The work to move life forward when others have passed, the power of healing.
A recent Facebook status:
The journey from survivor to thrivor takes courage. I followed her into the coffee shop and saw the tattoo with names of the deceased across her back. Three relatives died in that traffic crash 4 years ago, after 9 months of meetings and prep work, she will soon be meeting the driver of the other vehicle involved. It is powerful work, what some do to heal.
Restorative Justice is grounded in 3’s – Victim/Offender/Community. Howard Zehr’s 3 pillars: Harms & Needs, Obligations, Engagement. (Four Words!). The SCVRJP logo has 3 swirls, with the 4th the white background, the 4 colors of the Lakota Medicine Wheel.
I believe we have a 4th in those we address and engage in Restorative Justice. Victim-Offender-Community and Collective. Four sections of the Circle. Four stages of Circle process, 4 words in the 3 pillars of Restorative Justice.
“Collective” is bigger and broader than community. When I think of engaging “community” in Restorative Justice I am asking my law enforcement officers, school staff, citizens, bystanders and others connected to the specific incident. When we do preventative work, our audience becomes the community. For example a Teen Driving Circle in a Drivers education classroom, creates a community listening to an offender or victim. Collective is those impacted further and beyond the immediate community. Teens go home and tell parents about the powerful story heard. I remember when my daughter was in high school, she was a football cheerleader so I attended football games. After the Restorative Justice work at the school, several parents came to me with questions because their children talked about the Restorative Justice experience.
The ripple of Restorative Justice work goes far and wide, I believe it has impact on the universal human collective. By addressing Mental, Physical, Emotional and Spiritual aspects Restorative Justice must reach beyond, and that ‘Spiritual’ aspect would be the collective. When you do loss of life work, you speak about the survivors views on the after life. You talk about what the deceased would want the living to be doing. Deceased are usually viewed as spirits or angels, you accept what that survivor defines – and usually the view from heaven, that higher perspective is a spiritual one. In a spiritual view of things, values always emerge. Love, forgiveness, compassion, etc, etc. by creating the energy of these things, Restorative Justice impacts the collective.
The collective impact, when people heal from tragedy can be felt. The two women that will be doing a Victim-Offender dialogue, are exploring what speaking together might look like. The offender has been speaking about her experience of distracted driving. The consequences and the lesson is being shared with others to prevent a similar harm. If/when these two begin to speak together, they will not only have the story of the crash, they will have the story of their journey of Restorative Justice.
I often say, “when we share accessing our own inner strength and wisdom, we help others do the same”. To access your inner strength and wisdom. Restorative Justice is the process and the venue for people to access and put this strength and wisdom to use. Some people need the connection to the other person most connected to the incident. That is why some victims request Restorative Justice in loss of life incidents.
Can you imagine the courage it would take to meet with the person driving the car that caused a crash that killed 3 of your relatives? Most people initially hearing the thought of loved ones killed, think about revenge or retaliation. Those two “R”‘s are phases people go through and some stay there. Others move to the “r” of restoration, and that is where healing and moving life forward happens.
I’ve had the unique opportunity to accompany a number of people, seeking Restorative Justice after loss of life. Each person leaves me changed. Each case influences the next, because I have a broader, deeper understanding of the pain and suffering from losing a loved one suddenly. Each person is unique and they are treated as such and with the utmost respect. It keeps me humble and grounded to recognize and realize this work is not just for the victim, the offender and the community. This work is for the collective. Mankind can do better and be better when we seek to heal with each other.