Together with community-based victim support groups, we co-sponsor Days of Healing and community celebrations for adults and children impacted by violence. These gatherings are informal, and include activities that allow for people to express themselves creatively and connect with others who have experienced similar losses.
This past year, the theme of National Crime Victim’s Rights Week, “Expand the Circle, Include All Victims,” allowed us to recognize all of the survivors we work with, both inside and outside of prison. Every member of the circle, incarcerated and from the outside community, had lost a loved one – a cousin, brother, best friend – to homicide. The day was an opportunity for each participant to be recognized as survivors and for many, their losses had rarely been acknowledged, let alone mourned.
Here, in the words of those who attended, is what the day meant:
Until the Day of Healing, I had never once stopped to write down or even express myself to my dad who I lost 28 years ago. This one activity (when we wrote a message to our loved one) provided me with the courage strength, comfort and security to write my dad a letter of what I have been holding in for 28 years.
The activity that impacted me the most was when we broke into smaller groups and spoke about who we lost. The friend I lost was also my victim. As I spoke about it, the emotions overwhelmed me – shame, guilt, regret. But I also took accountability for my actions.
My deep thanks and kudos to all of you who participated. I have never experienced an R:J event that brought together those who did harm and those who have lived through harm in the same space based on the commonality of their loss of a loved one to homicide, and it’s a brilliant idea. Please count me in for future such events!