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Violent Loss Newsletter, May 1, 2016

News you can use … (scroll down to see all)

Contents will vary somewhat month to month. As we close out this month, our contents include:

  • Resource of the Month—VACC: Victim Assistance Coordinating Council.
  • Topic of the Month: The Early Response
  • Question of the Month: How did you find out about your loved one’s death?     Tips?
  • News: Meet MSH Team Eleven-Plus          
  • Book Resource: All the Wrong Places: A Life Lost and Found by Philip Connors, author of Fire Season

celeste web


Celeste Hunter received the Victim Advocate Award at the Annual Candlelight Tribute held during National Crime Victims Week by the VICTIM ASSISTANCE COORDINATING COUNCIL. VACC  is a San Diego-based nonprofit umbrella organization composed of crime victims and a broad presentation of service providers vitally involved in various aspects of crime victim assistance. Its website is designed to provide information, options and resources available to victims and survivors of crime.

VACC is dedicated to providing better services to victims through the collaborative cooperation of our members from law enforcement, local government, medical and mental health agencies, and other victim service providers. The council is especially involved in educating the community about the plight and special needs of crime victims. Visit Victims Assistance Coordinating Council website and contact them with questions about how to set this up in your community.


When a loved one dies, you may wonder: Who are all these people?

A flock of people become a part of this new life that no one wanted. Who they are is truly overwhelming for the family. They may include: law enforcement,  homicide investigators,  medical examiner, crisis interventionists, chaplain, victim advocates and more.

webMurder_Survivor-front-cover-sticker-2500webExcerpt from Murder Survivor’s Handbook: Real-Life Stories, Tips & Resources, Chapter Four, by Connie Saindon, winner of the Benjamin Franklin Gold Award for Best in Self-Help, presented by the Independent Book Publishers Association:

One of the hardest jobs is to tell someone they lost a loved one.  (Hendricks, 2006)

I learned of the death of my sister from my mother. I asked if they had found her, and my mother’s voice cracked in a way I had never heard before.  “Yes, she is in the morgue.” (Halia)

“I’m sorry to tell you he expired.”
“Expired? What does that mean, expired? Milk expires, food expires, people don’t expire. They don’t have a date stamped on their foreheads.
What do you mean he expired?” (Bucholz, 2002)

 Displaced anger and rage are understandable. Blaming family members, law enforcement and yourself is common. While understandable, it doesn’t help. You need safe places and people to express this hurt. Displaced anger and judgments can interfere.

Life becomes instantly complicated, accompanied by waves of the most intense pain and chaos. It is as if nothing else matters. Not eating, not taking medicine, not picking up children or not feeding the dog. Everyday maintenance becomes secondary to the focus on this still shocking news. First responders are there to attend to some of the initial activities. Friends, neighbors, and extended family may be needed to take care of forgotten tasks.

Survivor Tips (partial list)

Get EVERYONE’S business cards so you have contact information, and keep everything in a large envelope so it stays together and you aren’t struggling to try to remember who was who and who does what. (Rose)

 As a survivor, tend to your grief, your emotions. I did not. In a criminal case, it’s easy to set that aside while you search for a reasonable explanation for what happened and to see that justice is done. That search consumed me, and 30 years passed before I truly addressed the underlying emotions associated with the deaths of my parents. (Harrier)

 I learned that the detectives and the DA are just doing their jobs and can’t help the family of the victim. The most helpful people in my case were the staff and secretaries at the court offices. (Kaila)


Resources (partial list)

Black’s Law DictionaryFree Online Law Dictionary

Parents of Murdered Children (POMC):

The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), provides an online directory of Victim Services throughout the country.

Excerpt from “Murder Survivor’s Handbook: Real-Life Stories, Tips & Resources Chapter four,” by Connie Saindon:

Question of the Month: How did you find out about your loved one’s death?  Do you have any tips for other survivors?

Subscribe now . . . to add your Voice and Tips.

Meet  MSH Team Eleven-Plus

There were eleven anonymous survivor writers who contributed to the Murder Survivors Handbook, Real-life Stories, Tips & Resources by providing answers to questions to each chapter’s topics.  These volunteers DSC_0035were involved in writing answers to the two or more questions on one chapter per month. They could skip questions, review them before publication and make changes. Survivors  met quarterly over two and half years for updates and support, and to practice the resiliency strategies they identified at the beginning of this project.

Although painful at times, they were unwavering in their commitment to do be a part of this project if it would help someone else. At the end of this two-and-half-year project, each one received a copy of the book and a framed photo of their icon,  the symbol honoring their loved one.  These photos show both the value and the bond of this work for them. They are sent periodic updates regarding donated books and books bought by folks all over the country.

Recent review

I just finished the Murder Survivor’s Handbook and found it very helpful.  It is a comfort to know we’re not pioneers on this painful journey as we learn to navigate the judicial system.  While shocking and disappointing to hear how long and drawn out the process may be, at least it’s good to know it’s not unusual. I really appreciated the stories you shared from other survivors.  Also appreciated the info about forgiveness, as that has been a struggle for me as well.  I liked the line:  “I am not going to do the work on forgiving him,  I am going to leave that up to God.”

I’m actively involved with getting Marsy’s Law on the ballot in North Dakota.  Little things like that make you feel like you can at least help in some way.       —Rhonda, Survivor


All the Wrong Places: A Life Lost and Found by Philip Connors.

I was drawn to this book when I heard an interview on PBS.

On page 210, Connors writes: “… the mind of the suicide survivor tends to be haunted by the thought that the dead passed judgment on the living, and that whatever else a suicide signifies, it can’t help but contain the message that none of the living were enough of a sustaining connection to temper the allure of self-annihilation.”

Here are some reviews by others:

“Philip Connors probably had to write All the Wrong Places for his own peace of mind; but in the process, he has given all readers a gift …” (Charles Bock)

“… not so much about the mystery of his brother’s suicide as struggle to escape its gravitational field …” (Sam Lipsyte)

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What you missed last month:         

Topic of the Month: Dealing with the Media/Social Media
Resource of the Month: VSS
Question of the Month: “Latest News” Triggers/Alerts
Candlelight Vigil Update     

Subscribe now … and follow up to let us know your thoughts by adding your comments about anything in this article.

Violent Loss Resources Team — Contact us

Connie Saindon:
Larry Edwards:

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. (619) 685-0005