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Edward Rynearson, MD, leading specialist in Violent Death Bereavement, will be the keynote speaker at Safe Crossings on  Childhood Grief in Seattle, Washington, on Friday, February 24. To find out more about this one-day program contact:

Save the Date: April 8 & 9, 2017, for  a Traumatic Grief after Violent Dying  two-day conference featuring both National and Local leaders and survivors. The program will be designed for clinicians and advocates who work with violent death.  Virginia Mason Medical Centers Separation and Loss Services leader Edward Rynearson, MD, and UCSD Medical School Residency Program Director,  Sid Zisook, come together to put this workshop on, with funding support from the Caldera/Saindon Grant.  Details to follow.  Email to make sure your name is on the list for notification.

Topic of the Month

Remembering and Rituals

Lives are like rivers, they go where they must to not where we want them to.

-Empire Falls by Richard Russo


It is understandable that people can’t forget how a loved one was murdered. It shakes us all to the core of our lives and community. The horrific and traumatic nature of a violent death is deeply experienced and images can easily be triggered. We are hard wired to remember the most intense moments of our lives.

They say memories are golden.

Well, maybe that is true:

I never wanted memories;

I only wanted you.

—Author Unknown

Horrific events interfere with memories of who murder victims were before they died.  A major task of  Restorative Retelling is to slowly and respectfully bring back  who loved ones were before they were killed. One of my brothers apologetically admits he knows how our sister died, but he doesn’t remember her. Consider these words from Rose, one of the  anonymous writers in Murder Survivor’s Handbook:

it is one of my greatest fears that my Daughter and Grandson will be forgotten; my second fear is that they will always be remembered for how they were murdered, and I want to change that now to how they lived.


Beyond Words: Words are difficult to use when it comes to describing the experience of life after murder.  Rituals and ceremonies do what words cannot do.  They are vehicles for respectful expression of losses.  Events can help free up overwhelming emotion allowing its expression in a private or shared activity.  The use of art, poetry, music, and dance can say what cannot be said in words.  Such events act to strengthen bonds between individuals and their community in the aftermath of a murder or other violent death when fear and trust are shattered.

Our focus this month is on Re-member-ing your loved one during this challenging time of missing them during these upcoming holidays.   

webMurder_Survivor-front-cover-sticker-2500webTopic of the Month contains excerpts from Murder Survivor’s Handbook, available at







Question of the Month

What do you want us to remember about your loved one?

This poem was read at every Holiday Memorial the Survivors of Violent Loss Program organized. Survivors were asked to change words to fit their belief systems and bring symbols of their loved ones for the holiday tree.





Christmas in Heaven


I see the countless Christmas trees20131214_holidaymemorial2013_1725

Around the world below,

With tiny lights, like heaven’s stars,

Reflecting on the snow


20131214_holidaymemorial2013_1722The sight is so spectacular,

Please wipe away that tear, 

For I am spending Christmas

with the angels this year.  

I hear the many Christmas songs,

That people hold so dear,20131213_holidaymemorial2013_1744

But the sounds of music can’t compare

With the Christmas choir up here.


I have no words to tell you, 

The joy their voices bring


For it is beyond description,

To hear the angels sing.

I see the pain inside your heart.

But I am not so far away,


I know how much you miss me,

We really aren’t apart.20131214_holidaymemorial2013_1728


So be happy for me dear ones, 

You know I hold you dear,

And be glad I’m spending Christmas,


With the angels this year. 

I send you each a special gift,

From my heavenly home above,

I send you each a memory of,

My undying love.


After all “love” is the gift,sandy-hook-web

More precious than pure gold.

It was always most important, 

In the best stories told.


Please love and keep each other,20131213_holidaymemorial2013_1742

As the angel said to do,

For I can’t count the blessing,

Or love they have for each of you.


So, have a Merry Christmas,

And wipe away that tear.20131214_holidaymemorial2013_1737

Remember, I’m spending Christmas,

With the angels this year.


by Wanda Bencke in memory of her daughter Lysandr


To develop your own rituals, consider some of the following ideas and let us know what you do. Your rituals will give others ideas when their thinking is blocked.

Activities can include the telling of stories around a fireplace or bonfire, going to the burial site and praying, chanting, singing, serving the needy, making charitable contributions, doing a difficult feat such as a hike, balloon ride, or a surfboard paddle-out.

