As published in The Aspen Times on June 6, 2022
When tragedies happen in our world, even though we may not have a relationship with the victims, we grieve.
The deaths may bring forward our past grief or trigger something deep inside of us from our past. We also grieve from a place of fear. When senseless acts of violence happen, it shakes our world, and we stop trusting the world around us. Grief can come in many forms with loss of trust, security and safety among them. The most recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, was an unimaginable tragedy, and it rocked us all, whether or not we knew the victims. Allowing our own grief to surface around a tragedy like this is important. For some, it is putting love in to action by taking supplies to Uvalde, as one of my closest friends is doing. For others, it is donating money. I know for many it is taking political action. One of our first reactions, when a loss like this happens, is to do something, allowing our grief to speak through our actions. Along with processing what we feel, it is also important to sit with the grief. This can be one of the hardest parts. “What does that even mean?” you may wonder. For me, it is allowing myself to acknowledge all of the emotions a tragedy brings to my mind and to not try to distract myself or push them all away. It is about being fully aware of my fear, my sadness and anger, and not trying to run away or deny it. Then I just feel and allow that feeling to be a part of my honoring. It is in these spaces that I find I can get to the heart of healing. For those struggling with the events of the past few weeks, I encourage you to take the time you need to process them. Find the time to sit down alone and light a candle, play music or do anything that will help you quiet your mind. Take time to think of the children and adults who died. Allow yourself to go inside and take some time to find the compassion and pain and fear you have inside. Allow your heart to wrap itself around them and tell them how sorry you are that they were killed for no reason. Just feel for them and those who love them. Then ask yourself, from that place of compassion, what is it you can find within yourself that can honor them today? What is one small thing you can do to just remember and hold space for those who died? Maybe it’s simply just being quiet and allowing yourself to feel for them, or it’s planting something that you can look at to remember them. Let it be personal and private. Our past and our present surface when we grieve. If you are employed in a school, you may be questioning your basic fears of working in a space that you may never know is safe or if you have experienced trauma or violence in your past, current incidents may dredge up emotions and bring them to the forefront again. Grief is deeply complicated, even when it doesn’t involve someone we know. We all need a place to house our love, grief and sadness. We all have these emotions, and although sometimes they are hidden deep within, if we take the time to listen to them, to nurture what we are feeling, we become kinder and more compassionate with ourselves and others. And eventually, in time, our love becomes greater than our fear. For the families in Uvalde who have lost their loved ones, their lives are never going to be the same. While we cannot live from a place of perpetually hurting for others and their loss, what we can do is take the time to remember and honor them. We can find our own unique and personal ways to visit their memory, hold them close, and promise that we will not forget them. Allison Daily is the executive director of Pathfinders, a local nonprofit serving residents from Aspen to Parachute. Pathfinders provides free/low-cost counseling for those dealing with grief, loss and serious illness. To learn more or donate, visit pathfindersforyou.org.