Lori Grande, sister of a homicide victim
One of the most profound vehicles for validating the impact of a homicide is a Victim Impact Statement (VIS). This important tool in the healing process is not available to survivors in unsolved cases. Your experience matters, whether validated in a court of law or not.
Write your Victim Impact Statement for yourself.
Share it, if that helps.
Who was your loved one - tell their story. Who was he/she/they in your family/life?
Interactions with detectives and prosecutor; role/impact of these relationships in your life.
What happened - the homicide and the investigation.
Changes to life which occurred as a result of the homicide and aftermath.
Living without closure - impact on well-being.
The impact of an unsolved homicide is constant - the response evolves. The purpose of writing is to integrate and empower rather than disassociate and be controlled by the experience.
Take the reins.
Notice what triggers you, what supports you.
What, When, Where, Who?
Where do feelings of defeat surface in my life?
What do I habitually do when those signs appear? Does that help?
What actions/activities help me to find a momentary release when those signs appear?
Where did I start and where am I going now?
What “wants” do I have outside of the confines of the case going to trial?
What concerns take up mental energy: positive and/or negative?
Where, when, with whom, or what frees me to fall down or be vulnerable?
What control do I have over the impact of an unsolved homicide on my life?
What do I think I am supposed to do or be doing?
What do I want to do? How can what I want to do lead to my well-being?
How/who/what defines success?
Who or what has control of that definition?
Who or what determines my response?
If I am not in the driver's seat of my life and well-being, how can I change that dynamic?
The only things I can control
are my thoughts,
and how I feel.
Therein lies one's power.
in an unending storm
is the first step
in directing its path.
Find power in the response.
Unsolved homicide is an epidemic; shadowing the lives of victims' families. The aftermath of murder is synonymous with trying to stay on top of a cliff during an avalanche.
When The First 48’s filming of my brother’s (William F. Fenzau) homicide investigation resulted in a botched case and all charges dropped on the suspect, I became the driving force behind the continued investigation by the City of Miami Police and the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. I jumped between the roles of mother, teacher and sleuth. My life depended upon getting the case to trial until my life depended upon finding a way to live in peace.
In the retelling of the Native American Legend, The Story of Jumping Mouse, by John Steptoe, a young mouse faces an onslaught of obstacles, sacrifices parts of himself to others, and laments that he is not the same mouse from when his journey began. As I pursued the investigation into my brother's murder, I was comforted while reading this book to kindergarteners at snack time. Each time Jumping Mouse lost another part of himself, he found courage by repeating the phrase, "there will be a way." Likewise, I believed that eventually there would be a way to justice.
My identity of teacher and mother were my salvation. Whether resolving conflict at recess or reading a bedtime story to my daughter, I shut off the case and entered the present moment. Over eighteen years, I transformed and manifested another identity, that of sleuth, or more descriptively as one witness nicknamed me, "hunter." The transformation was ugly. Eventually, like Jumping Mouse, I accepted how I changed and learned to fly.
Before I speak to where I have arrived, I must provide the context of how and why I got here. My hope is that by recalling this journey and what I learned, it will be helpful to those catapulted into the aftermath of a homicide and/or the absence of justice.
Traumatic bereavement is a singular journey that is benefited by the company of others. Some might find healing in support groups, others with individual counseling or with a trusted friend. Still others will turn to short or long-term use of psychiatric medicine, or find support in a religious community, or maybe even a community not related to bereavement at all, but where one feels seen and heard. Likewise, one approach for support may begin to fade in its effectiveness and necessitate a replacement. Traumatic bereavement needs a healthy container where it can be addressed, nurtured, expressed and honored. However, one size does not fit all.
This is the reason behind this section. My hope is that it offers enough options of support for bereavement after homicide that no one has to feel alone. It takes more than one root to support a soul.
Traumatic Bereavement Articles
Grief and Loss Organizations & Education
Articles on Substance Abuse and Domestic Violence