Office of the DeKalb County District Attorney

Stone Mountain Judicial Circuit

Sherry Boston, District Attorney

Factors That Can Influence Grief

Grieving is not a simple process that is as clear-cut as these ten stages may suggest. It is complicated because there are internal factors (components within the grieving person) and external factors (outside influences) that impact the grieving process.

Internal Factors
Internal factors, which make grieving so difficult and confusing, include:
  • The extent of the loss - this means how much was actually lost; hopes and dreams for the future are lost; a friend or relative is lost; someone who knows them well and shares the past is lost; if the victim was their child, all their prospects of grandchildren to enjoy in their retirement could be suddenly gone.
  • Range of emotions - experiencing emotions that they may not have felt before; with homicide, this could include anger and hatred of someone they do not even know - the person said to be responsible for their loved one's death; if no arrest is made they can be left wondering for a lifetime the identity of the offender, not having a real person to direct their anger to.
  • Intensity of emotions - they can erupt and be overwhelming sometimes.
  • Every death is unique - the personal relationship with the loved one and the circumstances of their death makes the situation unique; although they may have grieved before, this is a separate experience; homicide is also different since it is much more uncommon - everyone grieves with the deaths of loved ones, but few people experience homicide.
  • Lack of understanding - not understanding why a person feels the way they do.
External Factors
There are three external factors that can have an impact on the grieving process for homicide victims. They are the assisting services available, the media and the criminal justice system. 
  • Available assisting services - if there are a variety of services available, they may help the person in the grieving process; the first type of assistance that is typically available is crisis intervention; crisis intervention is short term assistance provided to homicide survivors and other victims of crime; this assistance is usually provided only for a short period of time following the crime; this is when survivors are experiencing the shock stage of grieving; the type of assistance includes validating the survivor's feelings, dispelling blame, assuring safety, compassion, making funeral arrangements, and informing or contacting friends / family; beyond crisis intervention, other types of more long term services include mental health specialists, community service groups, victim advocacy groups, and support groups.
  • The media - the media can have an impact on grieving since most homicides become front page news stories; when there is public exposure of the death, additional pain and suffering are sometimes caused to those grieving; grief can be intensified by the media's portrayal of the homicide victim or the accused killer and invasion into the privacy of those who are grieving.
  • The criminal justice system - the criminal justice system can prolong and heighten the grieving process; the justice system and the trial process can go on for years, forcing those grieving to prolong their mourning period; grief can also be deepened by a lack of sensitivity within the system, a lack of information provided by the system, a lack of cooperation by participants in the trial, and the lack of victim rights and involvement within the justice system.