Healing Our Global Grief
Day after day I hear the politicians and various religious leaders pronounce that we “must unite” the country. Before we look for solutions, we must identify the major things that divide us. Then we can look at how we begin to unite in a conscious effort, even if that unification is limited. I have to admit that in my generations on this planet I don’t remember people being united. Democrat vs Republican reverberates through recent history. My religion is the only “True” religion. My part of the country is better than yours. Our family came over on the Mayflower, yours doesn’t belong here. Or the other variation: now that I’m here, let’s close the gates.
If I sound discouraged, there is good reason. Public discourse and public actions have led to a high level of stress and inappropriate or downright dangerous actions. We have gone beyond bullies on the playground. Guns and coarse rhetoric are the tools, returning us to a time we thought had passed—a time that included public shaming, water hoses, lynching and murder. I am trying to absorb the killing of 11 people in a peaceful synagogue in “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.” The stories of the lives of these people tell us much about how the world will miss them. Such sadness fills us.
Because I teach several roads to stress relief and heart healing, I feel the call in this time to offer some small solutions for the people of our country to heal from the grief, anger and sadness that is affecting our emotional and physical health. I do not promise a fictional unity that is part of the glib pronouncements at the highest level. I also don’t propose typical psychological stress suggestions, when what we are suffering is so much deeper than that. Simple answers like “Don’t watch the news,” when our democracy is being destroyed in front of our eyes, will not facilitate citizen acts of positive change. We are suffering grief at the rending of the fabric of our families, our social networks and our country. We are suffering grief at the loss of our vision of who we are. The steps from grief to participation are difficult, but we must be healed to be agents of change. What I do offer are steps meant to create understanding of the role of grief in thinking, listening, compassionate, adults. That we are grieving is undeniable. I won’t reach the lunatic fringe, but I hope that this malaise of personal and global grief can be lifted from people of good will. These small steps are taken from my book The Gifts of Grief. In the book I state: “Grief takes us back to the basics: we recognize that life is finite, though energy is not. If we let it, this knowing will change the way we live in the moment.” It is fitting that I quote the Talmud, which I also do in my book, in this time of grief around the Pittsburg shooting.
Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.
Do justly now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now.
You are not obligated to complete the work,
But neither are you free to abandon it.
As we look back on our lives, we will see our grief as a healing opportunity, not a path to despair. This is how we go on with the work. Below is a beginning practice for grieving with a purpose.
1. Find some silence every day where your contemplation of your life will bear fruit.
For most, the bedroom is the place of solace. At work? I have clients who use the restroom or an empty board room. It is important that others know, including children, that you need your time of solitude to be healthy. If they ask why, tell them. They need it too! No tv, radio, internet or games for the time selected. Do this at least twice a day.
2. As you sit, notice your breath. When you’re focused on your breath, you are not thinking of other things. Slow your breath deliberately and visualize a place of caring or relaxation, or a place where you felt loved or appreciated.
3. Notice your breath at random times throughout the day, and deepen your breathing in times where you are breathing high in your chest, or rapidly, or shallowly.
4. Show and feel gratitude to self and others throughout the day, consciously. Find that one thing that you are grateful for in them or you.
5. Have a “Choice Point.” Learn this saying from The Course in Miracles. I say it multiple times a day. It will take hold!
“Every decision I make is a choice between a grievance and a miracle.
I relinquish all regrets grievances and resentments, and choose the miracle.”
Saying this lodges in your heart. Every time you are ready to jump to a quick response or judgment, hear this loud and clear. You are in a choice point every moment of the day where you can choose to respond from a negative or positive place. Which would you rather have guiding you? Resentment or gratitude is the choice. This simple piece of wisdom can change your life. Too many times my finger hovers over the send button and I know I am expressing a grievance. Some days I am weaker than others and my finger moves anyway. Even then, I recognize what I did and increase the times I use the saying. We have choices, we have healing opportunities, we have free will—yet we are human. Forgive yourself and move on with the grateful thought that you know the right thing to do to heal your heart and lessen your grief. It’s a matter of practice. Small acts start with us, but it changes us in our interactions with the larger world. All our actions connect energetically with others—thus they become global. It is powerful to choose rather than let random behaviors choose for us.