Profiles

Steven L. Batten, PhD

Class of 2008

Dissertation

The wound that never heals: Narratives of losing a loved one in a homicide (2008)


Steven L. Batten

The experience of losing a loved one in a homicide is devastating, as the lives of the survivors are changed forever and they are left to tend a wound that never heals. This study explores the narratives of ten people who have experienced the trauma of the murder of a loved one. Narratives were collected in interviews and then analyzed using a three pronged methodology, uniquely combining narrative theory, grounded theory, and ethnography. The analysis of the data revealed three major categories delineating the experience of this traumatic loss: “Testifying,” “Reverberations,” and “Reconstitution.” In “Testifying, ” interviewees expressed the need to talk about their experience, describe the details of the homicide, and speak of their relationship with the murder victim. “Reverberations” addressed the manner in which interviewees death with the aftermath of the homicide including emotional aspects, the interminable nature of the loss, and the legal issues. The effort to reorganize following the homicide was evident in “Reconstitution,” as interviewees explored the ways in which they attempted to make sense of the murder, take positive action, memorialize the victim, and utilize spiritual beliefs and the support of significant others. These findings are particularly significant when considered on a social theoretical level. Socially, the findings underscore several pertinent issues in the criminal justice system, reveal an ethnic difference as African American interviewees appeared to cope more effectively with their loss than did Caucasian interviewees, and describe the ways in which people need to be supported and provided opportunities to memorialize the victim. On a theoretical level, the findings accentuate the importance of a narrative based research methodology, and challenge many existing theories concerning loss and bereavement. Clinically, there are implications concerning the treatment model used in working with survivors, countertransference issues specific to work with this population, and the need for the clinician to support positive action as the survivor recovers from this traumatic loss. Implications for future research, theory development, and policy issues are discussed.