The Loss of a Child to Violence

The Loss of a Child to Violence

Years ago when I lived in New England, I was surprised by how old the cemeteries were; I am talking centuries old. I would see grave stones of people who died in 1763.  What surprised me more than the age of the cemeteries was the number of graves of babies and young children.  While visiting the state of Maine I walked through a cemetery that between the graves of the Mother and Father I remember there were at least 5 tombstones that identified the children of the family.  The children were just babies actually: “8 months”, “5 months”, “1 year, 6 months”; I don’t remember a child living past 3 years of age.  I often wondered how did the parent keep moving forward with their lives after experiencing loss after loss?

Back in the day it was illness that took children away from their families, during the 20th century the predominant cause of childhood death has shifted from illness to violence (Dannemiller, 2002). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Violence Prevention group wrote that in 2012, 4,787 young people age 10 to 24 years were victims of homicide – an average of 13 each day (Understanding Youth Violence, 2017).

For the record, a child is a child; I am sure an 80-year woman or man would consider their 60-year old offspring their “child”, even though that offspring is eligiblsenior discounts at the local grocery store.  

The loss of a child is difficult for sure; however it seems that a violent death of a child “involves more individuals outside of the family constellations more that deaths from other causes” (Dannemiller, 2002, p.4).  Christine H. Dannemiller (2002), in her research on parent’s responses to a child’s murder wrote “parents of murdered children found that the response of the public was the most troublesome and unique issue for them to face” (p.4).

One thing that bothers me about the loss of a loved one is the absence of people when you really need them: about 3 weeks after the funeral service, when you are trying to adjust to the “new normal”. Everyone has gone back to their life before the death occurred. 

I imagine the parents who lose their children to violence experience the same thing, especially if that loss was publicize on local/national/international news.  News trucks and cameras hanging around the house trying to get a glimpse of some family dysfunction, a relative crying, anything that will make that station stand out in the news.

I wish there was more compassion shown to these parents; it seems that the attention only stays with the family until there is another murder to report on; and the cycle continues.



Dannemiller, C.H. (2002). The parent’s response to a child’s murder.  OMEGA:
The Journal of Death and Dying, 45
(1), 1-21.

Understanding Youth Violence. (2017, May 12). Retrieved August 17, 2017, from