In simple terms, I define grief as the experience of the difference between what you hoped life was going to be and how it turns out, multiplied by the importance of that difference to your overall sense of well being. Just recently, a hugely tragic event happened to a good friend of mine and I have an ongoing challenge with a close family member. Both have stirred great grief in me as I have faced up to the gap between ordinary hope and the complex reality of what is.
In the end, I have to handle this grief myself: even though I can 'share' these feelings (i.e. talk about but not really share in the same way you can share a meal) nobody else can experience what I am experiencing in quite the way that I am. I am extraordinarily fortunate to have some beautifully empathetic people in my life who will listen, and listen some more and gently (oh so gently) nudge me towards some brighter light and/or help me to become 'dynamically resigned' to the situations. By dynamically resigned, I mean a psychological state that accepts things for what they are but in a hopeful not hopeless way: in other words things will heal and things will change, quite possibly for the better. And in the meantime, all one can do is to carry on carrying on while being tuned into the sweet nectar that life continues to offer around many corners in so many ways.
But things still hurt. Lots.
And I know that as I write, I am probably sounding like an ageing hippy struggling to make sense of an unpredictable, uncontrollable messy world that is not quite turning out as I hoped it would...
So why write this post on this blog about policing and criminal justice system governance & practice? Partly, I had to get some thoughts down: this is what we bloggers do. We write things down in the confident (and egotistical) belief that at least one other person will read it and find it useful / illuminating / helpful etc.
But I also want to make the point that everyone involved in the criminal justice system owes a duty of care to people experiencing huge grief - which includes themselves. Along with many other public services (health, social care and so forth), police officers & staff, probation & prison officers work with people who are going through huge amounts of grief. Almost daily, peoples lives are turned upside-down in front of their eyes. I sometimes wonder, how well people are prepared for the grief that their jobs involve?
Gallows humour and a hardening of the 'emotional arteries' are two ways to respond. But I fear that in the hurly burly of performance targets, outsourced contracts and a focus on 'financiality' rather than humanity, the criminal justice system is creating even more victims by not enabling / inoculating / developing people's capacity to handle grief. By people here, I mean both the service users and providers.
So how is the grief work in your organisation? Are supervisors tuned into what they can do to help frontline staff & officers handle grief in themselves and others effectively? Are there adequate development opportunities to enable all staff who deal with grief, to do it as well as possible? Is grief acknowledged as something to pay attention to - both amongst service users and givers?
I really hope things are good for you: grief is hard enough to work through without there being inadequate recognition of its impact upon people.
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