Death

What to do with the grief of others

Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. ~ Romans 12:15 HCSB

How can we show up in the midst of pain and grief for our marginalized siblings in the world around us, when we have no idea what to do or say to them and what we CAN do feels futile in the face of the vitriol and intentional ignorance? How do we not wind up making our sense of ineffectiveness and futility more important than their experiences of violence and suffering?

The answer is to BE with them in their grief. Acknowledge and validate their anger. Learn why they fear the things we don’t. Share and celebrate the things and people they celebrate. Be willing to set aside your “stuff” to show them they and their “stuff” matters. In other words, treat them the way you want to be treated.

It may be challenging to look away from our own issues, circumstances, and experiences in order to look and see those of others, much less step into their world and be with them. But, it’s very much worth the effort to do so. We also have guidance on how to do this.

‘He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. ‘ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 HCSB

How do we receive comfort from God? Sometimes it’s an internal sense of peace or a lifting of the spirit, maybe a lessening of the pressure on our chest or the lessening of the restriction of our throat. Maybe it’s through a song, a poem, a meaningful writing, or piece of scripture. Perhaps a video or show. However, there are times when it is another person and their words, actions, or just them being present with us which contributes to the feeling of being comforted. Those are the things we can do and share, if they are something the person grieving is in a place to receive.

‘The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord ’s favor, and the day of our God’s vengeance; to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion; to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair. And they will be called righteous trees, planted by the Lord to glorify Him. ‘ Isaiah 61:1-3 HCSB

Jesus came to do these things, show us how to do these things, and teach us to do these things so we can share and demonstrate the love he shared and demonstrated to us. This is how we can learn and know how to show up in the midst of the pain and grief, anger and fear, our marginalized and brutalized brothers and sisters experience.

UBC 4/20 Day 7: Avoidance, Fear, and Understanding Myself

I have a counseling appointment today, via computer. I really like this therapist. I met her fact-to-face just once after social distancing became a recommendation, before it became a government mandate… so, that would have been three weeks ago. I feel like she’s going to be good for me. I also think she’s going to be somewhat hard-nosed and won’t let me get away with not doing my “homework.” So, here I am, cramming homework I had all week to do, into a few hours before it’s supposed to get turned in. Just like in high school or college.

Turns out that this is exactly part of the homework I was supposed to be working on. Avoidance.

What am I avoiding, exactly?

Well, the questions she asked me to consider at our last session were about me identifying my space in the world and in my life. Not where I feel I belong, but the space that belongs to me, specifically in my own home. What do I need to work on taking back so that I can feel safe and secure? Why is there such a strong sense of avoidance? What does avoiding look like? What am I avoiding?
Believe it or not, I think tackling the questions on avoidance will be easier than the other questions. Of course, that’s also a way of avoiding examining the other questions. Right?

Aaaaand avoiding dealing with the avoiding. It’s been about an hour, maybe more, since I finished that last sentence. So, back to the question: Why such a strong sense of avoidance? I think this is the point where my “stream of consciousness” writing style may come in handy.

Fear. Fear is at the heart of avoiding. At least, I think that’s what it is. If that’s true, then, I need to figure out what it is I fear. In the context of the initial questions about space and figuring out how to take back what is mine and what I need to do to work on to taking it back, what is it my fear?
It may be two things. The first is realizing that I’ve seldom, if ever, completely had my own space, or my own place in the world. I don’t think I even understand what that looks and feels like.

I remember being a young child where a couch was my bed and the living room was my bedroom. After that, when I had my own room, it became to catch-all. Whenever my mother expected people to come into our home, all the accumulated clutter from the public spaces was moved into my room and seldom, if ever moved back out. I recall one Christmas I had been given a peppermint candy cane log – it was HUGE. If memory serves, I had carved out space for it on my dresser and I was looking at it from an angle that meant I was on the floor. I have a sense that was because the floor was the only available space and it was also where I slept. After that life fell through and we moved again, I may have had my own room for a few months before my mom and I moved to live with my grandmother. It was a small, one bedroom apartment. More moving. Then mom died, leaving me in my uncle’s custody. Another one bedroom apartment for my uncle, his wife, and me. I was 12.

