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Section VI

Violent Death: Drunk Driving and Homicide

1445 - 1600


To demonstrate the impact of violent death via homicide or drunk driving on the victim 15 minutes VCR & Monitor

Video Corrections -- Crime Victims in CDC Communications from Chief of Chaplains office of your branch of the service

Show last two segments of Corrections -- Crime Victims Video on homicide
To process the heavy information given in the video 10 minutes Have participants give thoughts in response to the material on the tape. Ask if any have had to counsel such victims-- Compare that experience with tape information
To clarify difference between death by homicide (vehicular and otherwise) and death by illness 10 minutes Overhead projector & screen

Transparency made from p. T50

Training manual p. 200 and transparencies made from pp. T51 & T52.

Show transparencies & present items outlined on it with expanded information in manual .

Show and discuss transparencies.

To understand the reactions to violent death 5 minutes Overhead projector & screen

Manual p. 201

Transparencies made from pp. T13 & T14.

Show transparencies & discuss
To identify the stress factors caused by violent death 6 minutes Overhead projector & screen

Transparency made from p. T15

Manual p. 202

Show transparency & discuss information shown and in the manual page.
To determine how the justice system can cause further stress for the victim 4 minutes Overhead projector & screen

Manual pp. 203, 204

Transparency made from p. T16.

Show transparency & discuss information shown and in the manual
To consider ways to respond to needs of survivors of victims of homicide 10 minutes Easel & flip chart with felt tip pens Ask participants for helpful ways to respond to the trauma expressed by survivors of victims of homicide

List various suggestions on flip chart

Continued on next page

1445 - 1600 Violent Death: Drunk Driving and Homicide (continued)


To explore additional positive ways to respond to needs of the survivors of victims of homicide 15 minutes Transparencies made from pp. T17, T18, &


Training manual

pp. 205-209

Show transparencies and discuss items shown as well as information provided in the manual
TOTAL 75 minutes

1600 - 1630 Review of Chaplain Specific Issues

This last half hour is reserved for informal discussion and by all participants to review information from entire two days and discuss the responses that may be specific to military chaplains and their work. Participants should have the manual in hand and glance through each subject area to assist with the review.



"Survivors of homicide victims (including drunk driving deaths)" is a phrase used to describe those individuals who had special ties of kinship with the person murdered, and who were therefore victimized, not only by the loss of someone close, but also by the horrific circumstances of that untimely death. Survivors are usually thought of as family members or close friends, but at times the term may include people with seemingly more distant relationships such as neighbors, school mates, and members of the community at large.


Murder and homicide are defined as the reckless or intentional taking of a human life by another individual. It includes those killed in drunk driving crashes, since driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is quite properly considered to be criminally reckless conduct.

Let it be said at the outset: nothing in life prepares survivors for the day when a loved one is murdered. Most people live with illusions of immortality both for themselves and the people they know, at least before they reach old age. Death of a younger person is always a shock to those who grieve, who may even be stunned by the expected death of an old, infirm relative.

But murder involves more than death. For a majority of victims, it cuts short a healthy, young life, and for all victims, it is committed through an act of wanton human cruelty. The dimension of cruelty compounds the sense of sorrow and loss with acute feelings of injustice, distrust, and helplessness.

Clergy and Untimely Death

Death, even untimely death, is a phenomenon with which most clergy are very familiar. It is to this event that they are always called and to which they minister.

Most clergy have had some training in dealing with bereavement and the grief process. They are familiar with the stages of the bereaved's reaction:

* Denial * Anger * Powerlessness * Depression * Acceptance

Every minister, priest, rabbi, and imam has his or her own methods for ministering to people in each of these stages. However, since sudden, violent death is not as frequent an occurrence, a few comments on response to same seem appropriate.

Common Reactions

The common response to any extraordinary trauma is crisis. The long term effect of the crisis is influenced by a number of objective and subjective factors, such as:

It is clear that learning of a loved one's murder is intense, sudden, and virtually impossible to understand. Hence, most survivors face a long period of emotional struggle to reconstruct a devastated life.

That private turmoil is characterized by a number of different feelings:

Stress Factors

Note to Clergy: This list of stress factors comes from a publication of the National Organization for Victim Assistance. It expresses what professional victim advocates have experienced. There are many theological implications here. A special word will follow on this particular stressor.

