Restorative Support for Families After Traumatic Death: Building a Bereavement-Informed Community

Join us Friday, September 21 and Saturday, September 22, 2018 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Texas Children’s Hospital Pavilion for Women in Houston, TX.

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Restorative Support for Families
After Traumatic Death:
Building a Bereavement-Informed Community
Friday September 21, 2018 &
Saturday, September 22, 2018
Texas Children’s Hospital
Pavilion for Women

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Scream at the Sky by Carlton Stowers

Lessons I found helpful from this book when I compiled Murder Survivors Handbook:

The book Scream at The Sky, by Carlton Stowers, has as its subtitle: Five Texas Murders and One Man’s Crusade for Justice.  He tells a true story of families impacted by the murders of five young women, who did not know each other.  The killings started in 70’s. Fourteen years later, a cold-case detective put fresh eyes on the murders that spanned a period of seventeen months.

There are many families one rarely hears about who are living with the open wounds of unsolved cases for many years and often lifetimes.  There are few specific resources for families whose loved ones have been murdered; there are even fewer resources for folks who wait years to find out what happened to their loved ones.  You’ll often hear them say, “It seems like no one cares.”

It is natural thing to come up with ideas about why something happens.  We all do it. When there are no answers, families decide what they think happened, as in the case explored by Stowers’ book.  One of the families impacted by this serial killer concluded that one of the victims’ mothers “wild” friends killed the woman’s daughter. They were so convinced that their theory was true that they would not even sit with the woman at her daughter’s funeral.  This belief was played out again and again, with rejection and ostracism contributing to this mother’s life-long mental health problems.  Fourteen years passed before the real culprit was identified by cold-case detective John Little.

Lesson: Don’t Give Up

Stowers’ book, Scream at the Sky, provides a reason for families to not give up hope for answers.  As I review this, I learn that the Golden State Killer has just been arrested.  Families have waited 40 years for this outcome. Authorities are currently piecing together many possible murders by this suspect.

Lesson: The Value of DNA Finds

Forensic DNA was first used by Sir Alec Jeffreys, who used this science to convict Colin Pitchfork in 1984 of the Enderby murders in Leicestershire, England.

District Attorney Barry Macha, in Wichita Falls, Texas was plagued by the unsolved murders of two women he thought were linked. The latest cold-case detective retired after a decade and a half of investigating these still unsolved cases.   Instead of assigning a detective ready to finish out his time to retirement, Macha hired someone new to investigation to take a fresh look—John Little. Little had been a brick layer but wanted a career in law enforcement.

Macha gave John Little the case files to review. Little learned that one of the victims, Terry Sims, was connected to him.  His sister’s husband was best friends with Pete Sims, Terry’s uncle who was with Terry’s father when he died of a car accident. That was not the only personal connection he had.  The prime suspect, Donnie Ray Gibson, was someone who lived in his community and someone he had gone to school with.

John Little also made two new discoveries. One was of a print that had not been tested. He also found one new suspect, Farylon Wardrip, who had said he knew another woman, Ellen Blau, who had been murdered.  At the time, Wardrip had served eleven years of a thirty-five-year sentence for the confessed murder of Tina Kimbrew and was out on parole.  Little wanted to find DNA to tie these other murders together, so he and Macha devised a plan to find “abandoned interest evidence.”

Lesson: Abandoned Interest

Abandoned interest evidence is explained in an article for ABC by Jan Crawford Greenburg, Dennis Powell, and Therese Cook, in 2007.

Detectives are solving crimes using sweat collected from a steering wheel, or saliva from a discarded cigarette butt. In a Detroit case, it was spit on a leftover cinnamon roll that sent a man to jail for car theft.

“DNA is like fingerprints, only better. It is just more precise than fingerprints. At this point it is more reliable than fingerprints.”

Little found out where Wardrip worked and made his outpost the laundromat across the street. He went day after day, washing the same clothes, until his wait paid off.  Wardrip was sitting in a truck with his wife, eating lunch which included cheese crackers. After Wardrip got out to go back to work, he threw a cup he had been drinking from into a trash bin. John Little walked up on the pretense of needing a “spit cup.”  He saw a cup with cheese cracker crumbs on it and hoped it was the right cup.  Wardrip said, “Help yourself.” That cup was analyzed, and it was a DNA match with evidence gathered at the crime scenes. Wardrip was found guilty of five murders that had haunted grieving families and law enforcement for years.

Thanks to Carlton Stowers we get a full perspective on great work by dedicated criminal justice professionals who refuse to give up on their quest to obtain justice for the families of murdered loved ones.

