The Hudson Community Foundation hosted an event Hudson Healing Together, addressing the losses of community members who died by herion/overdose. I was asked to speak at the event and for those not in attendance, the event will be broadcast on The River Channel.
I was really honored to be asked to share a message and support the theme of healing together. Community is a key aspect of Restorative Response, a program of the St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (SCVRJP). Restorative Justice itself recognizes the importance of community and engages individuals to come together to exchange stories and the impact of crime/conflict.
The Restorative Response program, provides support to people who have experienced a sudden, outside the life cycle and preventable loss. Loss from homicide, suicide, traffic fatality and drug overdose. Those types of losses not only hold grief, but comples trauma. The loss at this level changes each and every fiber of a persons being. Mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually.
Thoughts are reorganized, what you once knew in your world, is suddenly very different and the way you think about things has changed. On the physical level, hearts are broken, tears are shed, nightmares, sleeplesss nights and the toll of grief on our bodies takes many forms. Emotionally life feels frail and tender, a wave of different emotions can hit in a moment or a day can be filled with the single emotion of sorrow. Spiritual lives can be impacted, some find great comfort in the beliefs they have beyond themselves and others question God. The loss of a child, to me, is a fate worse than death. The difficulties of living the life long journey of grieving is not a choice anyone would make.
There is disenfranchised grief, and that is when the loss is removed from society, it isn’t recognized. Isolation, self-blame, guilt, shame become the companions of those grieving and those are not helpful. When we make this grief part of our community healing, then we can support people on the path of grieving, and grieving is the bridge between suffering and hope.
We as a community can embrace the wisdom and knowledge of those willing and open about their experiences. We can remember:
Grieving is the bridge between suffering and hope.
As a community, we can hold those that have been hurt, and help them find hope by offering a listening heart. Cup both your hands over your ears, as if to hear better. Bring your hands together in front of you. When they meet, they form a heart. Listen with the ears of your heart. The very word “ear” is in the middle of the word “heart”. Listening with the ears of your heart means listening without judgement. When a grieving person shares, allow room for all emotions, don’t judge.
Be ready to sit in silence with others. The word listen, with letters rearranged, makes the word silent.
Remember to find hope. Is it in the new buds on the trees, newborns or puppies. Maybe it is a walk near water or a kind gesture. Hope helps us continue on.
In Restorative Justice, we create community by a simple conversation. One person says “thank you for listening” the response “thank you for sharing”. This simple recognition of each other embraces our humanity. After people share stories at SCVRJP events, we have the audience walk out by offering a handshake and that simple conversation.
SCVRJP will be hosting a Walk for Awareness on August 9, 2014, to help support community members impacted by tragic and complex loss. If you would like to volunteer we are looking for volunteers to help with the Walk for Awareness, to speak at Circle sessions, help with Restorative Response programs and we are currently recruiting board members. Please contact me at the Restorative Justice Center for more information.