Year of Grief, from Traumas New and Old

We are all spent and on edge

Person sitting and bent at the waist, naked from the waist up with back exposed.
Image by Larm Rmah from

Every day, I read the news. I see the photos. I hear the reports. The grief is palpable. I can feel it pulsing around me, a living, breathing thing that threatens to consume all of us. My anger and my sadness make me want to scream, but no sound escapes. Most days it feels like you’re screaming into the void, so what’s the point? All it would do would scare my daughters.

I feel, I think most of us feel, completely overwhelmed by the misery we see day in and day out on the news, in the papers, and most certainly on social media. We’ve taught our children about deadly viruses, systemic racism and the vitriol spewed by those who perpetuate it, and about why the president of the United States is a bully even though my four year knows that being mean to other people is wrong.

It’s overwhelming to reckon with the fact that there are so many, many people out there who don’t understand that Black Lives Matter isn’t about making one set of lives more important than another, but that for the entire existence of this country, we have made the lives of Black Americans less important, and more threatening, than white ones. Black Lives Matter wants equality, and equity. They are simply saying that all lives can’t matter until Black lives matter as much as white ones. I’m not going to rehash the facts surrounding systemic racism. I did it in May when I wrote A White Woman’s Take on Black Murder. But, suffice it to say that I am almost indescribably angry that I’m writing about yet another Black American man being assaulted by police officers. Jacob Blake didn’t deserve to be paralyzed. Seven shots in the back is not a mistake. That’s calculated and deliberate.

COVID-19 has taken the lives of almost 200,000 Americans and Republican leaders are still calling those losses acceptable. How are the deaths of 200,000 of our citizens acceptable? To whom is this acceptable? And yet, here we are, on the brink of the second wave of the virus (though it can’t really be a second wave if the first wave never actually broke). And, that second wave will combine with flu season so we are sure to see many more deaths in the coming months. It makes me terrified for our future.

I worry that the divides (yes, multiple divides) have become too great; the socio-economic gap that’s never been wider, the new Republican Party and everyone else, the racist and the anti-racist. I worry that we will re-elect a president who has viciously, and unashamedly, torn our country apart. He acts without thought and lacks the capacity for empathy. He loudly claims that he wants “America First!” when it is clear that what he means is “Trump First!” He seems to hate Americans, especially those that don’t look like him, or pledge fealty to him.

But, despite all of my worry, anger, sadness, and grief, I have moments of hopefulness too. I feel hopeful when I see so many people, the world over, marching to demand that Black Lives Matter. When athletes, staff, and other students at the University of Alabama marched to the doors of Foster Auditorium, it was a significant moment. One of my alma mater’s most well-known moments is former Governor George Wallace’s symbolic “stand in the schoolhouse door.” He was trying to uphold his inaugural promise of “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” The schoolhouse door was the main entrance to Foster Auditorium. When I hear stories of a lone person in a wildly conservative town, marching on behalf of Black Americans even as they endure threats to life and limb, I feel hope. There’s an Instagram account called Erasing Hate. The guy who runs it travels the country, aided by a power washer and an army of volunteer tattoo artists, literally erasing hate from public spaces and from people’s bodies. There is hope in that. There is hope found in the story of David Weissman, a former Trump supporter who changed after a kind and thoughtful interaction with comedian Sarah Silverman on Twitter. We can learn from one another.

It is possible that my hope is nothing more than idealistic nonsense, but I want to believe that the majority of people are decent. There is a great divide, but I hope that it is not completely insurmountable. If we lose all hope, if even that tiny kernel, buried deep within our souls, dies then we lose our chance to fulfill the promise of our country.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” — Declaration of Independence