In the wake of a mass shooting or other tragedy, it’s become our cultural habit to react with accusations and blame, to assign fault to someone or something for why this happened:
Our country’s divisive discourse. A president who embraces his role as catalyzer in chief. Guns.
The impulse is to seize the moment to take action, while the tragedy is still fresh in the public’s mind and before everyone else has moved on to the next thing.
There’s been a lot of that lately.
It’s a noble sentiment. In an age where news cycles move faster than ever, there’s only so much time to leverage the shock and outrage in front of us.
But this rush to point fingers and lay blame, the impulse to take immediate action, skips a vital part of the process: grief.
This is applicable on a societal level and on an individual level. Recently I’ve spoken to many people who complained of feeling stuck. In exploring, I learned they had recently suffered a loss. My natural next question was:
Did you give yourself time to grieve the loss?
Communally, it can feel like every week brings a new tragedy that creates a loss. How often do we allow ourselves to grieve?
Jewish rituals around death and mourning involve a lot of public and communal activities. The deceased person is buried quickly. The community gathers for the funeral and through seven days of shiva, at which we comfort the mourners. This immediate period is one of mourning.
Many people find that they are unprepared for the wave of grief that comes after Shiva. It is only when the house empties of people, and the fridge is cleared of the deli sandwiches and roasted chickens and the home fills with the unfamiliar silence of emptiness, that we find space to truly grieve.
This is the cycle of the seasons.
Loss is the energy of Fall, the season of letting go. The mourning period is a fall energy.
Fall is followed by Winter. This is the time to go inward, and this is when we grieve the loss.
Only after this inward time can we emerge into the light of spring to initiate actions.
Summer, a season of maintenance and tending, is when we carry out the plan.
As a culture we tend to skip over “winter” seasons in life. We want to get straight to the lesson or the action. We throw ourselves into work. We stay busy. This is how we escape the grief.
Grief is uncomfortable. It can feel lonely and messy. But grief is necessary.
Whether it’s a loss of a loved one or a loss of our sense of innocence, we must grieve our losses before we rush to action.
If we wish to seize the moment, we must first be in the moment and feel the moment. There are no shortcuts to this process.
Give yourself permission to grieve.