Grieving a national tragedy when you’re already grieving

Members_of_Congress_hold_a_prayer_circle_for_Charleston_shooting_vicitims_outside_the_White_House_in_Washington_DC_on_June_18_2015_Credit_Mark_Wilson_Getty_Images_CNA_6_18It’s a double-whammy of difficult days for me this week: my first father’s day without my dad, and what should have been my parents’ 35th anniversary the day after that. Here I’ve been, sitting in my little library, journaling and drinking tea and wondering if it will be good for me to attend church this Sunday. I’ve been considering skipping it altogether and instead following the advice of a friend of mine: do something Dad and I liked to do together. So maybe I’ll take my husband out for breakfast (he is, after all, a doting father to our kittens).

But then the shootings in Charleston happened, ripping me out of my grieving hole and keeping me glued to images of devastated families, biographies of the victims, and alarming information about how it’s apparently illegal to take down the Confederate flag.

As a human being, of course I’m outraged, but I don’t feel it as strongly as my father’s absence. The truth is, my own grief has worn me out. There is so much to be angry about in this world, and now I’m approaching burnout. On some level, this makes me feel selfish. Innocent people lost their lives in a senseless act of hate – but I’m worried about being emotionally triggered in church this Sunday.

I find myself wondering if it might be an act of self-care to turn off the news for a bit. This doesn’t mean I stop caring – but if I don’t care for myself, I’ll have no energy left to care about anything beyond myself, and that too would be a tragedy. For me, it’s the same logic of flight attendants instructing airplane passengers to put their own oxygen masks on first before assisting other people.

And then there’s the realization that I can only do so much – but I am capable of doing a lot. I struggle with learning to pick my battles, because they are all equally important. The last thing I’d want to do is send a message that by choosing one issue over another, I am saying one matters more than the other.

There will be much grieving this weekend. I hope it’s a small comfort to the victims’ families in Charleston that their names have been added to my list. Even if grieving is all I can do, acknowledging the value of lost life is never nothing.


3 thoughts on “Grieving a national tragedy when you’re already grieving

  1. I’m having my first father’s day without my Dad, too. Its surreal. I feel kind of frozen. I’ve put out a nice picture of him over the fireplace, and lit a candle and said a prayer. I’m across the Atlantic (London) and I’m black, so have been following the events in Charleston absolutely stunned.
    My condolences to you.


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