Death Notification, a Thankless Job

death-notification

 

“We can never underestimate the power of carefully chosen words delivered compassionately.” …..Kathryn Turman, FBI’s Office of Victim Assistance

 

Preface –

In the fall of 2016, I happened upon some intriguing information regarding a unique program designed to assist law enforcement and other first responders concerning a better, more compassionate manner to conduct a death notification.  As with every potential radio podcast, I began to research and contact various parties about whom I read.   This program was collaboration between the Pennsylvania State University Police and the FBI.

Many kudos goes out to Rebecca Bywater of the Pennsylvania State University Police for pointing me toward a public relations director with the FBI. I was excited at the prospect of having san FBI agent as a guest on Shattered Lives Radio. Very cool, I thought.

However, ultimately, I was denied with no explanation or return call whatsoever.  I tried to follow-up with my FBI contact. I had worked very diligently to make this show happen, as I always do, but ultimately, it fell apart. This has happened many times in the past and is a source of frustration for all radio hosts who care about quality. Ironically, it roughly coincided with the controversy with FBI Chief James Comey regarding Hillary Clinton’s emails at the end of October.  That was a big PR disaster and I was small potatoes in comparison. It appears the FBI never offers explanations, they just do things and that’s it, no matter how socially redeeming your project might be!

In addition, I tried to contact an educational leader in death notification  at North Georgia College and State University who had retired.  Therefore, the reason for this blog as a second best attempt to build awareness.

Ironically,  FBI Director Comey actually spoke at the event announcing this death notification initiative during National Crime Victim’s Rights Week in 2016. All the more reason to publicize a positive initiative!

During the most tragic events that occur, violent crime, vehicular crashes, suicides, deaths of undetermined causes and the like, often that first interaction with law enforcement or first responders stays with families and colors their lives forever.

Therefore, as a society we have a responsibility to  notify with care and sensitivity.  It seems common sense to say that under no circumstances should any death notification be made over the phone even when families are geographically distant.

Although the International Association of Police Chiefs have a model to use for death notifications, there has been no systematic approach to track who uses it. Regarding whose role it is to notify can depend upon jurisdiction and manpower, with a police officer typically notifying versus a medial examiner of coroner. In an article in Officer.com, there were as few as 15 courses in death notification ~ 2008.

Police Chaplains have been delegated this duty in the past and are more adequately prepared. However, they may not be as welcome in homicide cases due to investigative techniques.

Another little known resource is a specialty known as TIP- Trauma Intervention Program, which is composed of trained volunteers providing immediate support too those traumatized in the aftermath of tragedy.  This program began in San Diego in 1985 by mental health professional Wayne Fortin with over 250 communities covered nation wide. Volunteers  are trained in crisis intervention have special value, in that they are able to stay with families for several hours, supplementing the role of law enforcement. Frequently, TIP  directors  are psychologists or registered nurses, or other allied health professionals.

Death Notification Training – “We Regret to Inform You…”  is a 45 minute, 34 page  free online learning training tool.

This tool was devised via a collaboration with the FBI’s Critical Incident Response Group, the Office of Victim Assistance, the Office of Partner Engagement, and Pennsylvania State University’s Police Public Safety  Group, and their public broadcasting station , WPSU.

The video is introduced by Karen Schmoyer, mother of  murdered daughter, Charlotte, a newspaper delivery girl found buried under leaves in Allentown, Pennsylvania on June 11, 1993. Very little information could be located, but for the fact that her killer, Harvey Miguel Robinson was thought to be among the youngest serial killers in history. I am more interested in Karen’s notification, as with the murder of my father, our family’s was horrific as well.

The training includes an assessment tool, a second module that provides re-enactments of proper death notifications, a resource section with web links, a grief brochure for families and a pocket guide to death notification for team members. The content is based on best practice standards and takes into consideration variables such as cultural differences, language barriers, those living abroad, mass casualties, assisting children, the elderly, the role of victim assistance and more. Once a passing grade is given a certificate is issued. Link to online training –http://www.deathnotification.psu.edu.

I will attempt to take the training and encourage others who work in victim services to do so. I’m sure we could provide the most valuable feedback.! In fact, the experience might lend itself to a follow-up blog.

Questions regarding the training should be directed to deathnotification@leo.gov.

Moral of this story-

I would ask, why do survivors of crime need Director Comey or anyone in the FBI  defining compassion? It is my hope that victims who have walked the path had a major influence in the content of the “We Regret to Inform You…” program versus government officials.  We may never know, as the FBI doesn’t typically return phone calls unless it is on their terms.