Eventually, I had a room to myself, but, it never felt like it was mine or my space because I never really felt like I belonged, that I was part of his family unit. Three more moves over the next four years. Some of the time I lived with my uncle, some of the time I lived with my grandmother. Sometimes I had my own room, but, mostly not. Then, at 16, I ran away. When you’re a runaway, you really don’t get your own room. I lived out of cars and hitchhiked across the country with my son’s father, until he almost killed me in front of our two year old son. At 19, I was a single mom, with no employment history or proven work skills. So, there was no way to afford my own space. When I did afford my own space it was either studio apartments or one bedrooms that I shared with my son. Sometimes there were roommates.

During the times when I might have had my own space, I wound up helping other people out and giving them a place to stay…often for extended periods of time. Including now, when my adult daughter’s family became houseless right after Thanksgiving. Her family of five plus one on the way moved into my tiny two bedroom, one bath apartment. Even before they moved in, though, my space wasn’t my own because her younger sister, who I was partially co-parenting, but mostly single parenting, is autistic and at 10 years of age refused to sleep by herself.

So, yeah, I have no clue how to own and occupy space that’s just mine.

The second fear is that, if I push the issue and push my daughter’s family out, I’ll be abandoning them, abandoning her, the way I was. Well, maybe not the way. After all, my mother’s undiagnosed, untreated mental health issues are what caused her suicide. But, she left me alone and, even as a 50 year old woman, there are times when I wish I had a mother to turn to. I don’t want her to ever feel that I won’t be available when she needs me and, right now, she needs me.

Finally, the third fear is intertwined with the second fear. I’m afraid of losing relationship with her and my grandchildren. Six years ago, my relationship was so broken with her that I had to find out from an old family friend that she had gone into premature labor and was in the hospital. She didn’t want me there. Now she’s about to give birth to baby #4. I don’t ever want to be in a position where I am not wanted or allowed to be in my daughter’s or grandchildren’s lives again.

Well, that’s enough processing for now. I know this was long. Thank you for sticking with me until the end.

UBC 4/20, Day 3: Enough

Yesterday, I ended the post stating that “Enough is enough. I am enough.” I want to share a little bit more about that and where I have been learning the truth of it, even if I haven’t fully internalized it, yet. Truthfully, due to the effects of “trauma brain” (not to be confused with Traumatic Brain Injury), I may never fully internalize this truth that I am enough. However, I can make choices and decisions about my life according to it. After all, feelings aren’t facts and facts aren’t changed by what we feel.

This past Sunday, the speaker at our Zoom church gathering shared her experience of visiting Rwanda for the first time and seeing one of the churches where the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 took place. It was a place of great betrayal, profound fear, deep sorrow, and mass murder. She spoke of the sights and smells and the horror and grief she felt walking through the church and seeing light streaming through all the bullet holes, as well as when she visited the mass grave behind the church. Then, she told us of the signs of new life in the literal life of young children from a school, not far from the church, and their laughter and joy of life.

Where is God in this?

Here’s what I believe: God doesn’t forget, push away, or hide from horror and sorrow, but, he gives it purpose and always brings renewal and new life, even if it doesn’t change or fix what has already happened.

He doesn’t cause the horror, but is in it with us. He doesn’t cause pain and suffering to demonstrate a truth about him, but he does reveal himself in it, through it, and after it.

Why is this an important belief of mine and how do I make decisions in my life with this belief in mind?

Six and a half years ago, just a month or so before the events that completely upended and changed the trajectory of my life, my pastor taught on the Five Declarations of Gratitude. Through this teaching, I really began believing that God is enough, therefore, I am enough…even in the midst of the bad things, the hard things, the painfully unimaginable things.

Here’s my interpretation of those Five Declarations of Gratitude:

The people around me are enough. I’m not only going through the painful and difficult times with God, I’m also going through it with others, and that is enough. I’m grateful for that.