Connie Saindon, MFT; Author: Murder Survivors Handbook, real-life stories, resources and tips and The Journey, Learning to Live with Violent Death

 

Murder Survivors Handbook has been well received across the country and won the Benjamin Franklin Award for Best in Self Help by Independent Book Publishers. A great deal of reading, interviewing, collecting stories and viewing took place to gather information for this book. My premise was that none of us knows it all.  While it would be impossible to capture everything for such a resource book, I was content to give enough variance and links, so each reader would feel less alone and have more information for their new and treacherous journey.

I plan to introduce one of these sources each month.  I will select them in no order but as they come to me.  Each resource is of equal importance as is each homicide.

http://www.svlp.org/education/newseries.html

Latest Entry is: Scream at the Sky by Carlton Stowers

The book Scream at The Sky, by Carlton Stowers, has as its subtitle: Five Texas Murders and One Man’s Crusade for Justice.  He tells a true story of families impacted by the murders of five young women, who did not know each other.  The killings started in 70’s. Fourteen years later, a cold-case detective put fresh eyes on the murders that spanned a period of seventeen months.

There are many families one rarely hears about who are living with the open wounds of unsolved cases for many years and often lifetimes.  There are few specific resources for families whose loved ones have been murdered; there are even fewer resources for folks who wait years to find out what happened to their loved ones.  You’ll often hear them say, “It seems like no one cares.”

It is natural thing to come up with ideas about why something happens.  We all do it. When there are no answers, families decide what they think happened, as in the case explored by Stowers’ book.  One of the families impacted by this serial killer concluded that one of the victims’ mothers “wild” friends killed the woman’s daughter. They were so convinced that their theory was true that they would not even sit with the woman at her daughter’s funeral.  This belief was played out again and again, with rejection and ostracism contributing to this mother’s life-long mental health problems.  Fourteen years passed before the real culprit was identified by cold-case detective John Little.

While there, scroll down and read previous entries:

Borrowed Narratives by Harold Smith

The Ride by Brian Macquarrie ( Boston Globe)

Parrallel Justice for Victims of Crime by Susan Herman

Connie Saindon, MFT, Founder

csaindon@svlp.org

www.svlp.org

619-685-0005

 

new series link

New Series entries:  Parallel Justice by Susan Herman, Poem-I will cry again…, How to Survive a School Shooting

Murder Survivors Handbook has been well received across the country and won the Benjamin Franklin Award for Best in Self Help by Independent Book Publishers. A great deal of reading, interviewing, collecting stories and viewing took place to gather information for this book. My premise was that none of us knows it all.  While it would be impossible to capture everything for such a resource book, I was content to give enough variance and links, so each reader would feel less alone and have more information for their new and treacherous journey.

I plan to introduce one of these sources each month.  I will select them in no order but as they come to me.  Each resource is of equal importance as is each homicide. The second in this series is Parallel Justice by Susan Herman which was inspired by her over 30 years criminal justice experience including as executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime.

You will hear my comments and poem that provides suggestions as does Herman’s book about what each of us can do as it relates to violent death.    To read more follow the link below:

http://www.svlp.org/education/newseries.html

Also, I have just received this guide from colleague and friend Vilma Torres, staff director at the Family Justice Center, Bronx, New York. Click on this link: 

Surviving School Shooting Trauma by Claire Lampen in Teen Vogue

Connie Saindon, MFT, Founder

csaindon@svlp.org

 

New Series Announcement by Connie Saindon

One of the most rewarding aspects of writing Murder Survivors Handbook (MSH), published in 2014, was the reading I did while doing my research.  MSH has been used successfully as a resource for those who have lost a loved one to homicide and those who have worked with them.  It was the winner of the Benjamin Franklin Award for Best in Self Help.  Victim Advocacy agencies, counselors, chaplains, nonprofit counseling services along with hospice agencies and more have several copies on hand to give to clients.  Individuals have bought them for themselves and members of their families as they navigate the months and years ahead of their unwelcome journey of life after homicide.

Here’s a comment from a grieving mother who currently spends her days in a courtroom:

I’m in the middle of pre-trial. I take this book with me to court; I read it as I am there when I run into a problem or hear something I don’t understand. I have it with me at all times. As I read the stories it helps me see this is exactly how I am feeling during pre-trial and I am careful in everything I do there. I encourage everyone who is going to court to buy this even before then. When my son died, I didn’t understand why detectives were not telling me anything. I wondered if they were even doing anything; during pre-trial I heard just how hard they were working on the investigation. I keep this book close, still reading it. Thank you to everyone who took part in making this book happen.

I read, viewed and interviewed whatever I thought might strengthen the information in this book.  My premise was that none of us knew it all.   While it would be impossible to capture everything for a resource book, I was content to give enough variance, so each reader would feel less alone and find some but not all the resources on their new and treacherous journey.   To do the work on this book, the larger the pool of information and experience the greater the possibility.

