Please note, this blog topic, facilitating Restorative Justice in a situation of a fatality, is not intended to promote practitioners stepping beyond their own skill set and training. Mark Umbriet’s week-long course, a masters in counseling and additional trainings in grief, trauma and restorative justice contributed. Serious crime and violence cases should be done in pairs, with support and in-depth training.
“I wish he would have been my Dad”
This statement was so powerful because it was spoken by the young man who was driving the car that caused the death of the “Dad” he mentions.
“She would have done this for any one of us”
The speaker referring to “she” is talking about a relative killed in a traffic crash. What she would have done, meet with the driver of the car and offer her forgiveness.
There is grief after loss. When that loss is sudden, preventable and outside of the natural life cycle, that loss has trauma. People respond individually to loss and trauma. Crime victims in fatalities also have “crime trauma” – having to internalize that another human being intentionally or not, caused the death. There are those who have to deal with various levels of intention by the offending party.
Some decide that Restorative Justice should be part of their journey. It is both humbling and an honor to serve on these cases and in these situations. I say serve because a helper or fixer is a different relationships. (article by Remen)
The relationship of a Restorative Justice practitioner is delicate in a loss of life case. You become familiar with the essence of the loved one lost. I believe our essence is what lingers in others. If we are loved by another, that means we live forever in their hearts. (I saw that on Facebook, so it MUST be true). The circumstances around someone’s death should not be the final definition of who that person was and how they should be remembered.
Two very important things are necessary for healing. Those are hope and courage. Courage to face another day and hope it will and can get better. Those same two values, hope and courage are so alive in a Restorative Justice conference around a fatality and loss of life. What is amazing to bear witness to is the transformation for each party after the session.
I literally see people shed pounds of emotional weight. The careful, careful preparation, and the space to let others do their work is a balancing act. It is not mine to do. My place is to guide the process, set up safety, find road blocks, share my map, discover the most pressing needs so those can be addressed respectfully.
If you are called to do the work of a serious crime and conflict case, start with good conferencing experience. I also recommend Circle Training as a way to understand the essence of Restorative Justice. This is not easy work, and it would require that you feel that call and connect to values for a healing experience. See this blog post: The will to live is the will to heal for more on that.