The time I have is enough. I have this moment, with breath, consciousness, all my senses, and all I need to move through this moment. The next moment takes care of itself whether I’m worrying about too much or too little time. I’m grateful for this moment.

The same is true for what I have… scarcity and the fear of it comes from past experience and the potential of it in the future. Discomfort, perhaps pain, may happen, but, in this moment, I have what I need to get to the next one. This may not always be true, but, for now it is and I can be grateful for that.

I made it to this point. I have experiences, good and bad, which I’ve learned and grown through, skills I’ve gained, gifts I’ve been given, and the abilities to do what I can for myself and others. Regardless of the old tapes that tell me otherwise, I can get through this moment because I am enough. I can be grateful for myself and who I am today.

Above everything, God is enough because he’s in it and going through it with me. He was there in my past, I can count on him to be there in my future. Without him, NONE of those other things could ever be enough. For this, I am grateful.

So, knowing through scripture and experience how God takes what was to inform and redeem and get me through what is now, and knowing that on the other side He brings renewal and restores life, gives me the hope and will to take one more breath and one more step. Even in the midst of these times of uncertainty and fear throughout our world.

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

We never really had a chance to grow in a relationship together. You were gone from my life too soon. Before that, you were busy battling your inner demons on your own, unbeknownst to me. All I know is that we never had a chance to grow together and learn who the other was, firsthand.

I resented and despised you for so long. Since I was already that resentful, angry, confused, lost little girl, I was numb when I learned of your suicide. The women around me were wailing and crying. I knew they thought I was wrong for not crying, too. So, I manufactured the tears that would keep me “safe” from their stares of condemnation. My grief was an empty, hollow thing, amorphous and disconnected.

It’s been walled away for such a long time. I don’t think I believed it really existed. Though, there have been times it seeped through the cracks and manifested.

The first time was eight or nine months after that fateful night.

There was a boy who I’d started a friendship with, once school started that year. 7th grade is hard enough. But, I was the new kid, again. My saving grace was that it was everyone’s first day at the new school. So, I made a friend a little easier than all the times before. Anyway, I told him about you and what you had done. I don’t remember how he reacted to that news.

I do know that I rather quickly fell out of favor. But, that probably had more to do with my highly reactive emotions and physical attacks toward anyone, any boy, I thought was teasing and making fun of me…mostly for being fat. Anyway, by the end of the school year, I had one friend…and it wasn’t Jason.

There was one girl, Cathy, who was friendly to everyone. I wanted her friendship, but didn’t know how to be a friend. So, I hovered on the fringes. One day, in the cafeteria. I wanted to talk to her. She was surrounded by others, including Jason. He got irritated by my presence and said something rude, telling me to go away. I told him to go to Hell.

“I’ve already been there…and your mother’s just fine.”

For the first time, my tears for you were real. Of course, I only let the walls of the bathroom stall see them. Then, I pushed them away. Later that day, I marched to Jason’s house and basically threatened his life if he ever talked about you again. But that was pretty much the last time you were part of my childhood.

The next time, I was about 22 and going through my first nervous breakdown. I saw your face, instead of my own, in the bathroom mirror. Obviously, I was more than a little freaked out. So, I did what I do. I wrote it out in the form of a poem:

The Dolphin and The Sea

I saw your face this morning,
as I peered into the glass.
I was startled into yearning,
and knew I had to ask.

I reached beyond the present,
deep into the past;
to find the answer, so unpleasant,
to discover peace at last.

Why did you leave? Where did you go?
I had no chance to tell you all I wanted you to know.

You were my heroine. You were my bane.
You were bright and shining, and not quite sane.

You were full of madness, yet masked it well.
You hid your sadness, ’til your wall fell.

Once that happened, there was no hope.
You were so frightened, you could not cope.

I turned from you as you turned toward me.
I disappointed you. You disappointed me.

I never intended to be your disciple.
I never intended to repeat your strife.
The time has come to break the cycle.
It is time for me to separate from your life.

