We will always carry the pain of having harmed or killed another person, but we can emerge from trauma and despair with new resolve. The fourth element in our healing process is community — regaining a sense of belonging and connection to others, to ourselves, and (for those who believe) to God. It begins with allowing ourselves to accept support from others. But community also points to the importance of giving back. Some refer to this as making amends or restitution.

We can never make up for taking a life, but we can honor the memory of our victims in the choices we make about how to live. We have learned the hard way that life is precious and fragile. Now it’s our turn to respect these lessons by taking action to make the world a better place.

When we transform our pain to purpose, we create safer and more caring communities. We also build our self-respect, trust in ourselves, and sense of connection to others.

How can you respect the memory of your victim and everyone who suffered (including you)? Here are just a few ideas. Let your imagination and your values guide you.

  • Volunteer at a non-profit organization, school, church, or hospital
  • Advocate for safer streets or working conditions
  • Deepen your spiritual or religious practice
  • Commit to your education and personal development
  • Commit to becoming a more compassionate individual
  • Create art, music, poetry, film, books, or essays
  • Reach out to an elderly, sick, or disabled neighbor.

Keep in mind that selfless giving can be a way to heal and grow, but it can also be a way of punishing ourselves. It is important to know the difference. The goal is not to suppress the expression of our values, goals, and dreams but instead to channel them in a positive direction.

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