A Unique Stressor -- The Criminal Justice System

Most survivors turn to the criminal justice system for a special kind of emotional support as well as practical support in their passion to see the assailant apprehended, prosecuted, convicted and punished.

In all three cases, survivors are often surprised with their own reactions. When a "not guilty" verdict is delivered, the survivors report disillusionment, outrage, and isolation -- and much more intensely than they had anticipated. At times survivors even fear retaliation by the defendant.

If a "guilty" verdict is handed down with an inappropriate sentence from the perspective of the survivor, the reactions are usually the same.

If a "guilty" verdict is handed down followed by an appropriately severe sentence from the perspective of the survivor, survivors are often surprised by their response. Survivors typically assume that a just conclusion will salve their pain, and they are sometimes shocked when it does not. One reason for this is that, from the point of arrest onward, most survivors concentrate so much on the criminal justice dimension that they do not allow themselves the time or space for grieving. Hence, when the trial is over, their emotions are no longer "on hold" and they are plunged back to a starting place in the grieving process.

(1) Excerpts from NOVA Network Information Bulletin, Vol. 2, No. 3, October 1985, National Organization for Victim Assistance, Washington, DC.

Clergy Counsel at the Time

of Violent Death

In the above information professional victim advocates are quoted: "Many survivors find comfort in their religion, but even their religious community may react with misguided compassion. Statements such as 'it was God's will', 'your loved one is better off in heaven,' or 'God called him' often alienates survivors not only from the person speaking but from their own faith. Some survivors report that they are advised to 'forgive the murderer' or 'pray for his redemption.' Such advice is not only infuriating but painful to hear."

Although it is difficult to read statements by victim assistance professionals about religious concepts, it should be understood, that whatever the position of the minister, priest, rabbi, or imam on such things as the sovereignty of God, life after death or forgiveness, survivors are really not in a place to hear theological concepts. This is true even though they may even be asking questions like, "Why did God allow this to happen?, etc."

Rather, this is a time for merely being with the survivor in his or her suffering. It is said of the prophet Ezekiel, in ministering to the pain of the captive Israelites, that he "sat where they sat." (2) If the survivor asks something like "Where is he or she now?" it may be appropriate to give a response, but certainly not with the inference that the victim is better off (even if our faith assures us that he or she is). Because of the suddenness and the violence of the event, the survivor is incapable of hearing such at this time.

A helpful response may be to give assurance that God is with us in this suffering. In this evil, God suffers as well. Also in this pain, God is a "very present help". Even though survivors may be even questioning the God in which they have always believed, it is paradoxical that they are usually still willing to go there for comfort and strength. And, when they do, they invariably receive it.

Forgiveness is an even more delicate issue. Clergy know how strong the scriptural teaching is on this subject, and that true healing of the wounds of an offense can come through forgiveness. But timing is so very important. The grieving period, which may be months or years, is not the time to recommend this. Later, in order to release the terrible burden, it may come. One survivor, who was a strong Christian, said, "I know I should forgive, but I can't." An appropriate response might be, "Let's not worry about that now. Perhaps later, for your sake, you may want to, and then be given strength."

How To Be Of Comfort

Don't desert. After the funeral is over there is a tendency to leave the bereaved alone and forsaken. "Where did everyone go?" is the question of many bereaved people. "What happened? Why is no one around? Did I do something wrong? I feel like I must have a dangerous disease."

Don't try to fix the pain. Bereavement is painful. There must be pain before there can be healing. The most difficult thing to learn about comforting is to permit the bereaved to live their own pain. It is one thing to sorrow with a person but quite another thing to interfere with their pain.

Listen with your heart. Grieving is a matter of the heart rather than the head. Listening to the feelings of the bereaved is most important, permitting the sorrow to surface and the pain to be openly expressed. Invite all feelings to surface and listen through the silences. Your being there is more important than knowing what to say.

Accept all expressions of grief without censoring. Often there are aggressive feelings expressed, including anger, resentment, guilt and shame. Sometimes the bereaved feel cheated by God. Let them be angry. God understands grief.

Permit the bereaved opportunity to talk openly about the departed loved one. This is a vital part of the healing process. Enforced silence in this regard can be very detrimental and prevent recovery.

