Common reactions after a homicide

You will experience some early reactions with the initial shock of finding out, but in the next weeks, months, and even years, it’s likely strong thoughts, feelings, and other reactions will continue.

The official investigation, coronial process, court hearings, and parole can all, unfortunately, take a long time.

You may feel like it’s too much to handle at times. Many people say that it’s so intense it can feel like they are going crazy.  Everyone is different, but it can be reassuring to know some of the common reactions that you might experience in this situation.

  • shock, disbelief
  • numbness – unable to feel anything
  • helplessness, powerlessness – things feel out of control
  • emotional pain and distress
  • sadness, despair, yearning for the person
  • anger, rage
  • revengeful thoughts
  • guilt for not stopping it, shame
  • fear, anxiety, unsafe
  • uncertainty
  • judged or blamed by others
  • alone, isolated
  • depression, hopelessness
  • heart racing
  • tight chest, hard to catch a deep breath
  • shaking
  • tearful, crying, sobbing
  • nausea, stomach aches
  • hard to sleep, or sleeping more
  • body aches, headaches
  • exhaustion and moving slower, or high energy and restless
  • appetite changes
  • sensitive to noise and light
  • more accident prone
  • falling sick more easily, pre-existing health conditions can worsen
  • hard to believe it happened
  • everything’s a blur, time warps
  • mind racing or thinking very slowly
  • wanting more information
  • difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness
  • difficulty making decisions
  • unsettling thoughts, preoccupied by what happened
  • nightmares
  • flashbacks - reliving what happened
  • keeping close to others, or being alone more
  • wanting to talk, or not talking
  • intruded on - by people you don’t know, media, and even those you do know
  • avoiding certain people, places, or situations that are reminders
  • irritable, intolerant of others
  • using drugs or alcohol to cope
  • loss of interest in things you enjoy

  • trying to make sense of it
  • questioning - why? what if?
  • turning towards cultural beliefs and/or faith, or questioning them
  • unsure of the future
  • sensing the presence of the person who has died, or of tīpuna (ancestors)

Most people find the intensity of their reactions will gradually lessen, but this usually takes longer than most people expect. As a homicide is a traumatic death, you’re likely to be experiencing both grief and trauma reactions.  Our information sheets below explains more about grief and trauma:

Victim Support has developed a helpful information handbook for those affected by homicide, in partnership with Skylight. You can see a PDF version of it here or ask your Support Worker for a printed copy.


Coping with Trauma
When you are Grieving
Dealing with flashbacks
After a homicide: Supporting grieving children and young people
With you on your journey (Handbook)