On the heels of the umpteenth school shooting in the United States, I saw a heart wrenching interview with a mother whose daughter was killed in the shooting who had just emerged from making funeral and burial arrangements. Her grief was palpable- and so was her rage. She was incensed and smoldering like embers of a lingering fire that will not be put out by just a dousing of water here and there. I suspect her rage and grief will continue to burn for many years.
Of course the deeper question is how will her grief move her and anyone else to change? Do we become desensitized or numb or complacent unless we or our loved ones are the targets? The victims of a shooting, a natural disaster, or a health crisis? Or something else?
There’s no doubt in my mind that grief and sorrow can become energizing forces for change. After my beloved husband Jay died from a sudden diagnosis of Stage 4 cancer, I’ve been on a crusade to change exposure to environmental triggers for cancer, now an epidemic in the United States. I suspect this mother will be on a mission during the course of her life to change laws and policies about gun violence in our country. But we need support. We can’t do it alone. We need to be able to process and digest our sorrow as much as we need to use our feelings to contribute to societal and cultural change.
A recent Instagram post showed the words “thoughts and prayers” crossed out and replaced with the words “policies and change.” Is it enough to offer grief survivors our thoughts and prayers in the way of condolences? After all, that is what typically happens when someone loves a precious daughter or son or spouse or sibling. Thoughts and prayers are insufficient. In the midst of our sorrow and rage, we want much more than thoughts and prayers. We want commitments to policy changes. We want new laws and regulations. We want action! We want leaders at our local, state, and national levels to step up and be role models for our rage. We want to see our rage internalized by our leaders who stop offering just thoughts and prayers and start leading and providing real solutions with actual outcomes. We want to see our neighbors and friends and communities internalize our rage and demand our leaders do better or elect new leaders who will! It is unbearable to have to bury our young child who was randomly killed in a senseless act of violence. Please don’t leave us to bear our sorrow and grief and rage alone.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY
Today I will find ways to make a difference in my world and to find solutions for problems that lead to unnecessary and senseless deaths. I will devote time each day to these actions, knowing that actions always speak louder than thoughts and prayers and words.