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Healing Hurt . . . grieving is the bridge between suffering and hope.

  • Posted on May 16, 2014 at 12:18 pm

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.

Suicide prevention and support opportunities – December 2013

  • Posted on December 6, 2013 at 4:54 pm

The Suicide Prevention Task Force of St. Croix County has been busy providing QPR trainings.  QPR stands for Question, Persuade and Refer.  The one hour training provides steps and resources for preventing suicide.  As these trainings have evolved a number of local resources have also been featured, including the Restorative Response program of St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program.

The next QPR training is in New Richmond, January 14 at 6:30 pm.  Suicide Prevention Flyer 2013.

The next Restorative Response Support Circles are December 19 and January 16, the event flyer December & January Survivors of Suicide.

Each flyer contains contact information for more information.


Tragic and sudden loss results in complex grief and trauma.

  • Posted on September 5, 2013 at 4:23 pm

St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (SCVRJP) has a special set of services for those impacted by sudden, preventable loss – suicide, homicide, traffic fatality, drug overdose.  These kinds of deaths create complex grief and trauma, in addition to the grief of having to bury a family member, deal with death as part of your job, or being a helper for people impacted by these types of incidents.

Restorative Justice approaches involve healing.  We also invite community engagement.  From working with victims and offenders in fatal traffic crashes that involve alcohol or impairment, SCVRJP developed advocacy, support and awareness to sudden death.  Executive Director Kris Miner and the group of volunteers at SCVRJP, developed Restorative Justice Circle process to address deep loss and harms.  Miner also attended training sessions to learn how these traumas impact survivors, bystanders, community members and providers.

In 2010, SCVRJP began to offer services for the region.  A Guide for Grieving Families was distributed to local law enforcement and first responders.  These guides are still available through SCVRJP.  Services also include Restorative Response Circles (at the request of your family, agency, social group) and Circles of Support, the Fall Schedule will be:

September 12 – Complex Grief & Traumatic Loss

October 10 – Making Meaning

October 24  – Coping with Incompleteness

November 7 –Dealing differently than others

November 21 –Life after Loss

Attend One or All, 6-8 pm Free of Charge.

Please contact SCVRJP (phone 715-425-1100 or  if you plan to attend.  This allows us to prepare space, refreshments and resources.

SCVRJP also provides 1:1 support, matching survivors with a trained volunteer who has experienced a similar loss and type of relationship.  Parent to parent, or spouse to spouse.  Each situation is unique and we work to provide support that is helpful, meeting the informal needs of community support.  The SCVRJP mission is to provide a culture of peace and belonging utilizing Restorative Justice Principles and Programs in our community.

Kris is also available to provide trainings, workshops or in-service sessions on the unique needs of a traumatic loss experience.  SCVRJP is a partner of the Suicide Prevention Task Force of St. Croix County.

National Crime Victims Rights Week April 21-27, 2013

  • Posted on April 9, 2013 at 4:51 pm

2013 National Crime Victims’ Rights Week   – All events FREE and open to the public.

The Journey to Justice:  Restorative Justice after HomicideA home robbery left two murdered, after 18 years it became necessary to meet the person responsible.  Hear first-hand the survivor experience, the gaps, strengths and support in finding “justice”.  This presentation includes a brief overview of Restorative Justice options for victims and the survivor presentation.  River Falls Area Hospital 1629 East Division Street, River Falls.

Monday April 22      River Falls Area Hospital 7-8 pm


Supporting Victims Lunch & LearnPanelists who provide direct services will guide this discussion.  Topics include supporting sexual assault and child victims and ethical issues in victim services.  Discussion will focus on providing effective victim advocacy.  This lunch and learn will provide guidance and resources for working with and supporting crime victims. Beverages provided, please bring your brown bag lunch.  River Falls Public Library 140 Union Street, River Falls.

Tuesday  April 23       River Falls Library     Noon-1 pm


Resource & Referral Open HouseStop by the Restorative Justice Center to gather victim resources, light refreshments served.  Area victim support providers will have information, resource brochures, print material, support group schedules and related material for crime victims.  To have your resources featured please deliver them by April 18 to SCVRJP. Restorative Justice Center 215 N 2nd Street, Suite 108, River Falls.

Wednesday April 24      Restorative Justice Center  10 am- 6 pm


Take Back the Night 2013Speak Out Against Sexual Violence.  Rally-March-Candle Light Vigil, sponsored by SART.  To empower and support survivors, raise awareness that this violence will NOT be tolerated in our community.  Clothes-line project, personalized posters, music and food.  Everyone Welcome.  St. Bridget’s Catholic Church 211 East Division Street, River Falls.

