“The only way through it is through it.”
That’s the message restorative justice advocate Katy Hutchison had for Mount Sentinel students Tuesday morning, as she shared a tragic story: her husband Bob McIntosh was murdered in 1997.
And though it was hard, she ultimately met with and forgave his killer.
“The message I’m bringing is that when stuff happens in our communities we need to lean in, as hard as it is,” Hutchison told the Star prior to the presentation.
“We need to come together and look at healthy ways of managing the trauma and supporting one another. When you’re faced with these experiences you have to go through them, you can’t go around them.”
And she’s been there.
“I hope my story can be a helpful roadmap for students struggling with challenging situations so they can live the full and beautiful life they deserve.”
Hutchison was visiting the high school as part of Restorative Justice Week, traveling with her book Walking After Midnight: One Woman’s Journey Through Murder, Justice, and Forgiveness. But she acknowledged her timing is “fortuitous” as the school grapples with two recent events: the postponement of their grad due to threat-making and the loss of a classmate to a car accident.
“The students need to be gentle with each other and they need to make good choices,” she said.
“This is often an easy time to feel anger or vengeance or to pick up unhealthy coping mechanisms. I’m hoping that by sharing my story they can have a positive lens for viewing these challenging situations.”
During the presentation Hutchison shared the story of the night her husband was murdered, and told them about when she sat down with their children to tell them the news.
“I had to tell them ‘your Daddy is dead’,” she told them. “And it was right then I realized that I couldn’t let their whole lives be about Bob’s murder. That’s when I began a bizarre education of my own, learning about how to go through crisis and trauma.”
She described her experience as “a very big mess”.
“And this is a story about that very big mess and the clean-up that happened after that mess. It’s also about a relationship that came out of that clean-up that might surprise you, but it’s a relationship I’d like you to take away and think deeply about.”
She said quite often “the person who made the mess is right beside you, and you have to work together to clean it up.”
In her case that meant meeting and forgiving her husband’s murderer. She emphasized that the road forward for the school community is to work together and support one another. During her talk a quote from the Dalai Lama was projected on the gymnasium wall.
“Many people who have been harmed or wronged often feel that to respond with non-violence and forgiveness is to be weak,” it said.
“To forgive and seek reconciliation not only requires more strength than a resort to force or retaliation, but also ensures deeper, more far-reaching beneficial consequences for all concerned.”
Principal Glen Campbell was grateful for her message.
“I heard Katy was intrigued with the story of last June,” Campbell said. “She really felt she could offer some support to our grads of 2016, so after her assembly I’ve invited them to come and she’s agreed to meet with them and do a private session.”
He was thrilled to welcome her.
“I’m just so grateful we can offer this additional level of support to our students. Her message is amazing in terms of restorative justice and forgiveness, and it just seemed to fit.”