Vol 7 No 1 (2016)

Life After Homicide: Towards Broader Understandings of Successful Mourning

Alison Whittmire
Athabasca University
Open Door - Suchak
Published December 10, 2015


Prevalent psychological theories of grief focus on "letting go" of a deceased loved one. This can lead to a narrow understanding of successful mourning and can falsely pathologize some of the positive actions of people who have lost a loved one to murder. Utilizing secondary sources and insights written by homicide survivors, this paper specifically explores active homicide survivorship — that is, people who have become personally, socially and/or politically motivated by both their loss and by an intense and continuing commitment to their lost loved one. The paper argues that we need to examine the topic of mourning not only from an individual and psychological perspective, but as actions that occur within, and are influenced by, broader cultural, social, historical and gendered contexts. By taking an interdisciplinary approach to bereavement that considers broader contexts, a more complex and inclusive understanding of successful mourning can be attained. When such a comprehensive approach is taken, it becomes possible to see the decision to "hold on" to a lost loved one as life-affirming, rational, and resilient, rather than pathological.