A couple of mornings ago, when my son woke up and came out of his bedroom, he found me sitting at the kitchen table, staring at my computer, my eyes moist with tears.
Concerned, he asked me, “What’s going on, Mom? What’s happening?”
I wiped away my tears, looked at him, and said, “Good Morning, Love. I was actually just reading about all these 4th-grade children and their teachers who were shot and killed at school in Texas on Tuesday.
Just feeling for all those children’s parents, grandparents, and everyone who loved them. That entire school and town, traumatized. So many hearts shattered right now.” 😞
Ezra frowned, sighing loudly: “Oh, God. Yeah…”
He moved in close for a morning hug. We held each other for a moment.
I said, “I love you” and he said, “I love you too.”
Then he turned to walk away, heading to take a shower.
But after a moment he turned back around, and said, “You know, Mom? Maybe you take it a little too far sometimes with things like this.”
“Too far?” I asked, “How do you mean?”
Ezra reflected: “I just mean- yes, a terrible thing happened. A mentally ill psychopath was allowed to buy an assault weapon and then he shot innocent people. Just like last week in NY with the white supremacist. Just like all over the world, all the time.”
As he spoke, my heart took in the tone of voice and place he was reflecting from—almost nonchalant, holding the horrors of our world as just part of the deal of life. It wasn’t long ago that taking in the pain of a homeless person on the streets would move him to uncontrollable tears.
He continued: “But when you start googling about who the people were that died? And looking at their pictures, and feeling the pain of all those moms and dads? Maybe that’s too much pain to feel, that’s all I’m saying, Mom. Maybe it’s not helpful. Maybe it just makes more pain when you feel their pain?”
I considered his words carefully before I responded, “I hear you, Love. I appreciate your sensitivity to how we can contribute to suffering in our own reaction to suffering. And I really respect however you need to be with it. We all have to find our own way. And you’re right: tragic, violent, unnecessary death and unattended psychosis are insidious parts of our world right now. And people are losing their loved ones to violence all over our world all the time.”
I was quiet for a moment, as I honestly inquired into what it is that compels me at certain times to look directly into the individual faces of loss.
I said to my son: “As a healer, and as a heart, I’m inclined to lean in, where I’m guided—maybe partly to help move the grief through, to let my heart break with those families, and to send my prayers specifically and directly.”
I reflected, “It’s like how when we hear of someone who is dying or who has just left their bodies, sometimes it can be beautiful to ask what their name is, so we can send our prayers off with their spirits, to support a peaceful passage.”
Ezra smiled at me, “I know that’s just how you are, Mom.”
Then he said, almost as a casual afterthought: “Oh, and by the way? I just wanted to let you know that if a shooter ever came into my school? I don’t want you to worry, because I would be completely alert about what was the smartest thing to do: whether to hide, or whether to find a safe exit and run. If it felt safest to leave the building, I’d run fast to one of the nearest porta-potties and I’d hide inside. Or I’d run to the church right across the street and hide and wait in there. I just wanted you to know I’ve thought it through.”
And with that, he headed towards the shower.
I was stunned quiet by my thirteen-year-old’s carefully thought-out plan of what he would do if a shooter were to come into his school. Is this what my kid thinks about as he falls asleep in bed at night? 😳
As I’ve been connecting with people this last week, I’ve noticed that when tragic and horrific world events occur, it can easily bring to the surface whatever heartbreak, anxiety, or unattended grief is already hanging out within us. Or it can make us feel especially numb, detached, and hopeless. Or it can make us want to find a way to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe in this world that is coming increasingly unhinged.
Ezra’s right. This month in the US, it’s about these horrifying shootings. And even at thirteen years old, white, male, relatively privileged, and sheltered, he knows that the countless horrors of our world are continuous and frighteningly unresolved.
I mean, just imagine all these kids, coming out of two years of a global pandemic, facing a seemingly insurmountable climate crisis, approaching fire season once again, in a world where shooting massacres are sometimes a weekly occurrence. No wonder he doesn’t want to look into the faces of the children who died, or to feel my aching heart in our kitchen first thing in the morning.
Our hearts are broken, grieving, anxious, and numb about so much more than these recent lives lost violently at the hands of empowered insanity. So much of what we feel is simply a byproduct of being human and aware in heartbreaking times.
I believe we need the facers, the feelers, and grievers in our world. I think it’s safe to assume that it takes a human village to grieve the heartbreak of our world.
And we also need joy. We need to keep laughing and celebrating all that is here to cherish and enjoy.
And we also need grounded activists, wise thought-leaders, and intelligent lawmakers. Please God. May what has been continuously and blatantly denied and ignored, be ignored no longer.
Perhaps more than anything, I’m poignantly aware of our need to wake up to the acute mental health crisis unfolding in our world. We need to awaken to the reality of a wide-spread psychosis, appearing in a myriad of forms, sometimes hidden in plain sight.
We need to start where we are, in our own minds, our own families, social circles, and towns… and start tracking and tending to where and how psychosis takes root and spreads.
But we do need to feel the pain. And we need to feel it directly, skillfully, and powerfully, without indulgence or avoidance.
We need to feel in such a way that we don’t use our feelings to justify collapse, unnecessary suffering, or an unconscious reaching for any number of grief-numbing agents to cope.
What a task it is to feel all that we are given to feel, to meet with our awareness what we are given to meet, and to keep opening our hearts wider to bear it.
What about you? What’s asking for both hands upon your heart today?
What’s asking for a deeper breath of tenderness and compassion?
Whatever it is holds the key to resting into yourself, your love, and this heartbreaking world, just as it is.
I meet you here, where our personal and collective pain and joy overlap and collide, inviting us deeper.
Together we can turn towards it, open to it, and feel it all the way through.
Together we can be the Love, this vast, silent Truth of Love, that mysteriously includes and bears it all.