Discovery Guides Areas


The Bad News Bearers:
The Most Difficult Assignment in Law Enforcement

(Released May 2009)

  by Emil Moldovan  


Key Citations



Key Citations Short Format Full Format
  1. Death notification for families of homicide victims: Healing dimensions of a complex process

    Laurence Miller.

    Omega: Journal of Death and Dying, Vol. 57, No. 4, 2008, pp. 367-380.

    Family bereavement by homicide is one of the most challenging facets of crime victim intervention a medical care provider, mental health clinician, or law enforcement officer will face. But the process of healing can begin at the outset through intelligent, sensitive, competent, and compassionate death notification and body identification by trained and dedicated professionals. A practical system for death notification and body identification is presented that can be adapted and modified to the needs of law enforcement, military mental health, and notifiers from related disciplines; it can also be adapted to death notification in sudden, accidental deaths. Throughout, the emphasis is on how notifiers may often be the de facto first responders in the struggle to help traumatically bereaved family members survive their ordeal and reclaim their lives. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2009 APA, all rights reserved) (journal abstract)

  2. Deaths among Young, Single Women in 2000-2001 in the West Bank, Palestinian Occupied Territories

    Nadim Al-Adili, Mohammad Shaheen, Staffan Bergstrom and Annika Johansson.

    Reproductive health matters, Vol. 16, No. 31, May 2008, pp. 112-121.

    A study in 2000-2001 of causes of death of women of reproductive age (15-49) in the West Bank, Palestinian Occupied Territories, found that 154 of the 411 deceased women aged 15-49 with known marital status were single. Death notification forms for reported deaths were analysed and verbal autopsies carried out, where possible, with relatives of the deceased women. We found important differences in the age at death and causes of death among the single and married women, which can be attributed to the disadvantaged social status of single women in Palestinian society, exacerbated by the current unstable political situation. 41% of the deceased single women were under 25 years of age at death compared to 8% of the married women. The proportion of violent deaths and suicides among the single women was almost twice as high as among the married women, mainly in those below age 25. The single women were also more likely to die from medical conditions which indicated that they faced barriers to accessing health care. The fieldwork was conducted at the height of the Intifada and the Israeli military response, with heavy restrictions on mobility limiting the possibility of probing deeper into the circumstances surrounding sensitive deaths. More research into the socio-cultural context of single women in Palestine society is needed as a basis for intervention. [Copyright 2008 Reproductive Health Matters; published by Elsevier B.V.]

  3. Review of Crisis intervention in criminal justice/social service, 4th ed

    Peggy Fulton Hora.

    Child abuse & neglect, Vol. 31, No. 5, May 2007, pp. 589.

    Reviews the book, Crisis intervention in criminal justice/social service, 4th ed. edited by J.E. Hendricks, B.D. Byers (2006). This book is a good primer on the subject, utilizing the skills of authors with both academic credentials and a practical working knowledge in the field. It serves as an all encompassing elementary textbook with chapters on the history and theory of crisis intervention, ethics, domestic violence and rape, child and elder maltreatment, suicide, death notification and, in a somewhat strained attempt to be current, terrorism and crisis intervention. This book would however, be a helpful tool to assist a judge to better evaluate the testimony of a victim of violent crime by providing background on the demeanor and memory issues that may arise when a witness has been subjected to trauma. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA, all rights reserved)

  4. Crisis intervention in criminal justice/social service


    Springfield, IL: Charles C Thomas, 2006, 393

    This guide, intended for criminal justice and social service crisis interveners, provides theoretical, analytical, and practical knowledge for first responders in cases of domestic abuse, child and elder abuse and neglect, and rape and sexual assault. Each chapter, authored by an academic or social service professional, offers a theoretical overview of a facet of intervention and models and methods for applying crisis theory to crisis situations. Topics are historical and theoretical overview, ethics in crisis intervention practice, domestic violence, police response to domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, children in crisis, elder mistreatment, rape, victims and survivors, suicide, terrorism and crisis interventions, and death notification.

  5. The evaluation of two death education programs for EMTs using the theory of planned behavior

    Tracy Smith-Cumberland.

    Death studies, Vol. 30, No. 7, Sep 2006, pp. 637-647.

    The goal of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of two death education programs by comparing pretest and posttest scores of behavioral intentions and (reported) behavior of EMTs when at the scene of a death. After the interventions, the majority of EMTs intended to change their behavior at the scene of a death when compared to the control group. In a three-month follow-up study, the majority of EMTs who received the intervention (and made a death notification) changed their behavior. In this sample, these programs were effective in changing the behavioral intentions of EMTs. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA, all rights reserved) (journal abstract)

  6. "Intervention continuity in posttraffic fatality: From notifying families of the loss to establishing a self-help group"

    Violent death: Resilience and intervention beyond the crisis.

    Ruth Malkinson and Yael Geron.

