At a meeting of severe crime and violence victim-offender dialogue facilitator, after staffing a facilitator briefly reflected “it is like holding two spirits in your hands”. I later affirmed her approach, and respect the deep grace she does her work. Severe crime cases transform you as an individual, you walk along side people, hear deep suffering. This article about Healing Burnout, focused on Mindfulness Communication, which includes discussing “being with suffering”. This way of being with suffering, when you facilitate a process of severe crime, can cause to you need deep self-care, in order to avoid or address burnout. How we handle these as practitioners informs how we facilitate and handle further cases.
After seeing two young women embrace, one grieving 3 families members, the others grieving the remorse of driving the car that caused the crash that took those three lives. After the dialogue, before leaving the room, these two hugged. They embraced in tears and what filled the room was beyond words. I could feel it, I can hardly speak of it without choking up. That informed by work, and I saw a forgiveness path chosen by participants. This experience led me to realize a greater depth of forgiveness.
I recently heard a tape recording of my Mothers voice. She died in 1988, and the recording was from a family Christmas in the 70′s. That gift touched my grief and sorrow for my Mother. I realized the grace needed for people who have lost loved ones, especially due to a criminal act, must learn to carry the sorrow. Carrying our sorrow, in a way that is compassionate, allows us to hold that kind of compassion for others. When we take our suffering and move that to compassion for our selves and others, we are carrying the energy and potential that Restorative Justice brings.
It is deep work, to help an offender through minimizing, blaming, justifying to get to the heart of behavior. To do this in a way that maintains the self-worth, and the capacity to be a loving human being, is a skill set. I believe the skills comes from a spacious heart. To help victims, with voice, needs, decisions, preparation also takes a grace and a space in our hearts. Some times the space we use in our hearts is the space carved from our own suffering.