References-

http://www.deathnotification.psu.edu;

https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/death-notification-with-compassion

http://www.officer.com/article/10249064/death-notification-breaking-the-bad-news

http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1993-06-11/news/9306110691_1_girl-lehigh-searchers

http://murderpedia.org/male.R/r/robinson-harvey.htm

http://www.titusvilleherald.com/news/article_dd7c604c-9a8c-534f-9927-cf47eaf886a3.html


DonnaGore-2

 

To schedule Donna R. Gore for your next conference, seminar or event, please contact ImaginePublicity.Phone: 843-808-0859 or Email: contact@imaginepublicity.com

 

 

        

Advertisements

Homicide Isn’t “Uplifting”

poppies-1631682_960_720

The title of this blog – such is the refrain of book store owners, Christian oriented businesses, coffee house venues etc.  What’s an author to do? They don’t get it!

Definition of Uplifting – “Morally or spiritually elevating; Inspiring happiness or hope”

People who are not impacted by crime cringe at the mere mention of murder. They may not watch the news as “It’s all bad.” “It makes me sad.” “I want to protect my children.”  Well, their “Candyland existence” does not work when pitted against the realities of life.

The key is balance – To expose ourselves and our children to the realities, to be proactive, but not be possessed or obsessed by the evils, to appreciate, to have empathy, to get involved with a cause that is related in order to change the world for the better!

Granted, it is very challenging for adults to make sense of the seeming random, senseless violence happening all around us.  How can we possibly explain to our children?  The act of murder, is not uplifting whatsoever. HOWEVER, the pathway to resolution and the positive byproducts in the aftermath can be very rewarding, enriching and give one’s life real purpose, and meaning that honors your loved one in a way you had never imagined! 

It does our children no favors to overexpose them to the chaos in our world. Nor does it prepare them for life in 2017 to “live in a bubble of your own unrealistic creation.”

Tips to bridge the Gap-

  • Know and appreciate resiliency- Point out examples to your children and try to model it in your own behavior and when you encounter difficult situations. Stress that life is not always happy, but that there is always a way to “find the sunshine on the other side” if you problem solve!
  • Use opportunities to make ourselves and our children aware within our community  “when bad things happen to good people” by participating in  fund raising events, vigils,  marathons, searches, rallies with a  hopeful, positive message;
  • Seize opportunities to meet others – even one person that has a different life experience as a result of crime and make a friend. Your local crime victim advocate may be able to pair you with a person who would best benefit from such a pairing.  Typically someone in the acute phases of grief may really needs someone to listen, not advice, (which can be intense). Alternately, if you meet them with much space and time between the crime and your meeting, you will gain much insight into how others cope…and still manage their life in spite of…It’s amazing what you will learn from such a relationship!
  • Instill hope in the aftermath of crime and tragedy, for that truly is God’s Grace at work;
  • Join a non-profit organization that needs volunteers in order to gain exposure and insight.  The positives far outweigh the crime itself when everyone is working toward a common goal.  Many talents and skills are needed – small and large, so don’t be shy!  You will receive far more than you give, guaranteed!   In addition, you often build lifelong relationships!  One fine example is the  repeated winner of Great Non-Profits.org- The Cue Center for Missing Persons- http://www.ncmissingpersons.org/about/
  • Reviews from Great Non-Profits –  Very Uplifting!  http://greatnonprofits.org/org/community-united-effort-cue

 

Other References –

https://www.amazon.com/Grief-Diaries-Surviving-Loss-Homicide/dp/1944328149

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/uplifting?s=t


DonnaGore-2

Donna R. Gore

To schedule Donna R. Gore for your next conference, seminar or event, please contact ImaginePublicity. Phone: 843-808-0859 or Email: contact@imaginepublicity.co

Filing It Away, or Stirring it Up, Long Term Grief Does NOT Come with Instructions

Crime victim, compassion, Donna R. Gore

A recent Shattered Lives Radio podcast featured frequent guest, Duane Bowers, Licenced Professional Counselor (LPC).  I take pride in featuring cutting edge topics designed to assist victims of crime. Often the emotional pieces are never discussed. Families are mystified about how to deal with truly understanding grief and loss and how it applies to them.

In this podcast, Duane Bowers and I delve into long-term family relationships and the grief that remains. Does it get better or worse? Is grief and loss the tie that binds us so that down the road we are restored in a new way?

Below I pose a “laundry list” of intriguing questions, issues that may be reality or myth for what’s upcoming as you are invited to listen to this valuable show. You may even have a couple of revelations in the furtherance of understanding just what happens after a traumatic loss!

