Less than one year ago I traveled to Israel/Palestine. Less than one year.
I know there are people in my sphere who wonder today at my lack of a vocal or public response to the current terror in that land, and I understand that wonder. I find myself defaulting instead to the words of others I know and trust, others who are more deeply entrenched and more deeply impacted, others who don’t have the privilege of turning it off. I still at times feel a pull to put something out there yet remain at a loss for direction and so instead continue simply to share the words and reflections and stories of others.
So, when invited to write a piece on the corporate grief most are now experiencing—whether about Israel/Palestine or another source—my immediate reaction was Yes! A direction! But still I stalled in putting finger to keyboard. And now, just now as I write these words, I finally put it together.
The breadcrumbs that allowed this truth to cut through the fog and into my consciousness are now clear, but in the moments, I missed the connection.
Driving home tonight, I knew this article was my primary to-do. Normally I love writing about grief; tonight, I procrastinated. When I did talk myself into starting, I delayed further to set the scene. A dinner of comfort food, a cocktail, and instrumental Christmas music. Yes, Christmas music in October. Why? Because it soothes my soul. I cocooned in a cozy blanket and re-read the invitation to write this. And then I did the thing I feared but had to do; I looked through the folder of pictures from the trip to Israel/Palestine.
The pictures were equivalent to ripping off the bandage, confronting the grief I’d allowed to walk alongside me without giving it a name or attention. The grief that caused me to stay silent because it’s too much. It’s too much to face. It is too much to feel.
Grief is a powerful beast, and it is a beast that can be tamed if we face it, name it, and encounter it.
Here’s the thing, though, about grief. It remains persistent and intrusive if relegated to the periphery. It looms and taunts and inspires paralyzing fear. The secret is to look it head on and befriend it. Not like it, mind you, just befriend it. Accept the grief as a part of your current reality. Grief is a powerful beast, and it is a beast that can be tamed if we face it, name it, and encounter it.
I won’t get into the political weeds right now and I also acknowledge that the existence of said weeds is at the root of this grief. The fact that people are afraid to speak on behalf of “these” humans for fear of being accused of not loving “those” humans is grief inducing. The reality that here in “the land of the free” we use that freedom to volley shouted protests against one another rather than to bring safety, protection, dignity, and life to our siblings in another land is abhorrent—and, yes, grief inducing. The decades-long lack of recognition of withholding of basic rights, and this country’s complicity in it.
The babies. The parents. The siblings. The people barred from leaving. The people walking demolished streets and sifting through rubble, on both sides of the wall, trying to find something, anything to reclaim a sense of home and stability. The people waiting for news. The people waiting for rescue. The people longing for sleep and food and shelter and water.
The people who can only hope that one day their bodies will again relax.
The burden that religion bears for what has been and what is, and how twisted it has all become.
Grief is not limited to the death of a person you personally know. It isn’t even limited to death; it can follow any loss or change. To find our way through grief, we need—need—to befriend it.
If you’re unfamiliar with grief, learn about it. Learn how you process and release emotions. Put a name to what you feel and be bold in sharing what you need. Try not to fall to the temptation of hiding behind the politics. Let the humanity reveal your grief. Explore it. Name it. Allow it to spur you to action.
Grieve on behalf of those who can’t yet because the chaos is too much.
Find your cushion and hold it tight. Seek out anything that allows you to trust that the cushion is real.
Whether you are just now embracing the reality of your grief (whatever the source) or if grief is an old, familiar friend, the number one guidance I can give you is to find your cushion. The cushion that sustains me through grief is hope. The grief is real and deep and intrusive and intense; hope keeps me afloat so that the grief never succeeds in knocking me down for the count. Hope provides a softer landing when a grief wave tosses me in the air. Find your cushion and hold it tight. Seek out anything that allows you to trust that the cushion is real.
Evidence for hope is hard to find when people and towns are being destroyed, again, in a land that knows this rhythm. Even from afar, as we watch and wait and fight the never-ending and purposeless political battles rather than fighting to get basic necessities to humans in turmoil, hope feels far off.
It is there, though; sometimes it is but a pinprick, but it is there. Find it, cling to it, and allow it to sustain you through your current grief. Share it with others in need so they too can have a cushion to sustain them. It won’t erase the grief because nothing can. It will, though, make it a bit easier to bear.
Dedicated to: Rami, Abu George, Sahar, Salwa, Gerard, Sam, Lilah, Tal, and Jakov—speaking your names is all my heart can bear. You asked our group to advocate not for one side or the other, but for peace. I beg for it.
Kate J. Meyer, MDiv, LPC, is an ordained minister and licensed professional counselor who has worked in both private practice and hospice care. She is passionate about bringing grief into the light so that all grievers know how to move forward in a healthy, life-giving manner. Kate is the author of Faith Doesn’t Erase Grief: Embracing the Experience and Finding Hope and The Red Couch, a novel about past mistakes and a challenge to overcome them. She is a dog mom living with her husband in Western Michigan. Visit katejmeyer.com to join her newsletter or follow her on social media.