My name is Katja Faber. I am a co-victim of homicide. My life stopped when the police arrived at my door at 2am to tell me that my 23-year-old son Alex had been a victim of a brutal attack and that he was dead. You don’t get over that. Ever. What you do is survive it, barely. Then you slowly learn to live with it, to carry the loss, to fight for justice, to manage the grief as you start to rebuild a life, a new life. A life shattered, a before and after, a journey no parent should ever have to make. This is my story.
I am first and foremost a mother to three children. My children have always been my greatest teachers, and to this day remain my inspiration. Their humour, fortitude, ideas, and dreams have challenged me in ways I could not have imagined. I am undoubtedly more patient, compassionate and wise because of them.
I’m also a writer. This is what I do, how I think — I’m a storyteller. Ever since I was a child, I have created worlds out of my imagination. As my children were growing up, I juggled full-time parenting with being a freelance journalist and writer. I continue to write to this day.
My day job, however, is farming. I’m an avocado and fruit farmer, a way of life that continues to inspire me even after all these years. It’s a way of life that beautifully complements my creative writing side. Being close to nature has always filled me with energy and calmed my soul. I came to this ‘job’ once my children were in their late teens and I’ve never looked back.
That’s not to say that farming is an easy life because it isn’t. Yet it’s an honest, no-bullshit way of living, and I love that. In Healing Through Nature, I explore the emotional and health benefits of being in the outdoors as a means to accept and reconnect with our feelings following child loss. I believe that Nature helps us heal. I touch on how the outdoors can help those in deep grief and how my own grief journey has shifted.
However, farming isn’t what I’ve always done. Many years ago, pre-children, I was a lawyer, a criminal law barrister. As they say in legal jargon, I ‘cut my teeth’ defending criminals. I worked in the law courts of London and also visited clients in prison. But after a number years, I began to realize that the justice system was not how I had envisioned as a young law student. Disillusioned, I turned away from the harsh reality of the criminal justice system and found my way to writing and journalism, my natural default setting. I could never have imagined that the years I spent as a lawyer would one day provide me with the knowledge and experience to help fight for justice for my son.
The death of my son, Alex Morgan
I began my harrowing grief journey following the brutal killing of my son Alex on 30th December 2014. I had little idea of how my personal experience would touch and inspire others who had suffered child loss. After the arrest of Alex’s killer and the subsequent investigation, I became an advocate for justice for my son.
That I had to grieve my son at the same time as dealing with the police investigation and pre-trial hearings was at times too much for me. There were days I could not get out of bed. But somehow, I found the strength to carry on. I decided to get a lawyer who specialized in criminal law and asked my own brother, who is a lawyer, to help me. This meant that I could fight for Alex and seek justice. Whenever I felt like giving up, I was suddenly overcome with the instinct to protect my son, and then there was no stopping me. I knew he was dead, yet it made no difference — I fought for him as if he had still been alive. I may not have been able to protect him as he lay dying, but I sure as hell could push back against the three-man legal team representing the killer and in so doing support the State Prosecutor.
It was to take over two and a half years before we had a verdict in the case. In August 2017, Alex’s killer was found guilty of intentional homicide. The killer then appealed against the conviction, whilst at the same time, the State Prosecutor also appealed requesting an increase in the length of the prison sentence to 16 years. The appeal hearing at the Zurich Appellate Court (Obergericht) did not take place until November 2018 at which point the original conviction and sentence against the killer were overturned. We were devastated. The State Prosecutor then appealed the Appellate Court decision. We are currently awaiting a judgment from the Federal Court (Bundesgericht) as to whether the Appellate Court decision is legally binding. See The Trial and the Verdict and Sentence.
The unspeakable horror of dealing with the Trial
In becoming involved in the legal process, I found a means of expressing my fears, rage, and suffering, as well as my hope for a future and the healing of my family. To my surprise, as news of my story spread, I was contacted by other parents who were also fighting for justice for their children.
In some ways, I was lucky in that being a trained English criminal barrister legal concepts in the case and trial were not entirely new to me even though it was held in Switzerland — a different jurisdiction to the one I knew. However, when it is your own child who has been “massacred” (a word used by the State Prosecutor during the trial) the reality of reading witness statements and forensic evidence becomes soul-crushing. No amount of legal training helped me prepare for this unspeakable horror.
My wish is to honour my son
Complex grief following the sudden and unexpected death of a child is extremely difficult to face and accept. Each parent or family member stumbles through the days, months and years following the loss without knowing how to navigate this life-changing event.
Nothing can prepare a parent for such devastating loss. Often, resources available following the death of a child are missing or inadequate. Counselling and psychotherapy may help, but in many cases, they only manage to touch the surface of our suffering. It’s not uncommon to be left feeling even more isolated and misunderstood than before. In the case of homicide loss, there are additional challenges — such as media intrusion, a police investigation, forensic evidence, a complex justice system — that make the grief journey more traumatic. In many cases, these challenges can disrupt the process of grief because parents and families simply don’t have the space to mourn. Instead, they are faced with all manner of situations outside of their control adding to their distress and burdening them with even more sorrow and anxiety.
Society’s lack of comprehension and willingness to deal with the ultimate taboo – the death of a child – can have serious repercussions on our mental and physical health. It can result in us feeling alone in the darkest moments of our grief. For many bereaved parents, it is the connection and understanding that we find in coming together with other bereaved parents that helps the most.
By writing my own private journal and subsequently contributing to the book – Surviving My First Year of Child Loss – as well as becoming a contributor for Still Standing Magazine and other publications, I have found a way of helping others. In doing so, I also hope to heal myself.
I feel motivated to not only share my grief journey and thoughts regarding child loss but also to push against the stigma surrounding homicide loss. To this end, I have written A Four-Part Article On Homicide Loss.
I seek to break the silence about this type of grief and the challenges faced by families having to live in the aftermath of such loss. The unique problems that come with homicide are often overlooked by society. In the article Murder As Entertainment And the Psychology of Fear, I shine a light on society’s fascination with violence and how it affects survivors of homicide. Crisis, Trauma and the Justice System explores in detail the difficulties faced by co-victims and how those in their community can help them. Lastly, in the final part Emotional Support in the Initial Stages and Beyond I look at the psychological and emotional challenges co-victims face. I shall continue to write about homicide loss and traumatic grief in order to help eradicate the stigma surrounding this type of loss.
Certified provider in Compassionate Bereavement Care®
As I have navigated this post-loss world, so my interest in trauma grief has grown. This, in turn, has resulted in a desire to research the subject so as to better understanding my own experience. I’m also intrigued, and somewhat saddened, by society’s response to those of us who are bereaved. Additionally, I now have loss parents who sometimes visit me on my farm, seeking respite and connection. To that end, I have become a Certified Provider in Compassionate Bereavement Care, a mindfulness-based non-medicalized approach to traumatic grief. The training is provided by the Center for Loss and Trauma, a partnership between the MISS and Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundations, two leading organizations in bereavement support and education.
Through my writing and my specialized training in traumatic grief, I have been shown a way to honour my son Alex and still-living children. And also, a means of helping others who are traumatically bereaved.
Thank you for taking the time to read My Story and for visiting this site.
© Copyright 2018 Katja Faber