CNN.com U.S. News, New York City, NY – When a federal jury sentenced Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death last month, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh issued a statement expressing “hope [that] this verdict provides a small amount of closure” to everyone affected by the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that killed four people and wounded hundreds more.
Like Mayor Walsh, most everyone hopes the victims of the bombing — including the families of the four people murdered by the Tsarnaev brothers — can find some relief from their anguish. Will this death sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev help them?
Bill and Denise Richard, whose 8-year-old son was killed in the bombing, don’t think so. They recently wrote an open letter in the Boston Globe urging the Justice Department to take the death penalty “off the table.”
“The continued pursuit of that punishment could bring years of appeals and prolong reliving the most painful day of our lives,” wrote the Richards, who suffered severe injuries from the bombing; their 7-year-old daughter lost her left leg.
For many victims, feelings of pain and loss may never go away, regardless of how Tsarnaev is punished. But psychological research has found that one way to achieve greater peace of mind is through forgiveness.
Researchers like Dr. Robert Enright, co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute in Madison, WI, stress that forgiving does not mean absolving an offender of guilt; instead, it means deliberately letting go of feelings of anger and vengeance toward the offender — a way to stop ruminating on the offense and free yourself of the power it has over you.
“It’s a way of saying, ‘I’m going to take my life back because I’m getting swallowed up by hatred,” according to Loren Toussaint, an associate professor of psychology at Luther College (Decorah, Iowa), who studies forgiveness. “It’s an act of transformative empowerment … that allows someone to move forward.”
Read the full story including research results from crime victims on the effects of punishment vs forgiveness: “Does Death Penalty Bring Closure?“