From Victims to Survivors exists as a support group to meet the needs of family members or close friends of murder victims. The goal of the group is to provide an opportunity for victimized individuals to benefit from the experiences of others in developing coping skills, free from judgment or suppositions as to how the persons should move on with their lives.
The group meets monthly at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka at a time convenient for participating members. Affected families outside of Topeka or Shawnee County are welcome to participate. From Victims to Survivors is a “closed” group, limited to the aforementioned family members and close friends of murder victims. Members, particularly newcomers, need and deserve privacy in order to feel free to open up their most inner feelings free of judgment from outsiders or observers. Occasionally the group may invite special guests such as therapists, clergy or members of the legal community to address specific topics or issues pertinent to the needs of the membership.
The group begins with an opportunity for each participant to introduce themselves and discuss as much about their situations as they feel comfortable. Even if all members are familiar with each others's situations, all are welcome to “check in” as to recent events, activities and/or changes in circumstances in their lives.
Participants strive to promote an emotionally supportive environment by providing understanding and empathy with other group members who may have experienced similar feelings. Participants are free to recall memories, vent anger, grieve openly, discuss fears, and share personal experiences. Supportive emphasis is placed on gradually desensitizing trauma while learning to cope realistically on a daily basis. Although some participants hold personal viewpoints on the legal and criminal justice systems, the group is non-political and will not endorse an advocacy position in respect to legislative action. Likewise, each participant’s viewpoint on legal procedure is to be respected and is not to be manipulated or pressured.
Various issues or topics may be discussed in monthly meetings. Usually there is no set order as to how, if or when these issues are explored. Each member’s needs differ uniquely according to circumstance, personality and background. The dynamics and needs of the group will likely shift meeting to meeting on the basis of attendance and membership entry and withdrawal from the group over time. Examples of such issues include dealing with the aftershock, adjusting to the absence, changes in personal relationships; coping with trauma and recognizing pain triggers; differentiating grief, sadness, depression and despair; biophysiological methods of improving coping skills; reframing memories as positive; understanding the legal system and coping with the media.
Each meeting closes with an affirmation circle. Members are free to give thanks to one another as well as offering prayer or meditation. Respect for one another’s religious and spiritual beliefs is extended to all participants.
Carol's story: http://cjonline.com/life/2009-07-18/group_helps_victims_families
Compassionate Friends: http://sites.google.com/site/tcftopeka/