Saturday, September 17, 2016

What is restorative justice?

Yesterday, I received a call from a woman who works for the Victim-Offender Dialog Program. She will be the facilitator for our family. She will help all of us to navigate our pain and emotions as we go into the prison and meet with one of the men responsible for Matt's murder.

I know that for me, this is a very important part of my healing process. I began this particular piece of my healing journey a couple of years ago. I was asked to share with lifer inmates the catastrophic
impact and devastation that the murder of our Matt has caused myself and our family.

I must say that I was eager to share with these murderers just how their deplorable acts of violence has destroyed so many lives, including their own. I wanted them to feel the anger seething from my soul. I longed for them to see and feel the deep sadness and trauma that they are responsible for.

What I did not anticipate, at all, was the empathy and compassion that I felt for each of them as they shared. While listening intently to these murderers share their crimes and the devastating ripple effects that they continue to realize.  I was not prepared for the remorse that they expressed. The acknowledgement of their responsibility  for these heinous acts of violence shocked me. I was moved by their honesty and deep regret.

I was confused by my feelings and my heart. How can this be happening? The men are killers!

 I can literally hear Matt reminding me that people make terrible mistakes. We have consequences for each and every decision that we make. These men are living with the consequences of their actions.

I am not some saint who can forgive and move on. I am sad, angry, and devastated by the murder of my only son. I still wake up wishing, hoping and praying that it was all a nightmare.

 But, reality hits swiftly,  Matt is gone!  He was shot in the head and died as a result of drugs, alcohol, and violence. All, with no regard for life. Nothing that I say or do can change any of this. So, I am left with....where do I go from here?

I am choosing to try and get some sort of understanding as to why people decide to resort to violence and murder. I know that drugs is a huge part of the reason. I am being lead by something greater than myself, to meet with these men and now to meet with the man involved in Matt's murder.

This man turned himself, the shooter and the driver of the car into the police. Yes, it was nearly two weeks after Matt was killed. I do believe that this man had a moment of clarity and truly realized the enormity of what he and the others had done. No, this admission does not give him a free pass. He is living with the consequences of his horrible decision on Sept. 1, 2008. He has asked to meet with us.

Every day I have to find ways to live with the enormity and consequences of others decisions. I don't get the opportunity to have conversations with my son. I am left here to deal with the confusing internal dialog that happens constantly within my mind and heart.

 I ask God daily for guidance and strength. I believe God is answering my prayer. My job is to remain open to what is being offered.

Many days I want to shut down. I don't want to have to feel this pain in my spirit.  I want to have hope that things and people can be and do better. I know that this is possible. I am one of the examples. I know of thousands more too.

 So, what am I saying? Do I believe that change and a better life can ONLY happen for people whom have not killed another?

The internal conflict that I have is real.  I am clear that only God can heal this. God, is restoring me daily. I have to have faith and believe that God is restoring others, as well. This, to me, is restorative justice.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Accepting the unacceptable

Sept 1st 2016 marks the 8 year anniversary of the last time that I saw my son, Matthew alive.
Most mornings when I wake up, I wonder and then hope with every part of my being, that IT was ALL a horrible nightmare. But very quickly, I am snapped back to reality. This not a nightmare! Matthew is dead. He was murdered.

Soon after Matt's death, I threw myself into anything and everything. Distraction and denial had become my constant companions. I tell myself often, "Teresa, just don't think too much". Once I start thinking about what Matt might be doing if he were still here, is when all Hell breaks loose. Accepting the unacceptable is a challenge that I would not wish on anyone.

I don't write about my thoughts and feelings for sympathy. I'm not a victim. My son Matthew was a victim. We are left here to deal with the devastating aftermath of the act of violence that killed him.

 I know that our friends and family love and support us. I am grateful and humbled by the incredible love we receive on a daily basis. I write and share about this journey of grief for myself and for anyone else who may need to know that others are having similar thoughts and feelings.

I'm not sure if the deep despair and anger which lurks inside of me, will ever go away? It has lessened for periods of time, over the years, but then emerges again with a vengeance. These are the days that I choose to stay in my bed.

Every year, since September 1st 2008, I take this day off from work. I very recently started a new postilion at Kaiser. This is my second week. I was hesitant to share with my new manager that I needed to take today off. I didn't want to share with him why I need this day. I tried to tell myself that I can do it. It's just another day. WRONG! It's not just another day. If it were, just another day, I would have no problem. These are the mind trips that I deal with.

Today, I will go to my appointment. Afterward, my daughters and I will hang out together. Maybe get pedicures? Maybe go to the cemetery to place new flowers at Matt's spot. I don't know for sure? I do know that I am so grateful to be able to spend this day with my girls.

We all go through terrible life situations and devastating times. To give ourselves and each other permission to walk through whatever it is, is the only way through it. Will the anger, devastation, and denial ever fully leave? Will I ever get to a place where I can accept the unacceptable? I don't know the answer to these questions. Only God knows.

So for now, until whenever, I will write and share my thoughts and feelings. Whatever it takes to sort through the madness and sadness inside my heart and mind. That is what I will continue to do.

God, please guide my thoughts, feelings and perceptions. Fill me with your love and forgiveness. Guide me to where YOU would have me go. Clear my mind and Heal my Heart. Amen