    New York, NY, US: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group, 217-232

    2006(From the chapter) In Israel, where long-term supportive therapy is provided by governmental agencies for bereaved family members after violent dying from warfare or terrorist attack, there is no provision of assistance for loved ones bereaved by fatal auto accidents, despite the fact that dying from a fatal car accident is far more frequent and the most frequent mode of accidental death. Accidental dying is culturally viewed as "a nonheroic, marginalized event leaving families to grieve in solitude," and the authors initiated a community-based support program for these neglected family members. The program provides a spectrum of continuous psychological support beginning with death notification, outreach, and assessment, followed by a pivotal short-term group intervention with optional preparation and transition to a self-help support group. The short-term group intervention model is a pragmatic blending of established narrative and psychodynamic approaches. The provision of staff support to avoid vicarious trauma distress is essential and cogently outlined in this chapter. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA, all rights reserved)

  7. A Mental Health Clinician's Guide to Death Notification

    Karen E. Eberwein.

    International journal of emergency mental health, Vol. 8, No. 2, Spr 2006, pp. 117-126.

    The purpose of this article is to present an overview of past and present research to promote further understanding of the dynamics and process of death notification for mental health practitioners. This article includes information for interventionists to gain a better understanding of how their primary professional role and their own emotional vulnerabilities can impact the process. Additionally, the stress imposed on the interventionist, expected survivor reactions, and traumatic loss are discussed. Lastly, to help prepare mental health professionals who may be asked to assist in the process, a protocol for the systematic delivery of death notification information is suggested. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA, all rights reserved) (journal abstract)

  8. The interaction between thoughts and emotions following the news of a loved one's murder

    Sarah Goodrum.

    Omega: Journal of Death and Dying, Vol. 51, No. 2, 2005, pp. 143-160.

    This study uses the social psychological perspective of symbolic interactionism to examine the death notification experience of people who have lost a loved one to murder ("bereaved victims"). The data come from in-depth interviews with 32 bereaved victims whose loved ones were murdered from 1994 to 1999 in Union County (pseudonym). Bereaved victims' notification stories indicate that the interplay between thoughts and emotions in self-interaction during the first stage of grief produces two main types of emotional reactions to the news of murder: 1) feeling emotional upset (e.g., crying, screaming, hysteria) and 2) containing emotional upset (e.g., shock, disbelief, and spontaneous action). Disbelief allowed bereaved victims to cognitively control their physical expressions of emotional upset by dismissing the reality of the news of the death; the spontaneous action response allowed bereaved victims to take action on something in substitution for thinking about the loss and then feeling emotionally overwhelmed by it. Some bereaved victims indicated that they alternated between feeling intense emotional upset and cognitively containing their emotional upset through spontaneous action. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA, all rights reserved) (journal abstract)

  9. Death notification: Considerations for law enforcement personnel

    C. W. Hart Jr. and Caren R. DeBernardo.

    International journal of emergency mental health, Vol. 6, No. 1, Win 2004, pp. 33-37.

    Death notification is among the most unpleasant and uncomfortable tasks a law enforcement officer undertakes. For years, law enforcement officers have been performing notifications that involved life threatening injuries or death from tragedies including suicide. Unfortunately, many officers have performed this task without appropriate training. Performing notifications can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Expressing the right words, understanding families' emotions, and responding with empathy are paramount. The attitude, demeanor, professionalism, and sensitivity of law enforcement officers projected during a notification are critical. The delivery of a notification can remain etched in a family member's memory forever. Many notifications have left family members with the perception that law enforcement officers are callous, thoughtless, and insensitive. This negative perception can be overcome through training and practice. This article presents several factors that supervisors and officers should consider in the notification process and offers guidelines to consider to best serve your agency and the community. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA, all rights reserved) (journal abstract)

  10. From death notification through the funeral: Bereaved parents' experience and their advice to professionals

    Linda Janzen, Susan Cadell and Anne Westhues.

    Omega: Journal of Death and Dying, Vol. 48, No. 2, 2003-2004, pp. 149-164.

    Parents who experience the sudden death of a child will interact with many professionals in the period immediately following the death notification through to the funeral. The way these professionals respond to the parents during this critical period may be perceived as helpful, and thus support them in beginning the process of managing the trauma and starting a healthy grieving process. It may also be perceived as unhelpful, though, and contribute to more prolonged and complicated grieving. This article identifies the interventions that a sample of 20 parents who had experienced the sudden death of a child found helpful with different aspects of grieving. Specific advice is given to police, nurses, doctors, coroners, social workers, crisis counselors, funeral directors, and chaplains or clergy. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA, all rights reserved) (journal abstract)

  11. Notifying individual students of a death loss: Practical recommendations for schools and schools counselors

    Heather L. Servaty-Seib, Jean Peterson and Dawn Spang.

    Death studies, Vol. 27, No. 2, Feb-Mar 2003, pp. 167-186.

