Finding ways to cope with a homicide

Grief takes the time it needs. On days when you wonder if you’ll get through this painful time, be reassured that you will, one step at a time.

Grieve in a way that is right for you
Take things one day at a time. Only do what’s essential. Don't be hurried by the expectations of others.

Looking after yourself is important
Encourage others who have been affected to do the same. Eat healthy food. Drink enough water. Keep up routines and get good rest and sleep, as best you can. Do some simple exercise. Take some slow, deep breaths. Spend time with people you can relax with, or with a pet. Spend time in nature. If you find keeping busy helps, find useful tasks to do. See a doctor if you’re unwell, extremely anxious, or are having difficulty sleeping. Draw on any cultural or spiritual beliefs you may have. Accept caring offers from others if that would help.

A flashback feels as though you’re back in the middle of your traumatic experience or reliving some aspect of it. This can be in vivid detail and during a flashback it can be difficult and confusing to connect back to the present and to what is real. To better understand flashbacks and ways to manage them, see our information sheet Dealing with Flashbacks.

Express your thoughts and feelings
When you’re ready, share how things are for you with trusted close family, whānau or friends.  Write thoughts down, walk or run them out, punch a pillow, or cry when you need to.

Remember the person’s life
It’s not how they died that counts the most. Think about and share good memories with others. Maybe collect some memories together in a scrapbook or box. Find ways to honour their life, such as lighting a candle, making something special, or putting their photo up.

Connect with your family, whānau, and friends
They’re likely to be grieving too. Supporting each other can help a lot. Don’t lose touch with people who care about you. Ask for help when you need it, including cultural or spiritual support. See the related links at the bottom of this page.

Expect some painful reminders
Even small things, such as a photo, a sound, a place, certain music, or a favourite food can suddenly cause deep emotion. Take some deep breaths. Cry if you need to. Find ways to manage flashbacks if disturbing things you witnessed or are imagining are coming back to you often. These reminders are a normal part of traumatic grief.

Consider talking through what happened with a counsellor or psychologist
Many people find this helps because homicide bereavement can be traumatic and extremely painful. Talk to your Victim Support Worker about getting free counselling.

It’s a relief to have a distraction sometimes
A relief to think about other things - doing chores, being at work. Spend time on an interest you have or in nature if you can. All this can help to give difficult thoughts and emotions a rest for a while, even if it’s just for a moment at a time.

Expect setbacks
There will be good days and bad days for quite a while after your loss. Grief never happens in a predictable, straight line. Use the support available.


  • not talking to anyone – keeping it all inside adds stress
  • using alcohol or drugs to blot out the grief – this can make things worse
  • making big decisions quickly – best wait until you’re thinking more clearly
  • not seeking help – get support when it’s needed.

Feeling overwhelmed right now?
You can call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846 to be connected with a Support Worker, or phone 1737, a free, confidential helpline to speak with a counsellor 24/7.

More tips for coping with your reactions
Our information sheets below may be useful to help you to understand more about trauma and grief, and to learn ways to manage your reactions.

If your reactions concern you

  • Make time to visit your doctor to explain what you’ve been going through. They can do a health check and support you with any ongoing issues, such as sleeplessness, anxiety, or depression.
  • Consider talking with a psychologist or counsellor who can help you work through your reactions to what has happened and its consequences for you and your family, whānau, and friends.

To find a doctor or counsellor

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.


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