Most don't take such an open route, especially when their grief is complicated by the death of the perpetrator, said Brown.
Family members can be overwhelmed by grief and loss but don't feel they have the right to those emotions. They may not reach out to support groups, like those for suicide survivors, because of the effect their relative's hellish crimes have had on their community, according to Brown.
More than a decade after the gruesome school shooting that left 12 students and one teacher dead, the parents of Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold remain largely silent.
Susan Klebold, the mother of Dylan, finally opened up in a 2009 issue of Oprah Magazine with a personal essay titled "I Will Never Know Why."
She wrote: "Through all of this, I felt extreme humiliation. For months I refused to use my last name in public. I avoided eye contact when I walked. Dylan was a product of my life's work, but his final actions implied that he had never been taught the fundamentals of right and wrong. There was no way to atone for my son's behavior."
She also revealed that in one newspaper survey, 83 percent of respondents said that "the parents' failure to teach Dylan and Eric proper values played a major part in the Columbine killings."
After the essay was published, she and her husband, Tom, resumed their silence, until Klebold attended a lecture by author Andrew Solomon.
Solomon was working on a book, "Far From the Tree," that explored children who were vastly different from their parents, whether through autism, dwarfism, homosexuality or crime, and in the Klebolds' case, murder.
Solomon said the decision to write the 976-page book came out of his experience as a gay man, "out of my own sense of having been somewhat incomprehensible to my own parents," he explained.
Klebold agreed to talk about the aftermath of her son's killing spree.
"I think they spoke to me because they wanted to ensure that Dylan was known with his nuances, as someone who was capable of kindness, himself, even though he ultimately engaged in a terrible act," Solomon said.
"I expected to find an explanation for why Dylan had grown up capable of doing something so horrific. What I found instead was that the better I knew Tom and Sue, the more bewildering it all became."
Brown finds that families feel powerless, knowing they have to live with these crimes for the rest of their lives.
"They are doing a life sentence of their own," she said.
Often, a statement on the family's behalf is all they can muster amid the inexplicable events and the media frenzy.
The family of Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 people before shooting himself, issued a statement after the tragedy in April 2007. On behalf of the family, Sun-Kyung Cho, the sister of the shooter, said:
"We have always been a close, peaceful and loving family. My brother was quiet and reserved, yet struggled to fit in. We never could have envisioned that he was capable of so much violence. He has made the world weep. We are living a nightmare."
The Chos haven't spoken to the media since.
Most recently, the Lanzas in Newtown: "We reach out to the community of Newtown and express our heartfelt sorrow for this incomprehensible and profound loss of innocence."
Then, there's the survivor's guilt.
Mildred Muhammad's ex-husband and father of her three children, John Allen Muhammad, terrorized the Washington, D.C., area with random sniper attacks in 2002.
Muhammad was executed in November 2009 by lethal injection. His accomplice Lee Boyd Malvo, who was a teenager at the time of the shootings, is serving life in a Virginia prison.
"People blamed me for what John did," Mildred Muhammad told CNN.
Prior to the shootings, Mildred and John had a troubled relationship, troubled to the point that he threatened to take her life.
After the divorce, John Muhammad emptied out their bank accounts, kidnapped their children and disappeared.