The Many Faces of Grief: C
Corona Virus, Childhood Trauma, Climate Anxiety
On the corona virus:
The Corona Virus Pandemic has taken over the airw
aves. We don’t know yet what this thing will end up doing to us, but so far it seems to be really good at bringing anything resembling “business as usual” to a halt.
There seems to be something missing in the news reporting on this situation. Media outlets are peppering us with stats, info about where the virus came from, what it can do to us and how we should act to protect ourselves and each other. But it’s hard to find out what could’ve caused it. And there’s precious little wondering about what it can end up meaning for the future should we take this opportunity to reimagine our relationship with the planet and each other.
What if the current, interest-based economy collapses under its own burden – what might eventually come to take its place? And what could our future look and smell like if we reject the temptation to rush back to “business as usual” when this has blown over? Is the corona crisis a horrific affliction or a golden opportunity? Or is it both?
~ Stephen Jenkinson, author, palliative care worker, founder of Orphan Wisdom School
On childhood trauma:
Please don’t hurt me anymore
Please don’t leave me anymore
Without you I’m lost
But with you I’m scared
I’m sorry you had to see that my child
It’s not your fault
It’s not your fault
I won’t let anybody hurt you again
With God’s grace, I will learn
To protect you
And defend you
I love you
~ James Finley
In an earlier article, I spoke specifically regarding trauma and offered several great resources; it has a lot of excellent information. But when it comes to childhood trauma, my heart is so tender; it aches. There’s no way to begin or end this tragic grief that is so common among us. But there is a story of hope, and I share it with you now.
For many years, I had the opportunity to volunteer in an all-male, medium-security state prison. The men came to my grief class in droves; about half of them stayed the course. It was hard work. As Gabor Matte says, “We have to suffer into truth.” And suffer we did.
Childhood trauma was the template for our work, which emerged out of my love for Joseph Campbell, his great work with mythology, and the map of the hero’s journey. I highly recommend his books, including The Hero’s Journey; The Hero with a Thousand Faces, The Power of Myth. Just saying: I haven’t found anything more powerful than story!
I hold an image in my mind’s eye of those prisoner-heroes that boldly made their way through that journey; I was blessed to be their witness. Hundreds of them made it – and triumphed over their traumatic childhoods. For most of them, they were heard and seen for the first time in their lives. And they took back their power; and they re-claimed their lives.
How did they do it? How did they DARE do it in this locked down arena of fear, violence, threat and dominance?
I’m remembering a hymn from my childhood: “I stand all amazed”. I was then, and I am now. Amazed. They took off their protective armor; they grouped up in honor of themselves and each other – yes, that took some time. We had to build a trust-worthy foundation upon which we could do the work. And they shouldered that fabulous imperative: Grow up, clean up, show up, and wake up.
Answering The Call to Adventure, these heroes of mine set out on the treacherous journey; they left The Known World and crossed the threshold into Initiation; at the mid-point of the journey, they entered The Abyss where they came toe to toe with their darkest shadows, buried secrets and shame; they found Resolution after great suffering and sacrifice, and arrived Home with a gift for their community. In our case, the gift was the sharing of their Personal Mythology with their fellow journeymen. We witnessed humility, healing, joy, and pure Grace. And the greatest gift of all: out of profound childhood trauma, something beautiful was born.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious,
it will direct your life, and you will call it fate.”
~ Carl Jung
I’m trying to tell you this story, but you just had to be there to believe it. As I close, I’m reminded of an odd pairing of words: Grief and Praise. I never really grasped the meaning of this pair until I met them both in the same building: prison. The men and I grieved AND praised, laughed and cried together in sacred space. Martin Prechtel coined these words in his soulful book, The Smell of Rain on Dust. It feels so appropriate to end the story with this odd couple of words that are so delicious and visceral: the smell of rain on dust. I take a knee in deep honor.
Because they are best friends, both Grief and Praise live together in the same building, but in opposing quarters; in the left and right chambers of Love’s great thumping house called the Heart. ~ Martin Prechtel
On climate anxiety:
In a recent "PBS NewsHour" survey, in partnership with The Generation Lab, children and young adults said they expect climate change to have major implications for how they live.
Nearly two-thirds said that climate change will influence where they decide to live. More than half said it will change how and where they travel. And a third said it would affect their decision to have children. That is on top of growing resurge that shows that young people are increasingly experiencing what's now known a climate anxiety.
Sofia Palau, Youth Vs. Apocalypse:
Of course, I have panic attacks about climate change. It's the biggest issue facing our society today.
Truly, what we are facing right now is the apocalypse.
When people think, oh, no one's going to die of climate change, then they're already discounting all of the people who have died in California wildfires, or all of the people who've died in hurricanes, or islands that are slowly going underwater, and people's lives who are being uprooted.
Lise Van Susteren, Climate Psychiatry Alliance:
It's clear that we have passed certain tipping points already that have convinced children that they are in trouble, that their futures are imperiled.
Kids have told me that they don't want to pursue a secondary education. What's the point? Kids have said, of course, that they don't want to have children because they don't want to bring a child into the chaos.
And then there are other kids who have just become anxious by themselves and might take all sorts of responses, maybe eating disorders, some people, or just a general feeling of apathy.
The kids are not dreaming this up. They aren't living in a cave. They have seen with their own eyes. It's no longer just scientists telling them. They have seen what is happening. And for us to sweep this under the rug makes them feel even worse.