Processing Grief

My consciousness streams and I cannot dam it any longer.

It’s too much sometimes. The shock. The surreal effect on my interpretation of my immediate surroundings. The heaviness of a broken heart. The despair of more and more and more and more death. When will it end?

How long, O God? How long must we endure this pain?

In the last week alone:
Istanbul – more than 40 killed
Bangladesh -25 killed
Baghdad – more than 150 killed
3 cities in Saudi Arabia – at least 4 killed

Add to that the 49 lives lost in Orlando. Add to that Paris. Add to that Charleston. Add to that Newtown. And suddenly I can’t bear it another second. The numbers tick past like a gas meter, and I can’t afford this tank.

What can be done? What can be said? How do I process this without losing myself in the hurricane of rage and grief and incomprehension?

Yesterday was July 4th. Such a strange holiday to celebrate. Never before has it felt so complicated. Never before have I questioned my choice to wear red, white, and blue. To me it’s always meant scouting real estate next to the hot pavement on an early morning, the air sticky with humidity and anticipation, as we await the parade. It means grilling hot dogs and eating watermelon and spending time outside with family in the Texas heat. It means driving to a hilltop with a downtown view, and tuning the radio to find the station playing the patriotic music to accompany the fireworks. It means the acrid smell of gunpowder following the show. It means celebrating all the great things about this country where I’ve lived and worked and loved and grown into who I am.

But in recent years I’ve learned it also means death. It also means slavery. It means white privilege and American exceptionalism and imperialism and colonialism and the decimation of an entire race of people and the continued oppression of countless others. For many, red, white and blue and the star spangled banner are symbols of tragedy and conflict. Never before have I been so aware of that fact.

And yet yesterday I still dressed  my 5 month old in her spangled onesie, complete with sparkly ruby red slippers and a patriotic headband. She was adorable. I also wore my red, white, and blue, because I believe in celebrating the good things about the culture I come from, while at the same time that culture has hurt so many! The tension in my heart is so palpable, like I could take it out and hold a piece in each hand.

Who am I in the world? What am I saying? Who am I saying it to? What will my daughter see and learn and interpret from my actions? Can I raise her to see both sides? Can I instill in her the ability to hold hope and despair together when I struggle to do so?

The grief manifests as a summer cold. I sit and type with a sore throat, an aching back, a feeling of dizziness and head congestion. And yet I have a home to go to to rest. I can afford medications to ease my suffering. I have health insurance if I need to go to the doctor. My soul carries all those who do not have those privileges as their brothers and fathers and sisters and mothers are shot and exploded to death.

How do I grieve and come out on the other side when I know there’s more to come? How can I heal and give hope to others when I know more waves are gathering, preparing to pound upon the shore?

Oh Lord, I need you, how I need you! Every moment I need you. Lift me up. Use me to make known your purposes on earth. Send me to be your mouth, your hands, your feet. It is not my life, but yours. That’s all I have to hold on to today.

So I’ll get myself some hot soup. And tonight I’ll hold my baby close and make a cup of tea. And I’ll give thanks for my husband and my cuddly pets. And I’ll probably cry some more, though it feels like I have no tears left. And maybe, just maybe, tomorrow will look a little brighter.