A Sample of What You Will Learn from this Podcast

  • The difference between grief and traumatic loss
  •  What it takes to feel in control
  • The roles family members take on after traumatic loss
  • Nurturing and the meaning and value assigned to an event
  • When the role of an advocate impacts someone who has “filed it away” and emotions get stirred up
  • Expectations in how to grieve
  • Your willingness to change and the effort required versus hanging on to the pain
  • When is the moment of death?
  • Resiliency models and communication styles
  • Will we become a more cohesive family with time, or not?
  • Grief and support resources

click to listen button1

 

“So it’s true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love.”
E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly


Further information about grief as a victim of crime is available in my book, Grief Diaries: Loss by Homicide, which includes the stories of others who, like you, are traveling this long journey.

Grief Diaries: Loss by Homicide

Donna R. Gore

 

To schedule Donna R. Gore for your next conference, seminar or event, please contact ImaginePublicity. Phone: 843-808-0859 or Email: contact@imaginepublicity.com

 

Crying to Cope with Loss

Crying to Cope with Loss

There are myths surrounding the behavior of crying. In American culture, typically crying is viewed as a sign of weakness when in public.  If you are a crime victim, you likely have “cried a river” over time as a means of emotional release and acknowledging your grief. Often the loss is so profound, pervasive, permanent and overwhelming, our bodies’ signal us that we must “let it out,” let the tears flow no matter what the circumstances.  In fact, there are several benefits of crying to share.

We are permitted to cry at weddings. We cry at funerals. We cry at graduations.

However, the most egregious examples of prohibiting crying come to mind when in the courtroom. Institutional decorum is forced upon victims by the criminal justice system when they are at their most vulnerable, using every ounce of strength just to maintain. This is a burdensome challenge and so unnatural. Is it somehow disrespectful to the judge and the court’s time to cry? Why?  Is the judge to be viewed as God Almighty? It’s as if we must be little more than a cardboard figure, a spectator, in the most important game of our lives!

A prominent example is offered here by my friend and colleague Attorney-Advocate Michelle S. Cruz.

In summary, during a very high-profile Massachusetts case in January 2015, a fallen Patriot’s football icon is put on trial for the killing of friend Odin Lloyd. (Although you would never have known about the victim, as the perpetual bad and dangerous “star,” Aaron Hernandez was always, center stage.)  Odin’s mother, Ursula Ward was scheduled to identify photographs of her son’s dead body while on the stand.  The wicked and heartless judge, Susan Garsh, cautioned her “not to cry, to control her emotions.” Had there not been emotion from this grieving mother, the jury surely would have gotten an incorrect impression. As Michelle states, there was no doubt as to whether the murder was committed, but the fact that Hernandez was the perpetrator.   Where was the basic human and victim right of respect and consideration afforded this mother? I believe it went out the window with the rest of the jurisprudence drivel!  I can so relate to this poor woman and what she had to endure.

 

Now on to the benefits of crying – truly!

The least known benefit would probably be a physiologic need- A study performed by Dr. William H. Frey II at the St Paul-Ramsey Medical Centre found that stress-related tears help your body rid itself of nasty chemicals that raise cortisol (the stress hormone). Emotional tears also contain more mood-regulating manganese than the other types. Stress tightens muscles and heightens tension, so when you cry you release some of that. Crying activates the parasympathetic nervous system and restores the body to a state of balance.”    So, it is good to “clean house” so to speak;

You can help ease the pain by freeing yourself of emotional baggage to start anew;

Other claims via my interpretation are: that crying helps you come to terms and perhaps move on from a loss. The act of crying may bring physical relief.  Crying demonstrates vulnerability and may foster a sense of intimacy with others.  It is said that expressing emotions facilitate your inner creativity too!

Another medically related crying is known as PBA – Pseudo-Bulbar Affect – or Emotional Incontinence – in which you exhibit involuntary bouts of uncontrollable crying or laughter.   This is a neurologic problem caused by brain damage such as a CVA- stroke, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, ALS or dementia.  Approximately 2 million people are affected.

Finally, the Japanese are innovators. According to Stephen Sideroff, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at UCLA, they are such strong believers in the health benefits of crying that they’ve taken that wisdom to the next level. Some cities in Japan now have “crying clubs” called rui-katsu (meaning “tear-seeking”) in which people come together to indulge in what I’d call,  “group crying fests”

“The tears of the world are a constant quantity. For each one who begins to weep somewhere else another stops. The same is true of the laugh.” ― Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

 

 

References: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/9-surprising-benefits-crying-why-its-okay-have-good-cry.html

https://www.pbafacts.com/pba-facts-science

http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/is-crying-good-for-you