Traumatic Grief & Loss Janene: A Case Study

Traumatic Grief & Loss

Janene: A Case Study


, 34, has come to you for therapy, urged on by her husband who is at his wits end on what to do about me since my mother was found raped and shot to death.  He does not approve of my detective work around my mother’s unsolved murder. He’s afraid I’ll get myself killed and bring shame to our people.  But I don’t care.  The police say they have no leads and I’m not going to sit at home and just accept that.  My mother was Cherokee, like myself.  If she had been anything other than Native American, maybe they wouldn’t have given up so easily.  My mother was brutally raped and suffered a horrible death at the hands of some monster. I’m going to find out who killed her if it’s the last thing I do on earth.

As Janene’s social worker, you have had eight sessions so far with little progress, and this is what you’ve found out so far:

  • Janene’s amateur detective work has taken her into high-risk areas where she has faced off with dangerous people.  She carries a concealed weapon and has a legal permit to do so. Law enforcement personnel are aware of her efforts and have asked her to stop, but Janene remains defiant. It is clear she continues to place herself in grave danger in her solitary efforts to find her mother’s killer.


  • Janene has quit her job and has isolated herself from friends, extended family, community meetings, and church.  She admits her relationship with her husband is fading in importance to her.
  • Janene was not on good terms with her mother at the time of the murder.  Janene feels overwhelming remorse and cannot forgive herself, saying What was wrong with me?  I fought with her over every little thing.  The last thing was over what she asked me to bring to Christmas dinner.  I was a dishonorable daughter.  I was horrible, just horrible.  I hung up on her.  My mother died thinking I hated her.
  • Janene has a history of depression, once when she was 18 and again after a miscarriage at 28 years.  She states with sadness I was never able to get pregnant after that.  I guess I’m damaged goods.
  • At the end of the last session (8th session), Janene disclosed she was raped when she was 21 years old.  Her attacker was unknown to her.  She did not see his face and, even though she reported the attack to the police, they were never able to identify or apprehend her attacker.  She never told anyone in her family about the incident. She rejected the offer of counseling from the victim advocate’s office following the incident.  Of the attack, Janene says After I was raped, I traveled to the Long Man where I purified myself.  I never got to do that for my mother because the ME’s office took charge of her body, but I did bury her in cedar to honor her sacredly.  At least, I could do that for my mother.
  • Janene is a CPA by trade, and has been successful in an accounting firm for the last six years.  She reports having been active in the Lutheran church with her husband through worship attendance and volunteering in the church nursery.  She reports she has stopped going to church since the murder.


  • Janene is a Native American, holding citizenship in the Cherokee Nation.  She explains that she holds both to Christian faith and her traditional Cherokee belief system, and that she feels both systems of belief are easily accommodated within my heart without confusion or contradiction .
  • Janene expresses bewilderment that God allowed my mother’s murder. Why didn’t God protect her? My mother was as the essence of the number seven; she was  cedar. She was wise and kind.  Why would anybody hurt a woman like that?  
  • In therapy, Janene seems stuck on retelling her mother’s murder and on the theme of finding and punishing her attacker, imagining her mother’s horror, pain, and aloneness in her dying moments, and then imagining finding that monster and tearing him apart, limb by limb, making him suffer like he made my mother suffer.  Evil will be punished, you know, and I will be the one to punish the monster, even if I have to go Raven Mocker to do it.
  • Janene states she has seen her mother on three occasions since her death 10 months ago.  Each time I have walked in the deep woods near my house, I have seen her.  She appears to me in the groves of pine and cedar, and each time I have heard the cougar scream. I am not afraid, of course. This is my mother, waiting and wondering what I am going to do to avenge her death. How can I fail my mother?

Using the wealth of information you have learned from reading Rynearson, Neimeyer, and other articles, imagine yourself as Janene’s social worker.  What are you going to do now? She is willing to come to therapy once a week with you. How are you going to proceed in any helpful way, now that you both feel stuck in the dying, remorse, and vengeance story? 

Use the requisite heading guides to describe your analysis and sphere of work with your client, Janene:


Janene’s Presenting Problem as I (you, the social worker) See It:


What are the cultural implications and puzzles in this case?  Identify them and explain them through your own research.  Be sure to name your sources.


 My Therapeutic and Ethical Concerns as Janene’s Social Worker:


 Issues for Therapy Prioritized (e.g. It is easy to get tangled up with a number of issues vying for therapeutic attention. It helps to take a moment to remember why the client came to you for help, and which issues need attending to first, second, third, etc., so list them below):


Therapeutic Strategies I Will Employ to Accomplish Identified Goals (Be sure to identify both the goals and the therapeutic strategies you plan to us to accomplish them)


 Your Final Thoughts about this Case


Your final thoughts on how this course has helped you understand traumatic grief and loss.


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