Resiliency After Violent Death: Lessons for Caregivers

The purpose of this program is to provide clinicians, social workers, clergy and caregivers engaged in long term support with families after a violent death, helpful strategies to diminish the emotional distress of violent dying bereavement.

Violent dying from an accident, natural disaster, suicide, homicide or terrorist attack involves an external drama, a fatal human act, and the story of that drama must be retold. Unlike natural dying, loved ones bereaved by violent dying are left with a narrative dilemma – to tell two contradictory stories – the retelling of their loved ones life that is precious, and the retelling of the external drama of their loved one’s violent dying that is horrifying – and for some loved ones compulsive retelling of their dying may eclipse the retelling of their living.

This program demonstrates how to shift the psychological focus from the drama and the spectacle of violent dying for loved ones “stuck” in their bereavement and to shift the caregivers’ attention from an over emphasis on crisis support (catalyzed by our recent national disasters with 9/11 and Katrina) to the longer term psychological and spiritual needs of loved ones – months and years after the violent death.

Instead of lectures, a panel of experts considers two case studies from video taped interviews with patients Dr. Ted Rynearson treated after the violent deaths of members of their families. The panel discussion is divided into three sections corresponding with three common, psychological responses to a violent death.

This program covers:
Phase 1. Intense Separation & Trauma Distress: The immediate challenge following a violent death is overwhelming distress related to both the reality of death (separation distress), as well as the reality of violent dying (trauma distress).

Phase 2. Reframing Dying and Nurturing Imagery: The next challenge involves revising and synthesizing the traumatic memories of the killing with the nurturing memories of the deceased.

Phase 3. Meaningful Reengagement: A later challenge is in establishing a meaningful reconnection with the flow of life – beyond the tragedy of violent death – by a hopeful recommitment with valued activities and relationships.

Our panelists:
Dr. Ted Rynearson, Dr. Charles Figley, Dr. Alison Salloum, Janice Harris Lord, ACSW

DVD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . $50.00
RT: Panel Discussion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .47:32 Minutes
RT:Two Clinical Interviews . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .62:09 Minutes

Funding provided by the Mason/Dart Trauma Project
© Gift from Within, 2006

Order DVD.Intro by Ted Rynearson | Panel Discussion

DVD Review

Resiliency After Violent Death: Lessons for Caregivers effectively offers helpful strategies for supporting families dealing with the emotional distress of a violent death. Dr. Ted Rynearson, a prominent psychiatrist, opens the video by recommending clinicians, clergy, and caregivers shift their focus from the death itself to the longer term needs of loved ones dealing with the tragedy of losing a loved one to violent death.

The video is organized around two clinical cases: Ms. Walker, who lost three children to violent death, and Mr. and Mrs. Yarborough, whose 17 year old daughter was murdered. Each interview lasts approximately 30 minutes, and is followed by a 45 minute discussion by a panel of experts, including Charles Figley, PhD, Alison Salloum, PhD, Janice Harris Lord, ACSW, and Ted Rynearson, MD, all noted clinicians.

The panel discussion addresses three psychological responses. The first is intense separation and trauma distress, which is the immediate challenge for families. The experts in this section recommend that families be given the facts of their loved ones death, when they feel ready for that information. Lacking such factual information, many family members, including children, create vivid fantasies about the death, which can be more harmful then the facts themselves.

The second response is reframing dying. Dr. Rynearson recommends asking patients about their concept of death – what do they think occurs? Spiritual beliefs may play an important role, both explanatory and comforting. Also important is listening to survivors tell their story. The experts remind the helpers that they should listen to the family members without imposing their own beliefs.

The third response is meaningful reengagement. The panel highlights the importance of supportive family and friends, the importance of “just being there,” and the importance of letting the process develop over time without trying to rush it. Both sets of surviving parents in their clinical interviews, and the panel, discuss the importance and meaningfulness of reaching out to others, after time.

The video effectively uses the DVD format, opening with a menu of topics. From the menu, viewers can choose the introduction, either one of the clinical interviews, the panel discussion, or the conclusion. The panel discussion is edited into chapters reflecting the three common psychological detailed above. This format allows viewers to reference their topic of interest directly and easily.

Resiliency After Violent Death: Lessons for Caregivers is an informative, professional quality video which many clinicians, chaplains, caregivers and instructors/students will find useful. This is certainly another video produced by Gift from Within which is worthy of adding to your audio-visual library.

Daniel W. Clark, Ph.D.
WA State Patrol Psychologist

DVD Review

“Resiliency After Violent Death: Lessons For Caregivers”

“Ted Rynearson is America’s leading psychiatrist on the topic of violent
death. His calm and caring approach shines through this remarkable DVD
in which three parents of murdered children, his long term patients,
describe their ways of coping. A panel of esteemed colleagues- Janice
Lord, Charles Figley and Alison Salloum- offer compassionate insights.
But the wisest comments come from the survivors themselves. These
parents have learned not only how to absorb the reality of tragic,
traumatic loss, but how to reconnect to the lives of their murdered
children -and how to comfort and inspire others.”

Frank Ochberg, MD Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Michigan State University

DVD Review

“Resiliency After Violent Death: Lessons For Caregivers”

“Gift from Within has done the world a great service by producing this
extraordinary DVD – a video that provides great “teaching points” on how
healers and caregivers can assist family members to resolve the threads of
grief and trauma by having national trauma experts discuss real live
interviews of family members who have lost loved ones to violent deaths.”