Items to use for rituals could be candles, rosemary (for remembrance), seeds, sand, feathers, balloons, crayons, rocks, ribbon, music, stars, or irises (for hope).


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Violent Loss Resources Team — Contact us

Connie Saindon:
Larry Edwards:

Violent Loss Resources Newsletter,  July 1, 2016

News you can use … collected for you in June. (Scroll down to see all.)

Contents include:

Topic of the Month:  The Criminal Justice Process
Question of the Month: What tips do you have?
News: Orlando
Inspiration: I’ll Cry Again
Book Resource: Accidental Truth
What you missed last month

Topic of the Month:

Murder Survivor’s Handbook
Chapter Six: The Criminal Justice Process  MSH in court

This chapter is full of helpful information, and much more than I can place in a monthly newsletter for you. So, I have chosen the contribution of a couple who were committed to helping others after their ordeal.  Let us know if you find this helpful or if you have something to add.

This photo of Murder Survivor’s Handbook is of a survivor in court.  She took the book with her every day to look things up and to help her ask questions of her advocate and prosecutor.

Courthouse Survival Advice

Once a trial date has been set, your next challenge is attending court proceedings with its rules and protocols. Bonnie and John had to endure this twice after their 80-year-old mother was raped and killed. They wrote Courthouse Survival Advice in the hopes that it would help others. Their heartfelt, practical advice continues to help families everywhere.

Bonnie and John start out by advising what to wear, not only to help give a good impression but also for comfort and ease. They know the stress you will experience. You can tell by their tone that they are speaking from the heart in wanting to help you from their own difficult experience of having to go through this process twice. This guide is several pages long and worth every word. Send copies to everyone you know that is following your case. Below is just a sample of the document. It is a must read.

  • Clothing – first of all, if you are clean and look halfway neat, you look better than most of the people at the courthouse. If you want to be dealing with the press, dress accordingly. They will put slobs on TV, but they don’t like to. Like it or not, there is often a lot of PR necessary in getting justice for your loved one. The lawyers will be wearing suits. The criminal may too. You don’t have to go so far as high heels or coat and tie, but stay away from the cutoffs and T-shirts.
  • Line up at least five (Monday through Friday) “easy-to-care-for and easy-to-live-in” outfits. I’d suggest an emphasis on comfortable clothing that you can sit in for hours, if necessary, without a lot of fussing, tucking, pinching and riding up.
  • Find a non-fussy hairdo and non-fussy makeup, etc. Pare down as much primping as you can in the morning, since you’ll be needing more sleep than you are used to needing. Fair warning – even good-quality eye makeup tends to run when you cry –and there’s nothing like courthouse proceedings to reduce you to tears.
  • Start taking VERY GOOD care of yourself, if you aren’t already. Work your schedule to allow you to get more sleep, take your vitamins, and get some calm exercise. Avoid caffeine; take it easy on junk food. You may find you will be more prone to colds, stomach upsets, etc. Stress will do you in.

There is so much more to their very helpful article; read more of it online and add your own pieces to it. Their article is available on the Survivors of Violent Loss Program website and listed in Resources at the end of this chapter.

Question of the Month

What tips do you have for Survivors and for Criminal Justice Professionals to help others who will be required to take this difficult journey?


The mourners in Orlando need to know they are not alone and have our support. They want to know how we have survived.  What can each of us do?  If you have lived the life of having someone who was killed violently, you relive your loss when this kind of incident is in the news.  Read the news and not watch it on TV so much.  The TV news coverage tends to replay the same very distressed folks over and over again.  Protect yourself and your ability to function.  Please send us your ideas.


I’ll Cry Again …

I cry again, this time for Orlando (6-16-16)

I cry again, this time for the Boston Marathon;

Time before it was the removal of memorabilia from the grave site of a murdered mother and infant;

Before that, I cried again and again and again for Sandy Hook;

I cry again for the first conversations between Dad and Yvonne about her mother who was murdered when she was just ten.

I’ll cry again, and again and again …

I cry when I read about the lives of homicide detectives, and how their lives are impacted.  The horrors they attempt to objectify to pursue the who-dun-its. The disappointments and blame they take on when justice isn’t served.

