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The Powell Family – So Much Heartbreak, So Many Questions

murder suicide

It’s so hard to encompass such a difficult story in one blog post. Murder-suicide. Young boys. Very troubled father. Missing mother. Dramatic and frightening death. These are just some of the powerful words that come to mind when reading or hearing about the heartbreaking story of the Powell family.

So many issues and questions came to the surface for me when I read the news on Sunday. I drew my breath in as I soaked in the details. As I realized this had been a well-planned outcome (not a spontaneous emotional act), the questions in my mind became more difficult to ask myself.

How long had Josh been planning this? Had he given any clues to his true state of mind before the explosion? What was his true state of mind? What happened to those kids, and why did he hurt them more before the explosion? Could anyone have prevented this? What about that caseworker frantically pounding on the door before the house exploded? How are they going to cope with everything they experienced? How are the extended family members going to cope with this going forward? Will anyone ever know for certain what happened to Josh’s wife, Susan? How long has Josh really been having emotional problems that he wasn’t getting help for?

I know, it’s a lot of questions. It’s a little bit like the Susan Smith situation and the Casey Anthony situation, but also very different. It involves a troubled father with public scrutiny for a two years prior to this incident; there’s no question he killed his kids, unlike the two mothers mentioned above. Also, he chose to end his life instead of continuing on. He was a “person of interest” in the disappearance of his wife, but this was before the deaths of his kids and himself.

I don’t want to make too many assumptions about his wife’s disappearance because I’m not familiar with much of the back story. However, it seems clear that the stress and scrutiny from last two years took a huge toll on his state of mind. Many news reports state that that boys were starting to reveal suspicious information about their mother. In my opinion, he chose death because his life might soon be too difficult to bear.

I feel awful and heartbroken for everyone involved. Josh’s actions were unbelievably horrible, and I wish he’d somehow gotten some kind of help before he ended everything. I don’t know if he was trying to escape from true guilt about his wife, but I’m always saddened by suicide.

I can’t describe what I feel about those two innocent boys – just thinking about it makes me lose my breath again. Those boys also lost their mother for two years. The case is apparently still unsolved, but I really fear that she lost her life as well. The extended family is divided on who’s to blame, but they all lost four members of their family. That’s a huge loss to process, especially when three happened all at once and in the public eye.

I always hope that widely public family tragedies will teach us something, make us more aware, or prevent something similar from ever happening again. I guess that’s my way of being able to live with the details in my brain. But I have to admit, sometimes it’s hard to make sense of it. When you can’t get into the brain of a person who seems set on ending their life (and sometimes another person with them), how do you find the “off switch?” before it’s too late?

Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t. I know this one will bother me for a long time. And I’ll still have a lot of questions down the road.

This is a difficult topic, both to read and to write about. I welcome your comments and reactions.

Creative Commons License photo credit: findingthenow

The Powell Family – So Much Heartbreak, So Many Questions

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP is a practicing licensed mental health counselor in Nebraska.

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APA Reference
Krull, E. (2012). The Powell Family – So Much Heartbreak, So Many Questions. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 26, 2019, from


Last updated: 8 Feb 2012
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