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Bernadette’s Journey through Grief

Aug 30, 2021 | Survivor Voices

By Bernadette Smith-Hirsch

The following is the opinion and personal experience of the writer.

What do you wish others knew about grief after homicide?

For me, it’s been nearly 29 years since my mother’s murder. I was a 20-year-old college student, and I wish I would have known all my feelings were valid and that no one’s grief is the same. Two people can deal with the same loss differently, and that’s alright. It’s ok to handle grief at your own pace and not by someone else’s expectations. What’s right for someone else may not be right for you.

Setting boundaries is also important. It is ok to say, “I am not ready to discuss, ” if you don’t want to talk about your loved one’s death or the details of their murder that people seem to want to know. There are still things after 29 years I still don’t want to know. I know how she died and the crimes this person was charged with, but I don’t need to know the fine details where other people grieving their loved ones may need or want to know that information.

Loss is loss, but losing someone by murder is so irrational to understand.

Misconceptions or misunderstandings about grieving after a homicide

Grief gets better with time; the old saying “time heals all wounds.” The passing of time can diminish the intensity of grief, but grief comes and goes throughout a lifetime.

Everyone grieves in stages. This may be true, but there is no set path or time limit on when the stages happen. Grief doesn’t follow the rules or have a time limit.

What has been most helpful to me in my grieving journey?

For me, it was something that was least expected.

My mother’s murder was a cold case for many years; she died in 1992. The detective involved with my Mother’s case continued to run DNA found on her through CODIS, a DNA Database. Once the detective found a DNA match, the suspect was located and sentenced in 2010. Although sentencing provides some closure, I remember having regret from that day because I couldn’t get up to read my statement in court. I froze with fear when I saw the person who murdered my mom.

However, a few years after the sentencing, I attended a convention and shared my mom’s story. I never dreamed that I’d be standing in front of hundreds of people at a CODIS convention with my Mom’s twin sister, the County Attorney, and detective on my Mom’s case. It was here I was able to tell everyone who my mom was and how special she was. I was able to thank everyone involved in her case for never giving up. It was then I felt a weight lifted and found peace. A peace that was again provided by this special detective who never gave up on my mom.

In loving memory of Connie Smith 1950-1992

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