Though your time on earth is ended,
You are still a part of me.
You and I are spirits, kindred,
as the dolphin and the sea.

The point is, I miss you. I always have, even though I didn’t know it. I miss not having a mom I can turn to when my heart is hurting because I see my kids struggling and I want to ask you how you did it…except, you didn’t. You couldn’t. I know that, if you could have made other choices, you would have.

But, I did learn from you. You taught me to never give up on myself and to never leave my kids behind, no matter how lost, alone, confused, and overwhelmed I became. You also taught me that no matter how angry, mean, and rejecting my kids were, to never let them go.

Those lessons have paid off. I’m turning 50 in a few weeks, Momma. 50. Can you believe it? You didn’t make it to 29. My kids are 32, 25, and 10. I have three grandkids: 5, 4, and 1.

It hasn’t been easy. It’s still hard today. But, it’s getting better. My oldest, who was so wounded by me and who basically disowned me seven years ago, called the other day. (We both worked hard and reconnected over the past several years.) Anyway, he called me to tell me he realized and is glad that I never left them. I get to have a relationship with my adult daughter and her three children. I’m actively parenting a brilliant, challenging daughter who experiences the world through the Autism Spectrum.

I’m sorry the Depression robbed you of so much. I hope you know how much you gave to me and to the world. I’m here. Your grandchildren are here. Your great-grandchildren are here. None of us would be, if you hadn’t been first. I miss you. I love you.

Forever your daughter,
Me

Grief & Loss: Presence in Mourning

I shared last week the happenings in my life and the lives of my children during the month of March: the miscarriage my son and his wife experienced the week before my daughter’s daughter arrived six weeks early.

A little over two months ago, a loss so profound was experienced by two amazing people who I love so deeply, but with whom my history of being me has created a yawning canyon of separation of woundedness and lack of emotional safety.

Yesterday, they each shared their grief, pain, and loss publicly and, whether they intended to or not, with such courageous vulnerability. I don’t pretend to know what they are experiencing. I can’t possibly know. I’m not them and I haven’t experience what they have. What I do know is that we are told to mourn with those who mourn.

The fact is that in the midst of the everyday demands of my life and in the lives of those around me, there has been little time or opportunity to share in their mourning. Truthfully, my heart aches. It aches for the sorrow, grief, pain, and anger they must experience in unexpected times and ways. Feelings so desperately dark that sunshine must scorch their tears and the joy of holding their niece may be turned to ash by the bitterness of their own loss.

Their loss is also my loss. The loss of hope for who their child would become, a grandchild to hold, help nurture, and love in new ways I’ve been learning to love.

Grief and mourning feel isolating. It feels as if part of you had been ripped away, leaving shredded, shattered, broken pieces of yourself scattered on the ground, to be kicked aside and trampled on by everyone around getting through their everyday lives.

A new friend posed the question;
If your child died, how long after would you still choose to celebrate that child’s birthday? My response was however long I needed to acknowledge and honor that child’s presence and impact on me and my life.

No one gets to say when it’s time to be done with grieving. Sorrow, loss, and pain are part of our human experience and little or big things can and will flip the switch and pull the trigger on it at inconvenient times in uncomfortable ways, which may cause us to feel out of sync within our own minds and bodies and out of step with those in the world around us.

The only way to move through it is to experience it in all its discomfort and messiness and to allow those around us to be with us in it.

The only way to handle someone else’s sorrow and grief is to simply give them the room, time, space, and grace to experience it without trying to make their tears stop flowing or telling them they’ll be okay and happy again, in order to feel more at ease and comfortable within yourself.

“Matthew 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”

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Guest Post: Insipid Fear

angry CoyoteNOTE: Gary Walter is one of the people I met after joining Dream Stoker Nation. I have only been following his journey for a brief period of time. Despite our short acquaintance, I have been encouraged by his pursuit of his dreams and by his writing. I believe you will be too. Enjoy.

This post originally appeared on Gary’s blog, here.

