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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.


10/10/2017 at 12:45 PM
Nancy Mayfield
03/26/17 at 3:40 PM Nancy Mayfield Our son Jonathan shot and killed his wife and then himself. She had served him with divorce papers on their 17th wedding anniversry, which was also his 41st birthday. He didn't want a divorce. He was still living in the house. After church, he went home to try to talk to her. Apparently she told him she had been seeing someone and she wanted to be with that person. She had two children when they married which he helped raise for 17 years. They didn't have any children of their own. This has split up our family. The pain is unbearable. I'm taking two different anti-depressants just to get through the days, weeks, and months. My husband is coping in his own way. Our daughter is taking all of this very hard also. I don't think we'll ever get over this.
05/18/2017 at 4:13 PM
April 6,2016 my son after 6 months of an abusive relationship, took a knife stabbed his pregnant girlfriend once thru the heart then himself. They found him across her body the knife on the floor. This is a small community and the devastation of it all continues to haunt me. Both of them had issues but what happened opened the flood of grief, shame, and devastation I may never recover. I loved my son and whatever happened that night is still unclear. It doesn't matter my son forever is a monster and I am left grieving for him and my grandchild.
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