Carl C. Bell, M.D.
President/C.E.O. Community Mental Health Council

DVD Review

Resiliency After Violent Death: Lessons for Caregivers

Reviewed By Jacqueline Garrick, LCSW-C, BCETS

Resiliency After Violent Death: Lessons for Caregivers features moderator Ted Rynearson, Janice Harris Lord, Charles Figley, and Alison Salloum who discuss snippets from Dr. Rynearson’s client interviews. The clients – one woman who lost 3 of her children to violent death and another couple who lost their eldest daughter discuss their transformation during the therapeutic process. The panel discussion which runs for about 45 minutes breaks into three main sections focusing on trauma, reframing, and finding meaning. The DVD also includes interviews with Dr. Rynearson’s clients.

The DVD explores how life suddenly changes after the violent death of a loved one. Survivors disconnect from their lives in order to cope and need time to find a new purpose for their lives. Survivors often face nightmares and nagging questioning to the circumstances of the murder. Sometimes, what they imagine is even worse than the actual circumstances, which reinforces their need for facts from professionals handling the case. Survivors must also face how and what to tell other family members and friends and often are confronted by the media, especially with high profile cases.

Rynearson clients demonstrate how they learned to reframe their grief into nurturing images and find comfort. They use their sense of spirituality to soften the horror and helplessness. They can speak to the dead and find new ways to handle their loss. The panel encourages caregivers to be there for their clients and to let them come to their own conclusions. Treatment should teach clients that the violence is out there; it is external, it is not punishment. When working with families, each member will need to find their own sense of spirituality, but they should be encouraged to listen to and support each other. The panel also recommends that caregivers teach their clients to journal and write letters to the deceased as a means to naturalize “Grief Spasms.”

The last section of the DVD focuses on finding meaning after a violent death. Clients should be encouraged to let people into their lives and know that they are not alone. They learn not to isolate and how to tell the traumatic narrative. This is the stage where bringing clients into group therapy can be the most helpful. In group, they can find validation and catharsis. The panel advises caregivers to use other forms of story telling, such as art and poetry and to re-engage with others. The final message of this section is on prevailing rather than recovering, since survivors cannot recover who they were before.

Dr. Figley and Ms. Salloum make additional interesting comments. Figley adds insights into the similarities with military families who lose loved ones in combat and Salloum provides the perspective of the child in confronting violent death and how to help children face these deaths.

The DVD would be useful to any clinician assisting individuals and families overcome the shock and grief of a murder or suicide. It would be beneficial for anyone in law enforcement or other first responders who encounter these survivors. It would also be useful for peer support training.

DVD Review

Resiliency After Violent Death: Lessons for Caregivers

Reviewed By Michael F. Myers, MD

This unique production, in DVD format, masterfully accomplishes its mission of imparting helpful strategies to clinicians treating individuals whose lives have been upended by violent death. The five minute introduction by its producer, Dr. Ted Rynearson, sets the stage and immediately engages the viewer. What follows are two interviews with patients: Ms. Walker who has lost 3 children to violence and Mr. and Mrs. Yarborough whose 17 year old daughter was murdered. The stories are rich with descriptive information and insights about traumatic bereavement and resilience over time. Next is a roundtable discussion, led by Dr. Rynearson, with 3 experts Charles Figley, PhD, Alison Salloum, PhD and Janice Harris Lord, ACSW as they and the audience view segments of the clinical interviews. This is done in three sections: Phase I – Intense Separation and Trauma Distress; Phase II – Reframing Dying and Nurturing Imagery; and Phase III – Meaningful Reengagement. Clinicians not only gain knowledge from these experts but also witness their compassion and immense respect for patients. I was very moved by their wisdom and eloquence. Dr. Rynearson’s conclusion is brilliant. There is no ending or closure to losing a loved one to violent death. It is not about recovery over the dying, it is really about prevailing. I recommend this program to all mental health professionals and their trainees – it is cutting edge and essential continuing professional education.

Michael F. Myers, MD
Clinical Professor Psychiatry
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, Canada
Author (with Carla Fine) of “Touched By Suicide: Hope and Healing After Loss”(Gotham/Penguin) 2006.

DVD Review

Resiliency After Violent Death: Lessons for Caregivers

Reviewed By Connie Saindon

Your video with its esteemed panel will be a great asset to my work with both survivors and caregivers. The multiple stories and paths survivors take after suffering a violent death is incredibly complex and consuming. Your video demonstrates important lessons from both specialists and survivors. The fragile landscape we travel together will be strengthened with this new video team. Among the many lessons in the video, two stand out as especially helpful. The first one is reframing symptoms as protections from disintegrating. The other message of great importance having survivors to work in groups with others who have also had violent death. Too often, support and direction for violent death survivors gets muted inside support that fits other losses more adequately. The tone, pace and visuals , especially the blurred newspaper were supportive tools that aided in the message of the video as well. We hope to help others know more about this resource. Thanks to all who were responsible for this work.

Connie Saindon, MFT, Founder and Clinical Director Survivors of Violent Loss Program, San Diego, CA and Survivors of Violent Loss Network website.

DVD Review

Resiliency After Violent Death: Lessons for Caregivers

Reviewed By Dr. Beverly Anderson

“Resiliency After Violent Death: Lessons For Caregivers,” is tremendously useful in our debriefing work with the Metropolitan Police Department’s Family Liaison Specialist Unit, our program for the survivors of violent death. These wonderful folks act as a liaison between the police department’s Violent Crimes Branch and the families of murder victims. Gift From Within’s video highlights the very complex and unique process of grieving after a loved one’s murder. I believe it honors survivors’ efforts to redefine their lives, as they must. Validation and normalization are two of the prominent themes in the video. It presents the subject in a respectful way to survivors and educates those of us who have not been injured in this unspeakable way. Thank you for once again, providing a much-needed resource for families struggling to heal after the violent of a loved one.

Dr. Beverly Anderson, President of The American Academy of Police Psychology, Inc., and the Director of the Metropolitan Police Employee Assistance Program in Washington, DC