I’ll cry again when being safe is an illusion and being free is thwarted …

Can’t run a marathon, can’t go to first grade, can’t leave objects of love at a grave site, can’t go to class, can’t drive home from work, can’t go to work, can’t say no to going to the Prom, can’t say no when asked for a cigarette, can’t ride a bike in one’s neighborhood … can’t play at the park, can’t help a friend or sister out with her abusive boyfriend … can’t open your door at home, can’t have visitation at mom’s …

I’ll cry again, again and again …

I will continue to cry … and not go to Murder Mystery Cafes, watch made-up murder stories, nor support guns. It is now my nature to live life seriously.

As I know I will cry again, and again and again.

The tears won’t stop. There are too many stories in addition to the new ones that pile on.

Nor will it end for me not to buffer my tears with roses, irises, lavender, gardens, quiet, photography, cooking adventures,  walks along the ocean, cups of tea, turning off the TV and more …

I know I will cry again … it is the nature  of murder … and I will fight back with reciprocal intensity at what is beautiful in this world.

I  know that I grow and increase my convictions with the strengths I see in each survivor  I know.

I know we will cry …

Connie Saindon  (4-15-13)  

Book Resources: Accidental Truth

This book is a memoir of a daughter, Lauri Taylor, who would not give up the search for who murdered her mom.  A housewife who navigated four years between two countries and multiple helpful and not helpful criminal justice professionals to reach a final and surprising ending—the truth.  There are lots of lessons in this journey about working with and outside the criminal justice system.

Quote: Sandra Levy ‘s mother said
on the NBC Today Show, 5/3/16, that when  she was told that the convicted killer was getting a new trial, No matter what we still lost our daughter.  Sandra’s mom uses art to help others because she knows the media moves on, but the families don’t.

What you missed last month:

Topic of the Month:  The Homicide Investigation
Question of the Month: What tips and lessons would you like to pass on to others?
Resource of the Month: Black’s Online Law Dictionary
Inspiration: Some things have to be carried …
Book Resource: R.I.P Memorial Wall

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Violent Loss Resources Team — Contact us

Connie Saindon:
Larry Edwards:

New Book

The Journey

Learning to Live with Violent Death

leads people through a healing process
after losing a loved one to a violent death


When a loved one dies due to violence, survivors are plunged into an overwhelming world of chaos, trauma, and grief.

The_Journey_front_cover web
The Journey: Learning to Live with Violent Death is a workbook for adults (and those who work with them) who have been impacted by violent death through homicide, suicide, terrorism, drunk driving, and domestic violence.

It offers a process to help shore up the resiliency of the readers and support-group members as they learn to live with a horrific loss. This self-help guide is a resource for individuals and support group facilitators.

It meets the need of those who may not have access to trained specialists or those who may wish to strengthen their ability to live with what has happened more privately.
In addition, The Journey can aid professionals in offering services — services with which they are unfamiliar — in a more informed way.

The workbook provides an easy-to-follow, ten-step process with survivor writers who answer the same questions to lend a helping hand to those who follow in their footsteps.

It is based on the Restorative Retelling model developed by Edward K. Rynearson, MD, a leader in the field of in the field of violent death bereavement and founder of the Violent Death Bereavement Society.

Nationally, there are about 50,000 violent deaths annually. From that number, there are an additional ten to twelve people connected to the victim who are significantly impacted by this loss. These numbers do not take into account returning soldiers and their families who have been impacted by violent death as well.

Written by Connie Saindon, MA, MFT, the book is being formally released on Dec. 8, 2015, in memory of Connie’s sister “Tiny” who was murdered, at age 17, on this date in 1961.

The book is available in print and ebook formats.

Praise for the book

The current amount of material in this field is quite sparse and The Journey will prove to be valuable for professionals working with this population and for the co-victims as well.

Deborah Spungen, author of
And I Don’t Want to Live This Life
and founder of Families of Murder
Victims in Philadelphia

The Journey workbook is a much needed and useful aid for survivors of violent death.

Alison Salloum, PhD, LCSW
University of South Florida

Connie Saindon has brought the theoretical into the practical with this user-friendly workbook for family and friends of those who have died traumatically.

Janice Harris Lord, author of
No Time for Goodbyes
and former Director of
Victim Services of MADD


• Nonfiction: Death, Grief, Bereavement
• Publisher: Wigeon Publishing
• Publication date: December 8, 20145
• Size, print edition: 8.5 x 11
• Pages: 222
• Formats:
• paperback; ISBN: 978-0-9896913-8-3; $19.95
• e-book: Kindle, iBooks, Nook, Kobo, etc.; $7.99


About the Author

Connie SConnie Saindon, author, Murder Survivor's Handbook: Real-life Stories, Tips & Resourcesaindon is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and among the few specialists in the field of violent death bereavement. She is the founder of the nonprofit Survivors of Violent Loss Program in San Diego, which began at the University of California-San Diego outpatient clinic in 1998. Her commitment to violent loss bereavement is related to the loss of her sister, aged 17, to homicide in 1961.