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Hardly noticeable at first, it starts small. You wonder what it is, so you strain to listen. Is it just your imagination, or is it real? Suddenly, you’re wide awake, listening to every creak and grown in the house. You wonder if you should be scared, or merely curious? You wonder if what you feel is normal, or if you should be very afraid.

Like a child lying in the dark, you are paralyzed by fear. What is it? What woke you up? No, there’s no intruder, and there is no critter, the voices you hear are in your heart. Imagination? Maybe. Real? Yes. Are you anxious? Absolutely. And afraid. Yet, here in the grasp of your warm bed, there is nothing you can do about these fears. The fears are real – the circumstances that created them, well, maybe you just misinterpreted them. Yes, maybe there is no reason to be afraid – but then again, you are.

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At the age of 14 we visited my great-aunt and uncle in San Bernardino, California. During the Winter months they rented a mobile home in a park that catered to retired folks. I thought it would be fun to sleep on the deck in the warm California Winter. Shortly after midnight I woke up to the sound of coyotes. They yipped, they barked, and they growled. The ferocious beasts were on the move – and they weren’t far away – maybe within a block or two of where I lay in my sleeping bag.

I was terrified – certain that they were coming after me.

I was terrified – certain that they were coming after me. Their predatory noises got louder and I grew more and more terrified. I was scared to even breathe. The door into the house was just three feet away, but I was afraid the terrible coyotes would get me. I lay very still for the next half hour – listening as the coyotes attacked a neighbor’s pet dog (we learned the next day) and unable to move.

Since that night, I’ve learned that coyotes are relatively harmless and I’ve often encountered them in the wild. I’ve even stood next to wild wolves in the Alaskan Wilderness. But too many times, I experienced similar fears in the middle of the night. Often, like with the coyotes, those fears turn out to have no basis in fact or reason. Some situation, circumstance, or event in my life triggers the fear – and it’s usually too big and too ethereal for me to solve at 3:00 am. I am relegated to tossing, turning, and panicking.

It’s an unholy fear – one not based on anything tangible or credible. I cite the Serenity Prayer, I read encouraging scripture, and I cry out for relief. It’s a generational curse, passed on by family and ancestors who went before me. It is irrational, unreasonable, and not worth the effort – but it is real, it is stupefying and paralyzing.

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Last week I was reading in Exodus about the Israelite people leaving Egypt. It’s amazing how new things can pop out of a familiar story. But three things struck me in this story:

  • God took them the wrong way. If they had taken the most direct route to the Promised Land, they would have immediately ran into the Philistines and He knew they weren’t prepared to do battle yet.
  • He deliberately had them “wander” in the desert. It’s been said, “All who wander are not lost.” This was certainly true of the Jewish people right after leaving Egypt. God had them wander to confuse the Egyptians.
  • The people were terrified. Despite all this direct intervention from God Himself, they feared death to the core.
  • God’s plan was executed with precision. The Jews were rescued, the Egyptians were defeated, and it turned out there was never a reason to fear. It was a plan instituted 400+ years earlier, and on this day, it all came together – miraculously.

(OK, four – but who’s counting?)

I experienced something very similar in the last couple of weeks. A plan that was coming together perfectly, for a role I am perfectly suited for, but as the conclusion neared, I, like the Jews, became paralyzed by fear. It was as if I was 14 years old and surrounded by killer coyotes again.

But unlike the past, I did not resort to dysfunctional behaviors or thoughts to hide from the fear. I didn’t deny the fear, I accepted it. I didn’t mask the fear with food, TV, or other insane addictions. I just sought the Lord, surrendered it to Him, and learned to be still in His presence.

I finally came to the point where I accepted death as an option. Would it be painful? Yes. Would I like it? Probably not. But I trusted God to do what was best.

Amazingly, miraculously, in the end, at just the right moment, God came through and I accepted the role that I’ve prepared for my whole life. Amen.

  • PS: Here’s my most recent experience with coyotes.