Remain available. When death had been expected the bereavement will generally last approximately six months. Unexpected death takes longer, up to thirteen months and more. Regardless of how long it takes, we must remain available until the grieving subsides.

Be sincere. Do not make a pretense at being interested in the bereaved if you are not. Pretense really can hurt. Think how you want to be treated and always seek to be kind.


A collection of feelings expressed by victims

Rev. Dr. Richard Lord

Don't explain.

As deeply as I cry out "Why?", I know there is no rational explanation. My "Why?" is more a longing for God to hold me in His arms and give me some comfort than it is a question I want answered. I don't want you to try to give me answers. What has happened is absurd. It is surely not as God intended life to be. It doesn't make sense. God didn't cause it. The devil didn't cause it. It could not have been God's will.

Therefore, let us together try to explain the cause of the tragedy as factually and honestly as possible. I want God, and you as my pastor, as companions who will stand with me in my longings, not as sources of explanation.

Don't take away my reality.

My pain seems unbearable to me and yet, in light of what has happened, it feels right that I should be in pain. I know it is uncomfortable for you. I know you want to take it away. But you can't, so please don't try. The pain is a sign to me of how much I have loved and how much I have lost. If I have doubts, I am angry, understand that these are normal reactions to a very abnormal situation. I will not always be like this, but I am now. These are my feelings. Please respect them.

Help me deal with forgiveness with integrity.

Understand that if my faith is important to me, I will struggle with the issue of forgiveness. I will remember all the times I've been told that I must forgive. And yet, something deep within me resists forgiving someone who has not even said, "I'm sorry."

I wonder if I am the appropriate one to forgive that person who harmed or injured someone I love. I don't feel obligated to forgive; I don't even feel that I have the right to forgive in those circumstances. But yet, I feel uncomfortable in my resistance to forgive.

I am also troubled by the difference between forgiving and forgetting. I desperately want my loved one who has been killed or injured to be remembered. I resist anything that threatens the memory of one who has died. Therefore, even if I do decide at some point that I can honestly and with integrity offer forgiveness, please don't ask me to forget what happened. It is impossible to forget, and, to me, it is very undesirable as well. Even Jesus said "Remember me" when He was dying on the cross.

Understand that forgiveness is far more than just saying three words, "I forgive you." If I say the words, they must be true. I must speak them from the depths of my very soul with absolute integrity. Don't push me to say the words just to satisfy you. I can only say them if I come to really mean them.

Stay close.

Just as a one-year-old child learns to walk with someone close by to steady him when he stumbles, stay close enough so I can reach out and steady myself on you when I need to. Understand my need to grieve, my need to withdraw, my need to agonize, but remind me that you're there to lean on when I want to share my pain.

Remember me ... for a long time.

This loss will always be a part of me. I'll need to talk about it for years to come. Most people will be tired of hearing about it after a period of time. Be the person who will invite me to share my feelings about this after others have moved on to other concerns. If my loved one has died, mention his or her name from time to time and let us remember together.

Don't be frightened of my anger.

Anger isn't nice to be around. But it's part of what I'm feeling now, and I need to be honest about it. I won't hurt myself or anybody else. I know my anger doesn't threaten God. People get angry in the Bible. Even God got angry at certain things. The one to worry about is the one who has experienced violence but hasn't become angry.

Listen to my doubt.

You stand for faith, and I want you to, but listen to my doubt so you can hear the pain it is expressing. Like anger, doubt is not pleasant to be around, so people will want to talk me out of it. But for right now, let me express the questions which are measured by the depth of the loss I feel. If I cannot doubt, my faith will have no meaning. It is only as I move through doubt that a more meaningful faith will develop.

Be patient.

My progress will not be steady. I'll slip back just when everyone thinks I'm doing so well. Be one to whom, on occasion, I can reveal my weakness and regression. Let me be weak around you and not always strong. I'll make it, but it will take much longer than most people think. I'll need your patience.

Remind me this isn't all there is to life.

My pain and my questions consume me. I think and feel nothing else. Remind me there is more to life than my understanding and my feelings. Speak the word "God," not to dull my pain, but to affirm life. I don't want God as an aspirin but as a companion who shares my journey. Stay beside me and remind me of that Eternal Presence which can penetrate even my grief.



also by

Dr. Richard P. Lord

They want answers,
But they know there are none,
They want people present
But they want to be alone
They want people to understand,
But they know no one does.
They want to be loved.
But they react angrily.
They pull,
But they push.
Help me, O Lord
To listen more than to speak
To be more than to do
To share more than to give.
For it is
In listening that they will hear
To being that they will heal
In sharing that they will receive.