She is author of Murder Survivor’s Handbook: Real-Life Stories, Tips & Resources, which received a Benjamin Franklin Gold Award in 2015. She also is a contributing author of Violent Death, Resilience and Intervention Beyond the Crises (2006).

When not pursuing her professional interests she may be found kayaking in the Atlantic or Pacific oceans, skiing, walking her dog, or taking photographs. A native New Englander, Saindon splits her time between Boothbay, ME, and San Diego, CA.



Connie Saindon


Learn more at Violent Loss Resources:


What do a nurse, Director of Families and Friends of Murder Victims, a teacher, a Chaplin, Directors of Restorative Justice, therapist, missionary and survivor have in common? They are members of a trained team in San Bernardino, and they need our support.

They have prepared for the past three years to be ready — to be ready for their work and support survivors of violent loss. Many are driven to make a difference from their own grief stories to show how they have survived. Many continue a career in aiding humanity, all committed to knowing how they can help survivors after murder and other violent deaths.

It was an honor to be among such incredible people again the week just before Thanksgiving. They had all given up there weekend to spend three days together learning more about The Journey, a ten week support group.

sister 2013web


DSC_0007 ssiters Trainee group 2013



They have formed a team that will support each other as they take the tools that The Journey provides them in working with others with the ideas and support from the evidence-based model Restorative Retelling by Edward Rynearson, MD.

The Journey: Learning to Live with Violent Loss, with its accompanying audio recordings, will be released December 8, 2015. This is an updated version of the book published in 2008 by Connie Saindon. Three more real stories have been added along with more examples of Survivor Heroes, Missions and support-group guidelines. The book will be available on and other retail outlets, along with her other book, the award winning Murder Survivors Handbook: Real-Life Stories, Tips and Resources.

To support the San Bernardino Team, contact Anna Hamilton, Assoc. Director of Restorative Justice at 909-475-5474 or

For more information about the books and support-group training, contact Connie Saindon, MFT, Founder of Survivors of Violent Loss and Violent Loss Resources, at 858-699-7700 or


Connie Saindon






Please contact DAYNA HERROZ for any questions 619-955-6084 or SVLP@SVLP.ORG





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BC_Survivors of Violent Loss_Oct_22_ 2014

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me-memorial-webby Connie Saindon

News: September 26, 2014, Maine National Day of Remembrance of Murder Victims

Sister Nina Hodgkins attended the Maine Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims as proclaimed by Maine Governor Paul LePage. The new memorial wall for the state of Maine was established by the Maine Chapter of Parents of Murdered Children just last year. I was fortunate to be able to attend their ceremony with Nina last summer. Nina has been the lead for our family in getting our sister’s name Shirley “Tiny” Dianne Rollins on the new memorial wall. Other murder victims our family has known are Frank Williams and Chet Lee Worthington. Their names are included in this remembrance.

Murder Survivor's Handbook: Real-life Stories, Tips & ResourcesThe San Diego effort for this day of remembrance is the launching of Murder Survivors Handbook. This two and half year project is both heart wrenching and heartfelt. The book includes the commitment of many survivors who wanted to help new comers to have more information and resources than they had. Positive reviews continue to come in. A real lesson as well to those who wonder what it is like for folks to have this type of loss. It has been indeed an honor to work with so many and we all hope that it will make a difference in learning to bear this unspeakable crime.


rr_saindonIMG_0571River of Remembrance held its annual event to coincide with this special day as well here in San Diego. It is held the Saturday before the National Day (September 25) to increase the ability for more to attend. Survivors rarely have opportunity to talk about their loved one’s life, and this event facilitates them doing so. By having rocks bearing their names and placed in a “river” and T-shirts to paint a memory of their loved one they want us all to know about, too. They would not want to be remembered just as murder victims. This event was created by the Founder of Survivors of Violent Loss, Connie Saindon, and held at the Crime Victims Oak Garden with permission of the Cara Knott family. Many agencies co-sponsor this event every year.

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