Just Another Manic Monday

It’s time for our Monthly Manic Mondays with Marisa (on Tuesday). Marisa wrote last night about going through her Monday and dealing with transitions, grief, and taking care of herself while dealing with the day to day things that don’t stop. She’s an inspiration and a role model for me. Maybe she will be for you too.I’m guest-posting today, I have my own blog over at Butterneck Toad (not like I’ve been active there or anything…) 🙂

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Manic Monday, indeed!  Today was so manic I thought it was Tuesday all day! I managed to do several loads of laundry, embroider the last of two pair of shoes and get them packaged for shipping, start embroidery on another pair of shoes, make some headway on taxes, enter some business bills into Quickbooks, take the dogs to the dog park, and pack a box.

I am often doing several things at once, in the midst of various projects, tasks and chores, but lately two major things have made my multi-tasking a bit more complicated.

The first thing is something really positive. My family will be moving soon, back to the town my husband and I both grew up in. Our families and many friends are there. We have made many connections where we are now, as we have been here for almost five years, but it is time to go home, and we are excited! Our move date is in just over a month, so I have been starting the arduous task of sorting everything we own into five piles: Keep/pack for long term storage, keep/pack for the move, give away, throw away, and sell.

I’ve made some small progress in getting rid of a few things and making a little bit of money doing it, it’s been enough to put gas in my car, a little extra into our moving fund, and pay for a bridesmaids dress I’ll be wearing in August.

The second life-changing event is pretty opposite. On March 2nd, our very close friend and housemate was killed in a car accident. She had been renting our guest room since October and we had been close friends for almost two years. My friend was 28, and leaves behind a 9 year old son that lives with her parents.

We’ve known we were probably going to move for about six weeks. Our friend was not going to move across the country with us, and was making plans to move in with another of her friends that had recent need for a roommate. I was preparing to say goodbye, but the kind of goodbye where you can still talk on the phone every day and visit once in a while.  I was not preparing to say goodbye forever.

The last thing I said to my friend, as she was getting ready to go to a concert, was “Have fun! Be safe! I love you!”

I know she knew I loved her, and I know she had fun at the concert, it was her 2nd favorite band. Safe though… no.

Just over a week ago the driver of the car turned himself in to police to be arrested for DUI, Vehicular Homicide, and driving too fast for conditions. His blood-alcohol level was .165 (TWICE the legal limit).

My everyday life is often a tumultuous affair; fighting to ignore the symptoms of fibromyalgia and PCOS, battling depression and anxiety, trying to manage projects and tasks for four separate businesses AND our household.

Now, each day I am reminded that my dear, sweet friend is gone from my life. Hers was often the first voice I would hear every day, thanks to a walkie-talkie type app on my phone… “Good Mooooorning!!”

Some days I just dive in to my to-do list. I have had to add eating to the list, as I often am lacking for appetite. Thankfully another close girlfriend has seen to it that I eat SOMETHING, at least once a day, and that I am getting OUT of the house and getting some sunlight and exercise. For this, I am very grateful.

Other days are much harder. It hits me like a punch right in the gut, and I well up with tears and a deep, wrenching pain. During those times it is all I can do to dress myself and eat something. I cuddle close to my dogs and often have to take a nap because I am just exhaustingly overwhelmed with emotion.

Leaving this house will be bittersweet. I think it will help my healing to not have a daily, constant reminder that she is missing from my home and my heart. Yes, I know she will always be in my heart, yadda yadda yadda. I do treasure my memories of her and recounting them to myself helps, in a way.

In tragic irony, my friend’s death fell on the 10 year anniversary of another close friend taken too soon, at the age of 25 from cancer.

10 years ago I was one of five friends that got a dragonfly tattoo to honor our friend. Soon, I will be getting a daisy tattoo to honor this recent passing, as well.  In the meantime, I am keeping a bouquet of live daisies on my kitchen counter. As the daisies fade and wilt, I buy new ones. It is a small thing, but they make me smile because they were her favorite flower and are cheery and happy, as was she.

