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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.


06/19/2018 at 9:34 AM
Karen cowan
In 2014 my brother shot his wife as she was coming out of the shower, and then himself. My 29 year old nephew was home at the time, to show you how out of his mind he was, he walked downstairs early and put his dog in his sons room, his son was half asleep he said Dad what are you doing, my brother did not answer, son thought that was weird but went back to bed, a few minutes later he heard a noise from upstairs, he said it sounded like a dressed falling over, we now know it was gun shots, he shot her twice getting out of the shower, then put the gun in his mouth and killed hilself, my nephew came running up the stairs, door was locked, he went in kitchen got a knife and found them both dead. So horrible for him! Him and I had become quite close over the last year, a matter of fact he was driving me crazy, he had been of private disability from his insurance for 5 years, they were making it tough for him to keep getting his checks( he had fibro, and obviously some mental issues) he was convinced no matter what that she was having an affair with a lawyer in get office( I don’t know, but know one deserves what he did to her, and the way he messed his boys lives up). I sent him to his Drs and his priest, I spent every waking hour trying to talk and pray with him. He killed him self and her on 22/14, my parents were in there late 70’s at the time, my mom knew nothing about how he was behaving, my dad nknew a year before I did, he didn’t want us to tell our mom snything( she really gets in a bad way with stress). So a few months before she found out, so then he was over there almost daily stressing them out, I called my moms and I could tell she was stressed to the max, she said he’s here do you want to talk to him? I said sure, he started in how his car was hugged, etc, finally I said you have to stop this, it’s hurting you, Mom and Dad, your boys, your wife, me, it’s got to stop . Now I feel complete guilt I caused him to do this, god help me????????
06/03/2018 at 8:57 PM
May 3, 2015 my fiance opened fire on a bridge and took 3 lives to include a father and daughter, then turned the gun on himself. He had shot at the mother and her other two children but missed the kids thank the Lord. The mother was shot twice but survived. I went into survival mode and was numb for 2 1/2 years until recently when I've begun to feel it all. The pain is so unbearable there are days I can barely get through the day without crying multiple times and literally have to force myself to get anything done. I can barely focus on the event with my pain. It is something I cannot fathom. I will never comprehend. I cannot fully grieve these strangers whose lives he destroyed nor their families because I do not know them. I walk the streets of my hometown and live in fear of who may or may not know and whether or not they harbor anger towards me for it. I wonder what I could have said or done differently to make him want to live and thrive. I knew he was depressed for he had been for years but never thought he'd be homicidal. We never had a bad breakup or big fight that caused him to act out. He never said goodbye or left a letter. I never will get closure. I can't talk about about my ex fiance even when sharing past memories with others without guilt for his evil acts in his ginal moments or fear that they are uncomfortable if they know. I was with him for 5 1/2 years with 1 year break in the beginning for the duration of my late teens early twenties. That sums up majority of my adult life thus far and I can't talk about majority of it without feeling shamed. There are times I try and bring him up to test the waters and people outright act like I didn't say anything. I feel invisible.. I feel like I am alone and noone understands. The pain takes my breath from me and steals my energy. I lose hours of the day. I do go to counseling but nothing seems to help. I become lonelier, sadder, emptier, and more hopeless for the future every day I reach out to others and get nothing in return as far as empathy. I don't just get to grieve a loved one. I grieve a murderer.. two men and a child I've never met.. and my innocence and joy. I lost a chunk of my soul that day and will never get it back.
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