1st Edition

Redefining Murder, Transforming Emotion An Exploration of Forgiveness after Loss Due to Homicide

By Kristen Discola Copyright 2021
    252 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    252 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Offering insights based on years of original research, Redefining Murder, Transforming Emotion: An Exploration of Forgiveness after Loss Due to Homicide investigates the ideas and experiences of individuals who have lost loved ones to homicide (co-victims) in order to advance our understanding of the emotional transformation of forgiveness. It stands at the crux of two vibrant, growing fields: criminal victimology and the sociology of emotion. Analysis of 36 intensive interviews with co-victims and three years of participant observation of self-help groups and other victim-centered events offers a multidimensional understanding of forgiveness.

    Specifically, this book answers the questions of "What?," "When?," "How?," and "Why?" forgiveness occurs by exploring co-victims’ ideas about forgiveness, the differential experiences of various groups of people, the processes through which forgiveness occurs in a variety of extreme circumstances of homicide, and co-victims’ motivations toward forgiveness. The book concludes with commentary on overarching conclusions based on this work; theoretical and practical implications; suggestions for directions for future inquiry; and an in-depth account of the methodological strategies employed to gather such rich and nuanced data.

    This book will appeal to academics and students alike, within relevant fields, including sociology, criminology, restorative justice, victim services, psychology, and social welfare, as well as individuals seeking a better understanding of their own experiences, including co-victims or others whose lives have been altered by extreme forms of violence and upheaval. Its detailed postscript will also serve well those interested in qualitative methodology in social science research.

    1. Introduction to the Research, Context, and Content of this Book

    2. Narrating Lived Experiences of Forgiveness and Unforgiveness

    3. Forgiveness Factors Salient within Narratives of Lived Experience

    4. "I could’ve been the one in jail for murder": How Experiential Empathy Fosters Forgiveness in Cases of Close Cultural Proximity between Forgiver and Forgiven

    5. "We are all victims of victims": How Speculative Empathy Fosters Forgiveness in Cases of Distant Cultural Proximity between Forgiver and Forgiven

    6. Constructing Victim, Survivor, and Transcender Identities

    7. Unraveling Causal Order

    8. Conclusions and Future Directions

    Postscript: Detailed Methodology

    Appendix A


    Kristen Lee Discola received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the State University of New York at Albany in 2017, and is currently an Associate Professor of Sociology at California State University, Los Angeles. Her areas of specialization are social psychology, with a focus on emotion and identity, and crime and deviance, with a focus on victimization and trauma. Demonstrating a profound commitment to scholarship and professional growth, Discola has won a number of awards for her in-depth, qualitative work investigating individuals’ experiences following tragic loss, including the inaugural Siegel Graduate Fellowship for Victimology Studies through the American Society of Criminology, Division of Victimology; the Liska Dissertation Research Award; the Paul Meadows Award for Excellence in Research; and the Distinguished Doctoral Dissertation Award, from the State University of New York at Albany.

    Discola’s fabulously rich and compelling data tell a fascinating story about forgiving the unforgiveable: the murder of a loved one. This unique study moves beyond speculation based on normative expectations to explore the real pain and emotional transformations of those who have lived through this trauma. Drawing on symbolic interactionist theories, she meticulously unwinds the strands of affect, identity, language, and group interactions to describe the process of how people arrive at forgiveness—or not. Combining exceptionally readable text and the deeply interesting personal stories of those mourning a homicide loss, this book would make an excellent contribution to any course on social psychology, emotions, victimology, qualitative methods, or other related courses.
    —Dr. Linda Francis, Associate Professor and Interim Chair, Department of Criminology, Anthropology, and Sociology, Cleveland State University

    This book uncovers important discoveries about the realities that people who have lost loved ones to homicide face after their lives are touched by tragedy. With these findings, we will be better able to serve those who have suffered in this way. Discola's insights initiate a truly open, non-judgmental conversation that is needed in our community. Having personally experienced the loss of a loved one to murder, I can speak to the need for such work from a unique, first-hand perspective. I can also speak as an advocate and confidant of many other individuals who have lost loved ones to murder. It is important that people be heard in "their language" and that we seek to understand as fully as possible the experiences of different people. This book allows us to do just that.   
    —Marie Verzulli, Founder of Family & Friends of Homicide Victims; Victim Advocate

    Discola does an incredible job taking something as complex as forgiveness and making comprehension effortless. Students will not want to put this book down, and it will leave them with a completely different outlook on what it means to forgive.

    A great insight into the process to forgiving the unforgivable. Through extensive interviews with those who have lost loved ones to homicide, Discola initiates the conversation about different paths to forgiveness while sharing stories that deserve to be heard.
    —Andrea Awi, Graduate Student, Department of Sociology, California State University, Los Angeles 

    A definite must-read for anyone who has lost a loved one to homicide. Discola provides an eye-opening and stimulating view of how some people are able to forgive even under the most unlikely of circumstances. Throughout the book, she builds on each story, creating a refreshing opportunity for self-reflection. The more I read, the more I felt that personal growth is possible. To me, the book held hope.
    —Claudia Guerrero, Co-victim