transforming Spirituality from Seattle University. She began journaling a year after her brother’s murder. In 2022, she created the website:, to spread awareness about homicide survivors’ experiences. The website provides a window into a crime victim’s engagement with the criminal justice system, alongside validation, encouragement, resources and hope. Finding inspiration in nature, she spends her spare time paddle-boarding, swimming in the ocean and visiting State Parks. Lori prides herself on exemplifying how an independent woman can thrive, in spite of loss, while living with joy, purpose and passion.

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