The shock of finding out about a homicide

The homicide death of someone close to you is one of the most traumatic experiences a person can face. We recognise how painful this can be for everyone affected.

Our trained Support Workers can provide bereaved families, whānau, and friends with personal and practical support, for as long as you need it. You can call us 24/7 on 0800 842 846 to be connected with a Support Worker. We are here for you.

Early Reactions
Shock, disbelief, and numbness are common early reactions when you first hear the news, witness what happened, or witness the scene afterwards. 

Everyone will react in their own way, but it’s common for people to experience some strong reactions. You may feel:

  • it’s hard to take in and understand what’s happened to the person who was killed – or even believe it
  • horrified, helpless, and powerless – things feel out of control
  • stunned, unable to feel anything, to think or speak
  • concerned for the safety of your family, whānau, and friends, or yourself
  • extreme anger and rage at the perpetrator(s) and be worried they won’t be caught and might do this again
  • you could or should have somehow prevented the death – self-blame, guilt, angry at yourself
  • pre-occupied with disturbing images and memories – real or imagined, or troubled by nightmares or flashbacks, as if it were happening again
  • you want to avoid people and places that remind you of what happened
  • blamed or judged by others
  • intruded on - by people you don’t know, media, and even by those you do know
  • you want to have more time alone
  • distressed and angered by the senselessness and injustice of the death.

Many people also suffer physical reactions, such as a tight chest, a racing heart, shakiness, nausea, body aches, headaches, difficulty sleeping or changes in appetite, or controllable sobbing or crying.

These kinds of early reactions are normal responses to a traumatic situation but can be hard to deal with at times.

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.


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