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Living with Murder-Suicide

By Tawna Righter, survivor of the loss of her son in a murder-suicide and the loss of a friend in a murder-suicide. Author of Living With the Unimaginable: Life in the Aftermath of Murder-Suicide. President and co-founder of Community Awareness and Support Center, murder-suicide aftercare support, and suicide prevention advocate.

The legacy of murder-suicide is the deep sobs of a mother begging to die because she cannot comprehend or cope with the fact that her daughter killed her own beautiful child and then herself. It is the silent confusion of children who have watched their father gun down and kill their mother and then himself. It is the mass media frenzy of a spree murder-suicide. It is a legacy of great loss, solitary and traumatic grief, enormous guilt, and shame, confusion, reliving the horror, fears, silence, aloneness, lawsuits, the media, and more. It is the unthinkable, the unimaginable, and the unmentionable.

Likely, these survivors have lost two or more loved ones. The pain and guilt of such actions can be overwhelming for a survivor. They are plagued with unanswerable questions. Their grief can be traumatic and complicated. Most will likely experience some sort of post-traumatic stress type symptoms that they will have to learn strategies to overcome.

The guilt and shame associated with such acts can be lifelong. Some will become so ashamed of the act that they will completely distance themselves from it all. Others carry the guilt like a knapsack, always there, always a burden. Their plight can be so debilitating that they are unable to work, manage their finances, or engage in relationships.

Some will not fully recover from this type of loss, they may stay locked in deep sorrow, complete with physical pains and the desire to end their lives in order to end their agonizing grief. But most do manage to recover with time and effort; their lives will never be the same, but they can be renewed. They can and do find joy and happiness in their lives again, they learn to function and even excel in many ways. Many find themselves learning a whole new way of life, as who they were before the tragedy has changed so dramatically for them.

The first two to five years, seem to be the most difficult to manage. Good support from your friends and family also seems to be the most helpful in learning to live with it. Therapy with a counselor that has experience in trauma, suicide and perhaps incorporates Positive Psychology techniques woven into the recovery process can be very helpful as well. Talking with someone, whether it is someone close to you or a therapist/counselor is critical in recovering from the trauma associated with these types of tragedies. It is important not to expect to "get over it" any time soon, but know that it does get better and there is hope. Later, helping others get through these events seems to help one's sense of happiness and well-being, too. This may be accomplished through an online support group or participating in suicide support groups sometimes too. You may want to get involved with suicide prevention or aftercare organizations.

It never fully goes away. How can it? However, it truly can be survived and coped with in one's life to a point of fully functioning with purpose and overall sense of happiness and well-being.


02/08/2017 at 5:53 PM
My name is Caley, and I lost my brother, niece and nephew to a murder-suicide. My brother killed my niece and nephew and then himself. He was suffering from depression and we think PTSD from the military. He had found out that his wife of 10 years had been cheating on him. They were in severe debt along with having other marital issues. We were all trying to be as supportive as we could to try and help him get better. We tried not to get into their marital issues as it was none of our business, but tried to be supportive to both as we loved them both very very much. I talked to him at 10p that night, and got the call from my Dad at 2:30am that they were gone. Everything replays through my head constantly. This was so out of character for my brother and now he is viewed as a monster. He really wasn't. He loved his family and his children so much. It's so hard to understand and deal with. His wife has shut out my entire family and wants nothing to do with us. She has continued her relationship with this other man, and acts as if my brother and me and my family never existed. It is all so very painful. Even though I have my husband and family as support, I often still feel alone in trying to understand everything. If anyone had a similar story and is willing to talk, please contact me. caley.bohn@gmail.com. caley.jpd91013@hotmail.com
01/10/2017 at 11:18 AM
My family has suffered through Murder/Suicide as of Dec 2016. My sisters husband murder her and left behind 3 sons all over the age of 21 and 6 grandchildren under 6. She was a twin and all three of us (sisters) were close. We are torn to such a degree its become anger and lots of mixed emotions between all of us. We are a close family, I'm afraid because of feelings are in different directions it could tear us apart. Anyone with advice or who can help me makes sense of this would be nice.
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