Though it doesn’t directly involve legal issues, I was touched by this story in the Washington Post, which offers fiction writers some insight on the “complicated grief” the families of crime victims often experience. Our characters act out of their own experiences; their emotions may motivate them in surprising ways. This story about about the Wendt Center for Loss and Healing in Washington, DC, may also offer some character opportunities: the young boy whose father killed his mother but was acquitted when the child, the only witness, waffled on the stand; the grandmother who lost her daughter and now must raise her grandson; the counselors who work with these families; the Episcopal priest who started the center because he felt his congregation “did not deal well with mortality;” the therapists stationed at the morgue to help people who come in to identify a body. The Center — part of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, a group of trauma-treatment organizations established by Congress in 2000 — is what the article calls “the resource you hope you never have to use.”
But your characters may need need it.
Leslie, thank you for sharing this. Grief is complex in real life and should be so reflected in fiction.
There is another kind of grief, somewhat like complicated grief, called disenfranchised grief. Simply put, it’s grief that is not as socially acceptable or easy to address by general support groups: grief at the death of an affair partner, for instance, or an ex-spouse, as well as grief after a murder/suicide, or a miscarriage. In addition to the pain of loss, there’s also shame or feeling your grief is not “equal” to others.
Ramona, thanks for mentioning that. In some of the scenarios you mention, there’s also an absence of societal approval or acknowledgement. I once mediated a conflict between a supervisor and an employee for a client, and the employee, among her many grievances, complained that the supervisor had been given time off when his former wife died. In her mind, that was evidence of his “special treatment,” because they weren’t married. Made no difference to her that they had young children, which kept them involved with each other, and of course, he now had the children to comfort and attend to.
How neat that you posted this. I’m a widow of just over a year and often think people feel I should be over it already. But I sometimes find tears rising over little things that bring back memories.
Recently I had finished a second reading of American Sniper and then the author Chris Kyle was killed. I’ve been sadden and down over his death since I heard about it. I told my niece I think I can sort of identify with his wife even though my husband was ill and didn’t die a violent death it was sudden. I’ve tried to reason with myself that I was being silly.
Kathy, my condolences on the loss of your husband. I suspect that those “little things” that bring you to tears also bring you much joy.
Chris Kyle’s death is so very sad. To survive two tours in a high-stress, highly vulnerable position and be killed, along with another man, by a man he’d hoped to help — no sense in that. The news brought me to tears as well.