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

(Released May 2009)

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  by Emil Moldovan  

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Death notification is a difficult, unwelcome, although essential assignment. Survivors can suffer terrible and long-lasting grief following a poorly delivered and badly prepared death message. The loss of family members is traumatic to survivors. When the death results from a homicide, suicide or accident, grief can be amplified by the notification process. If the death involves a child, it could be the single most catastrophic event imaginable. (Janzen, 2003-2004) The process of aiding grieving family members begins from the moment they get the news of their loved one's death. All notifiers, whether from law enforcement, mental health, military, or private industry, should understand what they do or say in their brief encounter may well set the tone for the family's long-term ability to survive the ordeal of losing a loved one. (Miller, 2008b)

official letter
A World War II Death Notification
The messengers also can suffer from difficulties in their emotional balance due to associative factors and continued exposure relating to their work assignments. Whether it is a law enforcement officer, medical clinician, chaplain, social worker or death investigator delivering the devastating news, it behooves the person to possess as much training, experience and empathy for the grieving family as possible.

Unfortunately, research indicates that when death notification personnel are poorly trained, survivors as well as the bearers of the news may suffer consequences. The damage to the relationship between families and the notifying agency can be manifested at later dates or during other encounters. It often leaves survivors with lingering unanswered questions relating to the deaths of their loved ones and contributes to emotional difficulties for future re-entry into a normal lifestyle. Recommendations for additional and more intensive training are indicated for law enforcement agencies, and others, who must carry the burden of being the bad news bearers. (Page, 2008)

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List of Visuals

References

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