Thirty-nine colleagues from criminal justice, psychology and literature across the nation offered edits, reviews or examples.   The real-life stories from thirteen anonymous survivor writers answer questions if they could for each of the ten chapters.  Each murder victim is different in age, family order and place in the community and these real stories reflect that.  Over one hundred contributors can be proud of this resource that has been so well received.

I plan to introduce one of these sources each month.  I will select them in no order of importance but as they come to me.  Each resource is of equal importance as is each homicide.

The first in this series is a book published in 2009 by a reporter and editor for the Boston Globe: The Ride by Brian Macquarrie.

http://www.svlp.org/education/lessonsseries.html

Tips for Handling the Holidays after a Loved One has Died

Don’t be surprised at the power of unexpected pangs of grief, also knows as SUGS (Sudden upsurges of Grief).  Recognize that it is not unusual to re-experience waves of intense sadness.  Find places to have quiet times until these pass.  Keep yourself safe while reducing your expectations. This is not a normal event.  These reactions are NORMAL.

Arrange to be with others who have gone through a similar loss.  Set up times to be with family and friends.  Know that the first year can often be the most difficult. Being with others who know some of what you are going through reduces the need to explain.  You and other co-victims are there to listen to one another.  Limit your contact with difficult people. Don’t let anyone try to convince you that avoidance is bad.

Create new traditions and rituals. Such as assign a new person to conduct the tasks that your loved one did at holiday events in their name. Set up an event before the actual holiday event specifically to remember your loved one. Such as: Begin creating an album of memories, to tell stories of your loved one, have some of their favorite foods to share with family and friends.

Start an annual tradition of making or purchasing an ornament to be included in your annual decorations that symbolize something that reminds you of your loved one.

Most of all, reduce your expectations, pace yourself and do less this year. This may be the start of putting more meaning into the holidays for you.

And remember that although your physical contact with your loved one is gone, your relationship with them lives on.  Help those  of us who carry the burden remember the memory of your loved one too.

For More  go to:

http://www.svlp.org/copingholidayrituals.html

Wishing you well,

Connie Saindon, LMFT

619-619-685-0005

svlp@svlp.org

 

These news items are being posted on the heels of the worst shooting incident in our country.  This first entry is from  Marina; who is one of the Survivor Writers, in Murder Survivors Handbook and The Journey-learning to live with violent death.  She tells of one example of being triggered, an experience that many of you who have worked or lived with violent death experience in an out of your lives. With this latest incident in Las Vegas, we are adding hundreds who will be triggered in the future as well.

Trigger Warning

This year my husband and I encountered a very problematic situation which took a profound toll on our mental and physical well-being.  We rented a vacation house in the desert in an attempt to restore our peace of mind.  I was on edge when we arrived, so I took a stroll into the spacious back yard of the rental.  As I approached a quiet corner of the property, I spotted a naked male human body lying face-down.  It appeared to be in an advanced state of decomposition.  Feeling a great deal of bemusement and curiosity, I got closer, and chuckled in surprise as I realized that I was looking at a life-sized concrete statue!  It would have been horrific if I had seen this “playful” piece of yard art years earlier, after my father’s murder.  You see, his body was found in his bedroom— naked, lying face-down.  I silently congratulated myself for remaining calm.   I only share this story as a caution.  A survivors, we must strive to remain aware of the presence of triggers.  They surround us, and can appear suddenly, without warning.  You don’t have to go looking for them.  They will come to you. 

Marina

Murder Survivor's Handbook: Real-life Stories, Tips & Resources                                                     The_Journey_front_cover web

Restorative Retelling Group begins October 11 with Connie Saindon,  MFT and Tammy Carter, MFTI.  Screening is still available for future ten week groups.  Contact Tammy at 619-685-0005.

Restorative Retelling Training in San Diego is being postponed for a future date.  Contact Connie Saindon at 629-685-0005 if you have an interest in bringing this important training to San Diego or your community. Training is also available for Criminal Death Support Groups as well.

Judi Earnest, Homicide Bereavement Therapist,  has completed two days of  Restorative Retelling training for work with her agency.  She is also the recipient of twelve donated “The Journey-Learning to Live with Violent Death” workbooks.  She can be reached at Wayside-Blackstone Valley Community Services in Milford, Massachusetts at (508) 469 3111.

Postponed for a future date

Two Day Training in

Clinical use of the Restorative Retelling Model

An evidence based treatment for traumatic grief after a violent death.

Postponed for a future date

 

Violent Loss Resources Newsletter, May, 2017

Contents:

 Topic of the Month:

Traumatic Grief after Violent Dying Conference

 News:  Free Monthly Meetings in San Diego as well as upcoming            

Restorative Retelling Groups. 