Thursday  April 25      St. Bridget’s Catholic Church  6-9 pm


Victim Empathy Restorative Justice CircleKindly pre-register, so we can plan our space.  Talking Circles provide equal opportunity for sharing and listening.  Circle topic will be victim empathy and supporting victim needs.  Victim service providers, youth and survivors welcome to attend.  Call to pre-register 715-425-1100 or email Restorative Justice Center 215 N 2nd Street, Suite 108, River Falls.

Friday  April 26      Restorative Justice Center 3-5 pm

Supporting neighbors you may never meet.

  • Posted on October 26, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Helping in community can take many forms.  Some serve on boards, committees, coalitions.  Others volunteer, lending time and talents to promote and support key causes.  Another way is to donate financially or attend fundraising events.  Non-profits depend on the support of all types of helpers.  As I was drafting up the program for the upcoming Restoring the Fabric of Our Community event.  I realized the program audience will likely not meet those they support.  The work of SCVRJP reaches far and wide.  Prevention and diversion work, isn’t always obvious.  We don’t get to ever know how many people decided good choices after attending a SCVRJP session.

We do know that our community has continued to embrace our work and even asks for more.  We have a steady stream of volunteers, referrals for programming and feedback that our work has touched and changed lives.   Programming at SCVRJP continues to grow and respond to community needs.  Recent additions include a Guide for Grieving Families, a resource for law enforcement and first responders.  We’ve expanded our offerings for survivors of un-natural death.  Some insights in how supporting SCVRJP, supports neighbors includes . . .

  • High school students hearing first hand from a Mother, the pain she has survived after her daughter decided to drive, impaired, text and speed.  All students in the Circle made a specific committment to reduce their risk for a fatal crash.
  • Providing retired community members a place to volunteer, engage with a younger generation and offer support, wisdom and accountability.
  • Volunteer fireman pass a talking piece and process painful incidents, the impact and the resilience skills they use to deal with fatal crashes, death and survivors.
  • Young people processing what happened, how they impacted others, and how they can move ahead without causing further harm.
  • I’ve watched the person who caused a fatal crash of 3 be forgiven by a family member of the deceased.  They hugged and embraced and humanity filled the room.
  • Evalution forms consistently read things like: eye-opening, life changing, everyone should have to attend, the stories made a difference.

This event is both a celebration and a fundraiser.  St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (SCVRJP) provides Restorative Justice services in Pierce & St. Croix Counties, and accepts requests outside the region as well.  The mission: To Build a Culture of Peace & Belonging Using Restorative Justice Principles and Programs in our Community, is helping those directly served (nearly 3,000 annually), while providing safety for all community members and all guests in our neighborhoods.  By supporting SCVRJP you might never meet the person you have supported and helped.  You can make a life changing impact, I can assure you, having the honor of seeing lives changed.

Please enjoy a safe Halloween.  If you attend the Chamber Business Expo Saturday, please say hello at the SCVRJP booth!

If you are interested in supporting SCVRJP or attending Restoring the Fabric of Our Community, we have extended our RSVP deadline to Monday at noon.  You can call the Restorative Justice Center at 715-425-1100 or email me at  thank you!

A poem of support, an opportunity to respond without reacting.

  • Posted on July 25, 2012 at 1:40 pm

A nonprofit serving Pierce & St. Croix Counties in Western Wisconsin, St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program utilizes the principles and process of Restorative Justice (link provides introduction) to address public health issues of impaired driving, underage consumption, controlled substance use, disorderly conduct, and other conflicts/crimes that are referred and appropriate for Restorative Justice.  We’ve developed a strong program utilizing community members, storytelling and Restorative Justice Circles.  We are always accepting new volunteers, and are interested in hearing from you if your life was impacted by any of these public health concerns.  Please see our volunteer page on our website.

RJ – Restorative Justice – is vicitm-centered, in a world of process for offenders.  The discipline, sanction, punishment models are very different, however a source of referrals, and an introduction of a harmful incident to a Restorative process.

Case flow from incident to SCVRJP.  SCVRJP has grown to be a trusted and effective option for many.  For others, the program is not utilized, dismissed or misunderstood.  As the Executive Director, I carry a great deal of passion about the work we do.  I am a true believer in Restorative Justice.  I get to make important decisions on a daily basis about responding or reacting.  I train our volunteers and I seek to live the values of RJ and utilize Respect, Responsibility and Relationship as best I can.

Others might be faced with similiar challenges of feeling undervalued, dismissed or misunderstood.  These may root from the intentional or UNintentional actions of others.  They may root from your own perceptions, expereinces or lenses.  Recent tragic events may trigger your need to do more, say more, right the wrong.  For that, I’d like to share a resource I discovered – LINK.  You’ll find some strategic advice, and a poem that I wanted to share:

You can’t be all things to all people.

