The space between grief and hope

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In the week after the shooting at The Grand in Lafayette, Louisiana, friends and strangers folded 2,000 origami cranes and created two senbazurus for the families who lost loved ones. This is a watercolor of some of the cranes..

This is what I know — the space between grief and hope is fragile.

Upon further reflection, maybe I don’t even know that. Maybe there’s not a space between those two opposing emotions. Maybe sometimes they overlap making those of us experiencing them even more confused and muddled?

Whether the emotions are side-by-side or overlapping, I know that the energy required to balance grief and glimmers of hope has worn many of us down in recent weeks.

In the time since the shooting at The Grand Theater, many of us  have straddled that space between grief and hope much of every day. Personally, continuing on with the work in front of me has felt like anything but business as usual. In fact, getting the work done has felt more like a betrayal to friends directly involved with the tragedy than the right thing to do.

However, the bottom line is that the same friends would be horrified at the thought of work not getting done or not focusing on making the world a better place — or life just not being lived to the fullest.
Surely in the face of such tragedy in our community, we can do something to be better. To be kinder. To more fully appreciate those we love and care about. To share more bounty and beauty with those who have less than.

On the flip side, I also realize we have to have emotional downtime — we just aren’t wired to feel at full capacity every moment. We need time when we just focus on learning to juggle or watering the plants or chopping onions. We can’t live with full intensity, even in appreciating those we love, all the time — our brains and bodies couldn’t handle it.

I was happy that in the face of tragedy, Lafayette offered free counseling to anyone who thought they might need it. In fact, on Friday afternoon, I decided that an objective ear would be a good way to help me have a better weekend. I just needed to talk through my own concerns, fears and grief with someone who I didn’t feel like I was burdening so that I could put the jumble in my head into some kind of order. So, I took advantage of the free counseling.

The counselor helped me realize that the way I was feeling was typical. She gave me a handout from the American Counseling Association that was full of good advice. All in all, here are its messages:

Take care of yourself. This is a time to “put your own mask on first.” If you don’t you can’t take care of others. Personally, I love to get massages. I decided to treat myself to an extra massage. Figuring out the best ways to tend to yourself — and doing those things on a regular basis — improves life exponentially.

Maintain a healthy routine. Be sure to eat, sleep, exercise and maintain as normal a daily routine as possible.

Pay attention to your emotional health. Remember that a wide range of feelings during these difficult times is common. Know that others are also experiencing emotional reactions and may need your time and patience to put their feelings and thoughts in order.

Be extra patient and kind with others. They may be struggling too. Give them the benefit of doubt.

Limit exposure to the topic. Take a step back from the media exposure. Individuals of all ages may experience stress reactions when exposed (even through media) to shootings or mass violence. According to the ACA, “Changes in eating and sleeping habits, energy level and mood are important signs of distress. Watch for regressed behaviors, such as clinging in children and intense emotional reactions, such as anxiety or a strong need for retribution in adults.” Going to see a counselor is sometimes a healthy option.

Keep your friends and family close. We all need a little extra tenderness sometimes. Rely on those who know you best and love you most.

Remember what makes you happy and provides comfort. Take some time and do those things that calm you.

Ask for help when you need it. Sometimes asking for help takes more courage than going it alone. Be brave and let others help you when you need it.

I’m working hard to slow down and spend time with the people I love most. Indeed, life does go by way too fast.

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2 thoughts on “The space between grief and hope”

  1. Jan, thank you for writing this post. The act of writing, while not in your list, is therapeutic and helpful. Reading this made me understand that, even though I did not personally know the victims, I was affected. I need to acknowledge this emotion and not make excuses for it. We were all affected just by being a part of this community. I only made 7 cranes. The process was healing and made me feel in a small way I was a part of something good. I hope we continue to find ways to spread hope and kindness every day.

  2. Thanks for your kind words, Margaret. And let me tell you, we appreciated those seven cranes! As you may have heard, we ended up getting/making enough for two senbazurus — one for Mayci’s family and the other for Jillian’s family. I agree with you — making those cranes was incredibly soothing. Sending my best.

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