As a psychotherapist and certified life coach I have accompanied many people on their journey’s through the messiness of life. Some people reach out to me in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy while others wait decades to seek healing from the grief of childhood atrocities. I always aim to be present, empathetic, and supportive to my clients no matter what they are facing. Like many helpers and healers, I am a wounded healer, so relating to people in the depths of despair is quite natural for me. However, as I observe the events around racial and social injustices in America unfold, I find myself at a loss for words and understanding. I wonder how we will heal from this grief.
By now we all know the stories of people like Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. Their combined hashtags on Instagram alone reach almost 3,000,000 and growing by the hour. I observe in horror, like most Americans, the disgrace and injustices betrayed upon these black men, and countless others, at the hands of a merciless few and yet I have no idea how to proceed. I have no idea how to make a sustainable impact on our society, our leaders, our communities, or our collective unconscious in these turbulent and unjust times.
I have listened to podcasts, read books and articles, talked to my friends, and joined online discussions about how to right these wrongs. I have reached out to colleagues of all colors and cultures to understand how their lives have been impacted by our collective history. And I have been open to exploring my role as a white, educated, middle class business owner. While I gain insight and perspective, none of these efforts have produced a tangible result or provided the least bit of comfort and understanding. The conversations and teachings provide little in the way of empowerment, direction, and hope to me.
Addressing the issues of racism and social justice within the walls of my own home is not easy, either. When I engage my young teenagers in conversation about race-relations they simply do not understand it. In their minds, racism and social injustice are deplorable but the events of the day are just another reason why us ‘boomers’ are so stupid and annoying. They cannot wrap their heads around why someone would be treated differently, let alone murdered, for the color of the skin. They think racism is not alive in their cohort and that it will die off with this last generation. Unfortunately, we know that history repeats itself time and time again and the likelihood that my kids will live in a fully anti-racist world is quite unlikely. And my husband is British. He simply cannot grasp the collective history and atrocities of America upon those with brown skin.
Healing and Hope
Despite my best efforts, I am left feeling devoid of hope on this matter and yet this is precisely why I feel compelled to satiate my overarching ache for peace and justice among all Americans. At the core of my being, I am optimistic, if not idealistic. I can always find the silver lining and usually, it is a realistic, tangible ray of hope- not just a pipe dream. So, I will take the time now to feel the feelings, live in the despair, and cry the tears for those who lost their sons, husbands, uncles, and brothers knowing that love will prevail in the end. My clinical teachings and life experiences remind me that the only way to heal is to move through the grief.
The Cycle of Grief
Ultimately, we are all working through a cycle of grief and loss because of our country’s history. When we think of grief, we most often think of the death of a loved one, but as humans we will experience many cycles of unwelcome change throughout our existence. There will be lost dreams and unhappy endings; it is just a fact of life. But, each of these unwelcome transitions can be a catalyst for a cycle of grief and, ultimately, a catalyst for personal development and healing.
In the midst of a world health pandemic, a failing economy, unprecedented unemployment, senseless murders of brown-skinned men, and an upcoming contentious presidential election, losses cannot be avoided. Grief itself is a process that is going to surface in response to our losses. Preparation and acknowledgement of this cycle are important if we are going to move through the cycle successfully. Success is a strange word to use in this context but from a clinical perspective, I view the grief process as a life transition in which we have the opportunity to learn something about ourselves, our needs, and our community and from this place we can make informed decisions that make a positive impact on society at large, and our personal lives.
Signs of Grief
During your grief process, there will be both overt and covert signs of grief so be on the look-out for the less obvious signs of grief like guilt, the inability to concentration, unhealthy use of alcohol and drugs, and emotional numbing. It is important to note that we cannot stop the cycle of change that occurs after a loss, nor it is healthy to attempt to do so. Things do not go back to normal but rather, a new normal is established.
Self-Care is Healing
The only way to heal is to move through it. How do we do that? Stop and reflect along the way; take care of yourself; engage the support of friends and family; say no to activities, people, and chores that do not lift your burden; connect with your truest self through prayer; cry and laugh; meditate and give thanks for what you have; release the pain and anger that no longer serves you or the community at large. Grief is a process and it is part of the cycle of life. As with all life-cycles, a metamorphosis will take place. You will emerge from this cycle in a different state than when you started. The cycle of life only moves in one direction so when the journey begins, there is no way to turn back time. We are already in the process of this cycle although we are each moving at our own pace. What we learn will be impacted by our own life experiences, our mental and emotional stability, our faith, and our readiness to embrace our reality.
Do You Need Help?
If you are suffering and hurting, as I suspect most people are, then take time to reflect on your experience. Listen to yourself and give a voice to your needs. Learn to be assertive while also offering an ear for listening. Figure out what you need to heal and what you can do to help someone else in their journey toward healing. If you would like professional help with this journey, reach out to me to find out if psychotherapy, life coaching, or Reiki would be beneficial to your soul’s purpose and healing journey. Learn more about me and how I may be of service to you by visiting me at www.curiositylifecoaching.com or www.marylandtherapycarrie.com
Carrie Mead, MS, LCPC is a professional counselor licensed in the state of Maryland, Reiki practitioner and Certified Seasons of Change Life Coach. Carrie utilizes a center-person holistic approach to healing and she honors the client as the expert of their own lives. Carrie earned her Master’s Degree in Counselor Education from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD where she resides with her family. Carrie studied life coaching at the Institute for Life Coach Training. When not working, Carrie can be found seeking the warmth of the sun in her garden where she grows vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers. For more information, visit www.curiositylifecoaching or www.marylandtherapycarrie.com