You can’t do all things at once.

You can’t do all things equally well.

You can’t do all things better than everyone else.

Your humanity is showing just like everyone else’s.



You have to find out who you are, and be that.

You have to decide what comes first, and do that.

You have to discover your strengths, and use them.

You have to learn not to compete with others,

Because no one else is in the contest of *being you*.


You will have learned to accept your own uniqueness.

You will have learned to set priorities and make decisions.

You will have learned to live with your limitations.

You will have learned to give yourself the respect that is due.

And you’ll be a most vital mortal.


Dare To Believe:

That you are a wonderful, unique person.

That you are a once-in-all-history event.

That it’s more than a right, it’s your duty, to be who you are.

That life is not a problem to solve, but a gift to cherish.

And you’ll be able to stay one up on what used to get you down.

To print the poem: Click

Responding to tragic events, restoratively.

  • Posted on July 11, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Helping Children Cope

Tips for parents, teachers & caregivers

Children are affected by loss and death differently than adults. Children express their grief in a variety of ways and deal with death in many different ways, not necessarily in the same way as adults.   How adults support children can shape the immediate and long-term grieving process.  To help children cope with a death, parents, teachers, caregivers can help by remembering a child is most impacted by the changes they will experience.

  • It is best to talk with children in small groups and allow them to identify and express emotions.
  • Emotions can range from shock to regression, acting out, asking questions over and over.
  • Allow children to teach you about their experiences, be a good listener, and remember grief is a process and not a specific event; it is just triggered by an event.
  • Circles can allow children a structured format for sharing, focusing on taking turns, and listening one at a time.
  • After listening, guide the discussion to coping strategies, allow children to share their strategies with others.
  • Speak clearly; children can pick up on false or veiled information.  Loss and death are part of the life cycle; sudden, preventable death carries the additional burden.
  • Traumatic loss complicates the grieving process, for adults and children.  Assure safety.
  • Be aware of your own need to grieve.  You can help children by being as healthy as possible, tend to your emotional needs, and be aware of your boundaries for helping others.
  • Speak with children about seeing others cope with loss and other expressions of grief.
  • Allow children the space for expressing support for each other and acknowledge listening as a supportive act.
  • Make sure children know you are interested in hearing and knowing their thoughts and needs.
  • Encourage children to speak with caring adults and to ask questions.
  • Remind children this is an unsettling time, and that time will pass and emotions will change over time.
  • Give children different options for expressing grief, drawing, poetry, telling stories, using clay, singing songs.
  • Be loving and supportive, talk to other providers, watch for signs of overly intense reactions, and seek professional help when necessary.



For more information on the St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Restorative Response Program,  For a flyer on Restorative Response, Restorative Response.

Help us “Get Things Done” AmeriCorp position available!

  • Posted on April 26, 2011 at 7:21 pm

 St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program and the Pierce County Partnership for Youth have been awared an AmeriCorp position.  We are recruiting eligible candidates, the deadline to apply is June 10, 2011.  Please share this announcement with anyone who might be interested!   Application:  Member application Northwoods Coalition FINAL 2011-2012.

The SCVRJP position would promote the mission of the Pierce County Partnership for Youth and support programs at SCVRJP.

AmeriCorps, often referred to as a domestic Peace Corps, places individuals within communities to give a year of their life to serving others. Marshfield Clinic AmeriCorps places members with host site coalitions throughout the State of Wisconsin to help “Get Things Done”. The ultimate goal of this proposal is to strengthen the capacity of coalitions and achieve positive outcomes related to the reduction and prevention of substance abuse among youth statewide. To reach this goal Marshfield Clinic AmeriCorps will place members in multiple coalitions across Wisconsin to support out-of-school time activities and other evidence-based approaches to prevent youth substance use.Applicants for AmeriCorps member positions must be willing to serve for 10-12 months (1700 hours minimum), averaging approximately 35- 40 hours a week. Members must also be able to handle the financial commitment made by accepting the position. Applicants must be 21 years of age by September 2011, possess a high school diploma or GED/HSED and agree to a criminal background check and Department of Motor Vehicles check.

Members receive a living allowance of approximately $465 (gross) every two weeks over their term of service, along with medical healthcare insurance (premium paid by Marshfield Clinic), free service gear, free childcare (if qualified) and vacation time. Upon successful completion of the term of service, members receive a $5,500 educational award. Educational awards can be used for loan repayment, future schooling costs and special educational opportunities. Members have the option of serving up to two terms (3,400 hours) and earning $11,000 in educational awards. Members have up to seven years to utilize educational awards.

