Developing practices of nurturing oneself after a homicide can ignite internal equilibrium in response to external chaos. These strategies may not change the circumstances of life. They can, however, foster the experience of stability in the midst of what ails the mind and heart, sprouting hope within the soul.
Embrace Your Loving Self
Homicide initiates survivors’ compartmentalization of their lives; instantly bombarded with both the feelings of and responsibility for being a griever, an advocate, a seeker of truth/answers, an instinctual retributor, and a support person to one or another family member. In the midst of the rapid unraveling of their lives, they attempt to maintain a thread of who they once were, creating an internal conflict of identity.
My brother’s homicide altered my identity in many ways. When I began to accept and honor those changes, I transformed the feelings of an assault on my identity, to the acceptance and celebration of a new sense of self resulting from the trauma. This involved the practice of embracing and loving the internal contradictions of identity which were born from, and inherent in, the experience of a homicide and its aftermath.
Experience the Feelings Most Resisted
The grief associated with homicide and other traumatic deaths is overwhelming to touch. The natural desire is to run in the opposite direction when feelings surface. Initially, feelings are suppressed to survive. The hope is to, eventually, contain them safely so they may be expressed. Once one begins to sit with, feel and move through feelings, the opportunity to transform develops.
When this occurs, feelings no longer swallow one whole or permeate into other areas of one’s life. There lives in each survivor the visceral knowledge of the difference between pushing feelings away for self-protection and honoring them, thereby accepting that they live in us so that triggers, of any form, are noticed, processed and redirected.
Celebrate Forward Progress
Grief recovery associated with homicide is multifaceted and complicated. Coupling that with the continual engagement within the criminal justice system, the bouncing ball of healing is understandable. Homicide survivors can nurture themselves by pausing to celebrate one step forward, even if two steps backward follow.
The act of accepting the forward and backward pace of the grieving process as normal, gives survivors’ permission to be their authentic selves internally, regardless of external assumptions or expectations. This nurturing practice plants seeds of peace by revering moments as milestones.
Direct Feelings into Physical Release
Physical activities, regardless of their intensity, support the processing of emotions, thereby fostering stability. Focusing on one activity/physical action for a defined period of time, gives the mind and heart a release, allowing an inner freedom which nurtures the soul.
After the completion of an activity, circumstances and reality do not change. However, the body and mind are able to live with challenging and destabilizing emotions. This creates a sense of grounding. Over time, this type of release will internalize patterns of nurturing the mind, body and heart, bringing a break from the trauma’s impact, and a deeper connection to the breath in one’s soul.
Act without Certainty of Outcome
It takes a long time to trust feelings – that they need not overwhelm. It takes a long time to trust different parts of ourselves – to accept all of who we become as a result of a loved one’s homicide. And it takes a long time to trust that, regardless of the outcome, survivors have the right to define and validate their experience and allow themselves permission to respond authentically to the truth of their experience.
Survivors do not control the outcome. They control their response, which signifies the importance of internal strength over external dependency. Responding from a place of love for oneself fosters acting from the heart, and that self-honor roots survivors in confidence, regardless of the ability to alter an outcome. When I act from my heart, I am aligned with the authentic expression of my heart and mind. This is the bedrock of hope.
The aftermath of a homicide is muddy … thick, heavy and hard to lumber through. Survivors seek ways to dissolve this mud. As survivors navigate through the mire of a homicide’s aftermath, we continually define and experience reality through our hearts, minds, and voices. The blessing in this fluid process is that it necessitates self-care. “The events of your innermost self are worthy of your whole love.” (Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet)
Read more about death by violence: https://www.opentohope.com/grieving-suicide-homicide-traumatic-deaths-finding-purpose-pain/