While April, for me, displays new flowers, longer sunny days, and urges for walks on the beach, for the women of Rwanda, whom my daughter Megan has been interviewing for her upcoming book on forgiveness, April marks the 20th anniversary of the genocide that killed roughly one million people in just three months. Rape was used as a weapon during the bloodbath. In this article just posted in The Daily Beast, http://www.thedailybeast.com/witw/articles/2014/03/13/female-victims-of-rwanda-s-genocide-begin-to-get-help-two-decades-later.html) Megan talks with some of the war widows and describes the great need that still exists for counselors and volunteers to educate survivors about common trauma symptoms. What seems to help the most is when these women can meet regularly with other survivors and learn that they are not alone, that many women share their sense of shame, terrible loss and traumatic grief.
In June, Megan and I will present talks in Verona, Italy, to a conference on collective victimization. Her talk will focus on the restorative justice and reconciliation processes she’s studied, and mine will be on personal ways to heal the wounds of traumatic grief. The goal is to find ways to interrupt cycles of violence and find renewed community.
Closer to home, Azim Khamisa’s TKF foundation in San Diego, founded in his son’s memory, teaches nonviolence in the “Safe Schools” program now offered in every middle school in the San Diego School District. In Albuquerque, New Day Youth & Family Services offers counseling and transitional living to homeless teens. I am pleased to be offering presentations on traumatic grief to both of these organizations this month.
While violence and brutality has hopefully not been in your experience, most of us have suffered or will suffer our own version of traumatic grief at one time or another. What we all need at that time is someone who understands and will bear witness to our suffering. Someone who will sit with us and listen to us say what needs to be said. Someone who will remind us that anger and irritability are expressions of our pain, that depression represents our deep despair, and that we can and will move through grief to renewal, acceptance and even forgiveness.