Marshfield Clinic AmeriCorps members are overseen by host site supervisors and provided with regular support and direction from the Marshfield Clinic AmeriCorps program manager and staff.

Members will have numerous opportunities for travel, conferences and trainings. Events for the 2011-2012 program years will include a member orientation, program kickoff, midterm training, end of year celebration and more. Host sites may provide additional training opportunities based on need and availability.

For more information contact:

Brian Blahnik, Program Manager

(800) 782-8581, Ext. 18403


Violence Prevention Efforts, Restorative Justice and a new blogger.

  • Posted on April 19, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Restorative Justice addresses issues of violence prevention, using evidence-based and  public health models. In addition to using Restorative Justice Circles for communication/community building, decision-making and conflict resolution.  My newest blogger connection is Ken Kimsey, at Fairnessworks.  He added my blog to his ‘blogroll’ and I wanted to share a resource he recently posted:

A seven-step tutorial for people involved in relationship conflicts is available online, free of charge,  from the Conflict Resolution Information Source.   Intended for educators and instructors, the course was designed by the Division of Continuing Education and Professional Studies at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Tragically, it is common for relationship conflicts to escalate to the point where there is a real danger of violence.   In these circumstances, the first priority is to protect the parties from one another. Only then is it appropriate to work through the Stop Fighting tutorial . . .

The tutorial tells How to Stop Fighting through these seven steps:

  • Step #1: Limit the Escalation Spiral (Quit digging the hole deeper.)
  • Step #2: Overcoming the Hurt — Replacing Humiliation with Respect
  • Step #3: Break Down Misunderstandings — Communicate Well
  • Step #4: Fighting Fairly: Developing a System for Handling Disputes
  • Step #5: Effective Negotiation
  • Step #6: Deal Constructively with Irreconcilable Differences
  • Step #7: Keep Your Eye on the Ball: Remember What’s Important

Honoring Crime Victims – Prevent the Harm.

  • Posted on April 11, 2011 at 12:07 am

Only 2 to 15 percent of crime victims access needed victim services,

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week calls our nation to take up these challenges—to reshape the future by facing our failures and building on the successes of the past. Although this challenge may seem overwhelming, every jurisdiction and every individual can do something to improve our response to victims of crime. We can:

3 such as crisis and mental health counseling, shelter, information, financial assistance, and advocacy within the criminal and juvenile justice systems. Victims’ rights vary significantly from state to state and between states and the federal government. Furthermore, many victims do not know they have legal rights. Some victims are still being denied notification, compensation, and access to courts, and too few jurisdictions have set up coordinated, consistent victim response systems.4 Also, the impact of the recent recession—both on donations to nonprofit victim services and on city, state, and county budgets—means that fewer victim assistance programs are available.

  • Enforce current victims’ rights laws.
  • Victims’ rights without enforcement are meaningless. Every time a victim is denied rightful access to a courtroom, the opportunity to present a victim impact statement, or information about his or her rights, that failure affects us all. When a court fails to inform a murder victim’s family about a hearing where the accused is ultimately released, the system fails the victim and undermines respect for the court. When offenders are released from federal prisons on medical furloughs without notifying victims and witnesses,5 authorities endanger victims and sometimes foster more crime. Policymakers and citizens need to insist that victims’ rights be enforced.

  • Reach out to underserved victims.
  • For a number of complex reasons, millions of crimes go unreported every year. In 2009, victims reported 49 percent of violent crimes and 40 percent of property crimes to the police.6 Only about one in six cases of elder abuse, neglect, exploitation is ever reported to authorities,7 and teenagers are twice as likely as adults to be victimized but much more likely than adults not to report crimes against them.8 Recent immigrants, too, are more likely than other adults not to report crimes.9 These numbers reflect the millions of crime victims who have no contact with the criminal justice system and no means to exercise their rights. Finding ways to reduce these numbers, through outreach by trusted community members or other means, should be an urgent local, state, and national priority.

  • Support crime victims in your community.
  • Although most of us do not hold public office, we all have the power to help victims of crime. Employers can help prevent workplace violence and actively protect stalking and domestic violence victims who work for them. They can give victims time off to attend court proceedings and receive needed services. Teachers, youth workers, clergy members, and health professionals can look for signs of abuse or sexual victimization in children and teenagers, and find ways to offer support. Parents and teachers can demand strong anti-bullying laws and policies, ensuring that young victims are supported and bullies receive the intervention they need. Also, we can all volunteer at victim service agencies and support them financially. Reshaping the Future, Honoring the Past,



    then, reflects the power of crime victims and their allies to change the course of history. By recalling past struggles and triumphs during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, we can face the future with hope. May we honor all victims by seeking the fullest possible justice for those harmed by crime.

    (copied from