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Calling All Authors

Author Interview Questions and Submission Process.

In December 2012 I had the privilege to do Author Interviews with three newly published friends and blogging acquaintances of mine. I found that it was something I really enjoyed and was an opportunity for me to introduce new blogs, new books, and new writers to my readers here.  So, I have decided to make it a regular feature. How regular a feature will depend on how many authors decide to let me interview them.

If you, or anyone you know, is a published author (self or otherwise), with a personal tale of growth, healing, and recovery that you are willing to share, please click the link above or share the link. I would love to hear from you or them and work together to put together a quality interview to be featured here on Human In Recovery.

Blessings,

Kina

Reconciling tragedy

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My heart is heavy over the tragedies of the lives taken and families grieving from the mall shooting where I live, the school shooting in Connecticut, and the Chinese school stabbing. News of a bomb threat in an Eastern Oregon town showed up my newsfeed with the statement:

This world has lost it’s mind and gone crazy!

The ensuing lobbying for/against gun control and political finger-pointing sickens me. Most of those forwarding these messages are wonderful, well meaning people. After all, I only have wonderful, well-meaning people as my Facebook friends, truly.

The fact is that no matter what kind of regulations and laws are put into effect, people’s thoughts and emotions will not be changed or controlled through legislation.

The more insular and intolerant we become in order to make ourselves feel safe and secure, the more we create and promote the environment, attitudes, and alienation that enables the proliferation of the very things we strive to protect ourselves from.

I don’t pretend to have the answers. I don’t think anyone does really.

What I do know is that the families suffering such tragedy and loss are not benefitted, comforted, or validated by strangers in the world engaging in petty conflict with each other, playing the blame game, and tearing each other down for having opposing values, opinions and beliefs.

Grieving people don’t want or need to be put in the position of taking care of anyone else’s issues or concerns. These families don’t need to feel like they should care about anyone else’s feelings. They need to be given the space and the time to grieve.

Instead of getting on a soapbox and adding voice to the cacophony of rhetoric and opinion, find a way to honor the children and families in your own community. Volunteer in a soup kitchen, join SMART and read to a little kid, become a Big Brother or Big Sister, become a mentor, do something that touches someone’s life constructively and positively.

Offer encouragement, kindness, and acceptance to those who seem least deserving, chances are it may not be received well or appreciated, but they are likely the ones most in need of it. Offer it to the ones closest to you who may see it least from you because they love you and you can be yourself around them. It could make all the difference.

Look for what is good and right and focus your energy into building that up.

People are going to believe, think, and feel whatever and however they will. Adding or raising my voice isn’t going to change that.

I am going to grieve for those who grieve and I am going to count my blessings. I’m going to look for ways to take my own advice.

Really? This is NOT helpful!

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I may be alone in this, as a Christian, but this is crap!

I understand why it is a popular response, however, that very same understanding is why I wonder if I can even consider myself a Christian at times.

Religion sucks! Religious responses like this in response to horrific tragedies are simplistic, lacking in compassion and empathy, and most of all faulty.

There are many spiritual belief systems, Christianity included, that state the omnipresence of God and believe that God’s spirit or essence can permeate and inhabit people and that essence is love.

If that is the case, then anyone who claims to be a God follower, regardless of the name we call God by, is the vessel through which the incarnate presence of God may be shared and shown to the world around us.

If the presence of God isn’t being shown or felt, it isn’t because God isn’t being allowed in our buildings and institutions. It is because we are not allowing God’s healing spirit of love to flow in us, through us, between us and around us.

When someone so removed from love that their only emotion is rage and action is destruction, that is not God’s doing or choice. When people rush headlong into danger to save, rescue, protect, and take down the source of destruction, that is God’s presence of love manifesting itself.

I believe with all my heart that God is weeping and grieving along with us all. Not just over the lives lost and families torn asunder today, but over all the tragedies that have ever happened that we have forgotten or never known.

I believe this because I see the uprising in the spirit of love, empathy, and compassion pouring out.