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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.


08/29/2019 at 3:26 PM
My brother shot my sister onlaw and himself last year.leabving behind my now 7 year old
01/31/2019 at 8:39 PM
Greg Segroves
My father shot my mother, killing her and her unborn baby on January 16, 1963. He then killed himself. I was 12 and my brother was 7 at the time. My grandmother found my parents and she died one year later of a broken heart. This was 56 years ago but there is hardly a day that I don't think about it in one form or another. This event helped shape whatever character that I have. Being a child may have been to my advantage since children tend to be more resilient. I was fortunate because I was not home when it happened. My father had taken my brother and I, along with my cousins to school that morning. I was crazy about my mother and it took me years to get over the grief. Even though you are always affected by such a senseless act time does heal all wounds. In my case I would not have found my wife and had my children if not for what happened. I have always refused to be a victim and I have never blamed God or the gun that my father used. The loved ones who are affected by murder-suicide can survive. Just don't give up.
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