We Fall Down: The African American experience of coping with the homicide of a loved one
Rates of homicide among African Americans are much higher than those of other racial or ethnic groups. Research has demonstrated that homicide can be psychologically debilitating for surviving family members. Yet, exploring the experiences of homicide victims’ surviving loved ones has received little attention. This study examined the coping strategies of African American survivors of homicide. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 8 African American family members (ages 18-82) of homicide victims. Survivors were recruited from the Massachusetts Office of Victim Services and from homicide survivor support, school, and community groups throughout the New England area. Interviews were conducted using open-ended questions derived from coping, support network, grief, and bereavement literatures. Results indicate that the primary coping strategies utilized by African American survivors of homicide victims are spiritual coping and meaning making, maintaining a connection to the deceased, collective coping and caring for others, and concealment. Implications for research and practice are discussed.