    Although there is a growing body of literature focused on child and adolescent grief, surprisingly little information addresses the needs of school communities with regard to death. The emerging literature has focused primarily on crisis management when someone within the school community dies. Neglect has been the more common occurrence in which an individual child must be notified of the death of someone close. This article provides practical recommendations for schools and school counselors regarding preparation and follow-up associated with individual death notification situations, as well as specific suggestions pertaining to the who, when, where, and how of notification. Recommendations offered are based on a synthesis of relevant research and literature (e.g., children and death, general death notification, school culture), the clinical experience of the authors, and the collective wisdom of a sample of school counselors currently working in the field. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA, all rights reserved) (journal abstract)

  12. "Death notification: The theory and practice of delivering bad news"

    Crisis intervention in criminal justice/social service (3rd ed.).

    Bryan D. Byers.

    Springfield, IL, US: Charles C. Thomas Publisher, pp. 326-360

    2002(From the chapter) This chapter presents essential background information in the areas of crisis intervention and death notification. The first half of the chapter covers the theoretical foundation necessary for understanding a personal crisis and to conduct a professional notification. This is accomplished by first presenting a theoretical overview of literature pertinent to crisis intervention followed by specific death notification literature. Attention is then turned to translating theory into practice through a discussion centered on crisis intervention phase/stage models, model strengths, and limitations. The second half of the chapter is devoted to the criminal justice aspects of death notification. Pertinent issues related to death notification for criminal justice practitioners are addressed. Aspects of this section include reactions to the death notification task, responsibility for the notification, networking, and special circumstances one might encounter. A death notification procedure is offered with the intent of providing a clear delivery strategy. This section also includes a discussion of the death notification situation, roles of both notifier and receiver, the crisis intervention/notification process, and issues related to these elements. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA, all rights reserved)

  13. Coordinating the death notification process: The roles of the emergency room social worker and physician following a sudden death

    Rachel E. Kaul.

    Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention, Vol. 1, No. 2, Fal 2001, pp. 101-114.

    Notes that unexpected deaths resulting from motor vehicle accidents, cardiac arrest, violence, and trauma are the number one killers for persons under 37 years of age. Many of these deaths occur while the patient is en route to the hospital, or while being treated in the emergency room. Traumatic deaths are particularly devastating to family members left behind. Developing a protocol for the death notification process in the emergency room in which the social worker coordinates the process can address challenges and obstacles for staff and family faced with an unexpected death. The notification of survivors following the sudden death of a loved one in an emergency room presents unique difficulties for staff. Barriers to supportive death notification in the emergency room include lack of time and resources available to staff, the absence of formal training for staff in death notification, and the lack of clear, consistent guidelines and protocols. This article discusses 2 established death notification models and argues for adopting a role-specific approach to the process. A collaborative reinterpretation of these models highlighting the role of the social worker and incorporating a crisis intervention model is presented. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA, all rights reserved)

  14. Death notification education: A needs assessment study

    Alan E. Stewart, Janice Harris Lord and Dorothy L. Mercer.

    Journal of traumatic stress, Vol. 14, No. 1, Jan 2001, pp. 221-227.

    A survey of 245 22-79 yr old death notifiers (i.e., law enforcement officers, emergency medical technicians, victim advocates, coroners, clergy, health care professionals, and others who had performed death notification in the past) was conducted to examine their death notification experience and their needs for education. The survey also assessed the benefits the notifiers received by attending a death notification seminar developed by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Results show that 41% of the notifiers had received neither classroom training nor experiential training in death notification before the seminar. Respondents' reported needs for education included: (1) specific detail on how to deliver a notification, (2) how to manage survivor reactions, and (3) how to manage their own emotional reactions. The respondents indicated that the seminars substantially enhanced their death notification skills. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2008 APA, all rights reserved)

  15. Professional Interventions with Parents at the Time of the Sudden Death of a Child

    Linda Susan Charlotte Maxwell.

    Thesis, 2001.

    The sudden death of a child is likely the most traumatizing event a parent can experience. Traumatic death, and particularly the death of a child, increases the risk of a complicated grieving process in mourners. Little has been written with respect to the interventions of professionals with parents at the time of a sudden death of a child. The present study examines the experiences of parents with a variety of professionals from the time of death notification through the funeral. Twenty parents who were involved in Bereaved Families of Ontario participated in this study. The purpose was to examine the impact of professional interventions on the grieving process of the parents. Qualitative inquiry was utilized with the heuristic aspect of the phenomenological approach using semi-structured, open-ended interviews. Thematic analysis was completed at two levels. The first identified three key themes in helping: the provision of instrumental assistance, compassion and information. The themes in grieving were the reconstruction of the death scene, issues of control and the assumptive world, saying good-bye, making sense of the death, and carrying the deceased child forward in a new world. The integration of these themes produced concrete ways of helping parents through the trauma, and facilitating a healthy grieving process. The conclusion of the study outlines the clinical implications of these significant findings.