The news of another shooting—this time even closer to home in Southern California—has struck me to the core. When will this stop? How will this end? What do we do? These are the questions that replay in my mind as I take my dog for a walk, staring at the sky in the silence of morning. For some, this is an easy answer: eliminate guns, create stricter laws, provide resources for mental health, and speak up. While I stand behind every forward-thinking sentiment, I believe there is something even deeper than this.
There needs to be a change in thinking, a change in behavior, a change in mindset—so that even when we feel powerless and joy seems so far out of reach, there is hope.
Hope is where everything changes. Hope is where healing begins.
Right now I’m walking and thinking—spinning thoughts and frustrations and pain around in my head. Earlier this morning my timeline was filled with posts from people who attended Pepperdine, people who frequented that country bar where the event took place, people who felt connected and were connected to the devastation that happened. I read a post that said some of the victims had also been in the Las Vegas shooting just a little over a year ago. I can’t fathom that kind of pain, and to experience it twice?!
Beyond the flood of the Thousand Oaks shooting posts, I heard the news that a good friend—a pillar of a woman in my life—lost her husband less than fifteen hours ago. On the brink of her retirement, and with plans for a Christmas vacation where they would finally spend well-deserved vacation time together, her husband lost his battle to cancer. And I can’t wrap my head around how this is possible, or why.
In my corner of the world, dogs are barking and splashing in the ocean. A wave rises and lifts a chocolate lab, his feet kicking wildly underneath him. The sun is still quiet in the sky but the breeze is warm. It’s incredible to me that here, everything moves along as if nothing has changed. And just two hours north, grief hangs in the air.
I don’t know the answers. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. And I realize that I am human, just as everyone else, and so I’m perhaps not meant to understand. But I still want answers.
I know God doesn’t bring these things to us, or abandon us in their wake. I know pain is not from Him and His goal is to bring us through each hardship we face. But it hurts my heart that these tragedies are so prevalent and sometimes there are no words to heal.
Sometimes we can speak God’s truth over and over, and everything still hurts. And it’s not that it’s any less true, but faced with loss after loss after loss, the heaviness still presses upon us. And we can’t quite break free.
I guess, honestly, where everything starts is when we choose to channel our grief productively—making change, making noise, loving others. When we decide to show up for the people who are hurting—in both quiet and loud ways—to let them know we’re here.
Yes, there is political change, active change, dramatic change—but sometimes these big changes make us feel so small. Can we change the world with our single voice? Yes, we can and we must by whatever means makes sense to us. But at the core of everything we do or say, there has to be light.
In the aftermath of grief, we must bring light to these dark places. We must remind the ones who are aching, and even ourselves, that we are not alone.
That’s where it starts, that’s where it continues, that’s the hope and the healing—when we surround one another in love. When we stop making people’s pain political and just be there for them first. When we acknowledge the difficultly without diminishing the grieving process. When we allow people to break, and lash out, and cry, and move at their own pace and in their own ways, all the while never leaving their side.
Maybe it’s not even about understanding the ‘why’ behind what happens, but understanding that the aftermath is the most important part. Pain will happen. But what will we choose to do after? How will we continue? How will we love? How will we rise?
I guess this is my message, my thoughts poured out on the page for everyone who has been affected by the mass shootings over the past few years. Sometimes I don’t outwardly write about these things because they are painful, and because when I write about one event and not another it makes me feel as if I’m undervaluing some people’s grief—which isn’t true!
Sometimes there just are no words, and so I choose to write about light, about love, about happiness so that there’s a little less sadness in the world. I’ll admit that maybe that’s not the best process, and hopefully you’ll forgive my humanness. But at the end of the day, I come to you with these words from my heart and this podcast of me processing, and packaging everything to you in the best way I can.
In all the pain and above all else—please know that you are not alone. None of us are alone. So what we do in a world where grief is so prevalent? We love. We love. We love.
Featured Image Credit: Gianna Trewavas