Resources of the Month: South Africa, Philadelphia, Christine                                                                               Grimmie

  Inspiration: Sandy Hook Four Years Later

 Question of the Month-What are you doing to move forward?

Topic of the Month: Traumatic Grief after Violent Dying Conference held April 8 & 9 in La Jolla, CA  received  outstanding reviews from attendees, presenters who donated their time and the planning committee who worked on this project for a year.  

 Here is what they said:

The most valuable part was the experienced speakers and the depth of knowledge from the presenters.  the survivors insight was invaluable.IMG_4395-sunday End with Dr Rynearson

Best conference I have ever attended.  Usually I am waiting for the conference to end, but not this time.  Thank you again for an outstanding conference.  I have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from  my staff.

The resounding passion of professionals who work with these issues.

Beautiful, comfortable venue, well-organized presentations, and a jaw-dropping series of speakers . There was a sense of shared purpose that could not be denied.  People are very excited about Restorative Retelling.

Best conference we have ever held. IMG_4346 bubbles (1)

 

 

 

 

Stay tuned to where the next conference will be, and let us know if you wish to partner with us to bring one to your city. Follow this newsletter blog or contact Laura Jeffs, at Virginia Mason Separation and Loss services.  laura.jeffs@virginiamason.org

For more photos of the conference go to Saturday Photos and Sunday Photos

News:

Free Monthly Meetings in San Diego are starting as well as upcoming Restorative Retelling Groups and Services.    Restorative Retelling is an evidence based approach that has helped reduce the symptoms for survivors that have lost someone to a violent death.  The first meeting is May 16, 6:30pm in convenient Mission Valley. Contact Tammy Carter, MFTI for more information and the address at 619-685-0005.

 Resource of the Month:   This section of the newsletter usually introduces you to one resource but this newsletter is different.  Three new resources will be added as we are excited about the important work they are doing.  Please visit their websites and thank them for being a part of the solution and helping to expand resources for those following a violent death.

National Homicide Justice Alliance/ Justice for Alex Now

National Homicide Justice Alliance(1)

We are families of murder victims who are uniting to find justice for our loved ones, to support one another to find healing and promote peace in our communities.

Their Vision: To facilitate the union of a grassroots alliance of families of homicide.  We are the persons most directly affected by homicide and gun violence. We will focus on determining our own needs as families of homicide victims, advising, fostering programs, and promoting legislation, which will work for peace and justice and the cause of families of homicide victims.

http://www.justiceforalexnow.com/national-homicide-justice-alliance

The Christina Grimmie Foundation

On June 10, 2016, Christina Grimmie  was a fan favorite of NBC’s  The Voice who died of gunshot wounds inflicted in a targeted attack that followed her concert performance in Orlando, Florida.

Her foundation was set up as a legacy to her and her website says: Some stars shine so brightly that they shine forever.  When families encounter tragedy, we support them, with love.  The Christina Grimmie foundation exists to support families who have lost a loved one to gun violence and support for families facing breast cancer diagnosis.

https://christinagrimmiefoundation.org/

Modiegi Sekedi Motlhabane Foundation 

The foundation  is an Nonprofit  located in South Africa founded after the murder of her daughter by her mother Patricia who writes:

 Good evening, this e-mail serves the appreciation of finding your program of the impact of violent death to families-restorative retelling model on the internet. I am one of the mothers impacted.I was doing a lot of mistakes when running the homicide support group without guide lines/materials, but since I started studying your collaboration data my practice has improved a lot, I wish to see you visiting SOUTH AFRICA, people here are brutally murdered to xenophobic, taxi war, bank armed robbery, intimate relationships and so on, families need to be attended but how, so many marches were done but xenophebic attack is prolonging and dying violently is spreading. This Foundation was the recipient of several of The Journey Workbooks. 

Inspiration: 60 Minutes Returns to Newtown

In case you missed it, click on the link below to catch the 60 Minutes follow-up with families in Newtown who lost first graders and educators.  There are touching messages of the forever pain that exists and inspirational missions that families are working on to make a difference and honor their loved ones.

Jimmy Greene: There have been those that have said things like, “You know, so you guys are good now?” Or “I hope you’ve had some closure to your daughter’s murder.” In the back of my heart and I know in Nelba’s, as well, it’s like our family will never be intact again. Our daughter, Ana, was 6 years old.

60 Minutes returns to Newtown Four Years Later

Question of the Month-What are you doing to move forward?
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Read much more in…

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Violent Loss Resources Team — Contact us

Connie Saindon: csaindon@svlp.org
Larry Edwards: larry@larryedwards.com

Survivors of Violent Loss exists to build a lifeline of hope and healing by providing support and education to those who live and work with violent death. Coping isn't easy. Survivors of Violent Loss can help. www.svlp.org (619) 685-0005

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