(1) "Out of the Depths" by Dr. Richard P. Lord, Rush Creek Christian Church, Arlington, Texas.

A Practical Guide

A publication by Janice Lord, National Director of Victim Services for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, is entitled Beyond Sympathy (1). Coming from someone who is in constant touch with survivors of drunk driving victims, this book gives very direct and practical responses to the tragedy of violent death. The following is a summary of some of the subjects covered:

From Uneasiness to Understanding

The First Step in Helping

Understanding the Needs of People in Specific Situations

Serious injury

Terminal illness

Death following illness

Sudden death


Helping Principles

Empathetic Listening

Active Support

Special Issues

Understanding reactions of children

Planning and attending funerals

Coping with holidays

Understanding spiritual and mystical experiences

Suggesting counseling

Preventing suicide

Note: Review of this publication does not indicate endorsement by U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime

(1) Lord, Janice, Beyond Sympathy, 458 Dorothy Avenue, Ventura, CA 93003: Pathfinder Publishing Co.




Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) -- National (214) 744-6233

511 East John Carpenter Freeway, 0700 1(800) GET-MADD

Irving, Texas 75062

Students Against Driving Drunk (SADD) (508) 481-3568

255 Main Street

Marlboro, Massachusetts 01752

The Compassionate Friends (708) 990-0010

P.O. Box 3696

Oakbrook, Illinois 60522-3696

National District Attorney's Association (703) 549-9222

99 Canal Center Plaza, Suite 510

Alexandria, Virginia 22314

National Victim Center (703) 276-2880

2111 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 300

Arlington, Virginia 22201

National Organization for Victim Assistance (202) 232-6682

1757 Park Road, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20010

National Victims Resource Center 1(800) 627-6872

P.O. Box 6000

Rockville, Maryland 20850

Parents of Murdered Children (513) 721-5683

100 East Eighth Street, Suite B-41

Cincinnati, Ohio 45202

The Spiritual Dimension in Victim Services (303) 333-8810

P.O. Box 6736

Denver, Colorado 80206-0736

Legal Resources

The Crime Victims' Law Firm (803) 722-0082

P.O. Box 821

Charleston, SC 29402

V.A.L.O.R. (703) 538-6898

P.O. Box 862

McLean, VA 22101-0862

FOR LOCAL RESOURCES, clergy may contact any of the above listed national organizations for information as to local affiliates, or the Victim and Witness Assistance Coordinator in their community through the offices of the state's, district or city attorney.



Lord, Janice Harris Beyond Sympathy, Ventura, CA: Pathfinder Books, 1988.

Wolfelt, Alan D., M.D., Death and Grief: A Guide for Clergy, Muncie, IN: Excellerated Development, 1988.

Blankenship, Jayne, In the Center of the Night: Journey Through a Bereavement, New York: Putnam, 1984.

Schiff, Harriet Sarnoff, Living Through Mourning: Finding Comfort and Hope When a Loved One Has Died, New York: Viking Press, 1986.

Rando, Therese, ed., Parental Loss of a Child, Champaign, Illinois: Research Press Co., 1986.

Donnelly, Catherine Fair, Recovering from the Loss of a Child, New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1982.

Nudel, Adele Rice, Starting Over: Help for Young Widows and Widowers, New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1986.


Cato, Sid, Healing Life's Great Hurts, Chicago: Chicago Review Press.

Lord, Janice Harris, No Time for Goodbyes: Coping with Sorrow, Anger, and Injustice After a Tragic Death, Ventura, California: Pathfinder Publishing, 1987.


Lewis, C.A., A Grief Observed, Scranton, Pennsylvania: Seabury Press (Harper Religious Books).

Neufeld, Elsie K., Dancing in the Dark: A Sister Grieves, Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press, 1990.

Granger, Westberg, Good Grief, Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Linbergh, Ann, Hour of Lead: Sharing Sorrow, Minneapolis: Redpath Press.

Wolterstorff, N., Lament of a Son, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans.

Wisenthal, Simon, The Sunflower, New York: Schocken Books.

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