Murder and manslaughter

When a friend or family member dies it can be a really upsetting and painful experience for anyone. But when you lose someone because of the violent actions of someone else – through murder or manslaughter – it can be really distressing.

This content has been written for children and young people. If you’re looking for information for over 18s, visit our Types of Crime information about murder and manslaughter.

There are a whole range of emotions that you might be feeling, but there’s no right or wrong way to react – whatever you feel is personal to you.

The important thing to remember is that most children and young people find it can really help to talk to someone, and that although it may not feel like it at the moment, things will get better.

Flowers taped to lamppost

‘Bereavement’ is the word that people use to describe the time it takes to adjust or get used to the fact that someone has died. Everyone experiences bereavement differently, and for different lengths of time.

Throughout that time your feelings may change from day to day. It’s hard enough having to cope with the fact that someone has died, but knowing that their death was caused by someone else can mean you have some very strong, sometimes overpowering feelings.

Although everyone reacts differently to murder or manslaughter, there are some feelings that are more common than others. Don’t worry if none of these feelings apply to you – there is no right or wrong way to react.

Feeling shocked or numb: having trouble believing that the person has been killed, or that you can’t take it in.

Angry: sometimes at the person who has died, sometimes at the person who caused their death, sometimes with everything. All of these feelings are natural responses to losing someone you love.

Guilty: you might be blaming yourself in some way for what has happened. Maybe you had an argument before they died, maybe you regret something that you said or did, or there might be something you wish you had done or said. But it’s not your fault in any way, and you really shouldn’t blame yourself.

Scared: the world as you have known it has changed and that can feel very scary. It can also be very scary to think that someone can take another person’s life, or cause their death. But you need to remember that you are not at risk or in danger, and that there are a lot of people who you can talk to and who can help you.

Sad: feelings of sadness can take over. At times you might feel like you can’t stop crying, or that you can’t cry at all. This stage may come and go for a while. Some days may be good and some bad. It is important that you don’t try to rush to feel better, or compare yourself to other people who seem to be coping better than you.

Depressed: you might feel like life has no meaning anymore, and that you don’t know how to go on. Talking about this with someone who will understand these difficult feelings is important so that you can get through them.

When someone you know has been murdered, trying to make sense of everything that has happened on your own can be terrifying and very upsetting. Talking about what you’re going through and how you feel can’t change what’s happened, but it can help in other ways. And while those around you may want to help support you, they may be struggling to cope as well.

So having someone else to listen and to help can be very important. If someone you know has been a victim of murder or manslaughter, you may have already been offered help and support by the Homicide Service. The service is run by Victim Support, and the people who work and volunteer for the service are specially trained in offering support, advice and practical help to people in the same situation as you. They can help you to cope with the effects of the crime, and all their help is confidential and free.

If you haven’t spoken to or been referred to the Homicide Service, talk to an adult you trust – a teacher, a family member, youth worker or support worker – about how you’re feeling. Your support worker should be able to find you some specialist help and support for children and young people who have been affected by murder or manslaughter. They will also be able to find people who can support you if you are involved in a court case related to the crime, and who can help you through the trial and continue to support you afterwards.

Victim Support/You & Co – you can contact your nearest Victim Support office, call the 24/7 Supportline, contact us via live chat, or if you are 16 or older, you can create a My Support Space account. This is a free, safe and secure online space where you can work through interactive guides to help you move forward after crime.

Domestic homicide reviews: How your caseworker can help PDF download

Childline – 24-hour support for young people on a range of issues: 0800 1111.

The Hide Out – helps children and young people understand more about domestic violence and what they can do.

The Mix – information and support for under 25s on a whole range of issues. Get confidential help by email, text, webchat or phone: 0808 808 4994.