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The Wisdom of Grief


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The Wisdom of Grief

Kimberly Coburn

I have not minded the neverending rain. On days like these, the damp better conducts the electric impulses of collective thought - you can almost glimpse the warp of humanity within the frayed and tangled weft of our world.

This week, America saw its 294th mass shooting in 274 days. Almost as quickly as the news broke, the debates around gun control began. Advocates from either side of the issue dug their heels in, taking to social media to proclaim the validity of their side. It is, admittedly, a discussion of immeasurable importance - but this debate also obscures something key to the healing of our world.

We no longer even register disbelief – as these events have become more common than the rising of the sun – but leap immediately to anger. We transmute our feelings of ineffectuality to save the lives lost, our fears that it could just as easily have been us, and our well-deep sorrow at the state of our world into a debate with a right and a wrong – something we can wrap our hands and minds around, something we can do.

As we all know, incidents like this are just the tip of the rapidly-melting iceberg. Environmental destruction, racial inequality, rampant corporate greed – we have no shortage of calamities in our hyperconnected world.

Equally as troubling, though, as the challenges at hand is how little space our culture provides for the very real, very honest grief these issues illicit. Grief is an emotion relegated to the edges of our lives and for which we share no common language. No one wants to be a “downer” or seem too self-serious;  any direction you look, glowing distractions from that discomfort shine like beacons in the dark. Because the American life has no discourse for this pain, those experiencing it feel further isolated – often even ashamed for their struggle.

The hidden truth, though, is that within the seemingly fragile shell of grief lies an enormity of compassion, humanity, and honesty. As anyone who has confronted mourning head on in his or her life can tell you, experiencing the full depth of our loss opens hidden doors to gratitude and kinship – doors behind which our profound interconnectedness to everything is laid bare.

“Planetary anguish lifts us onto another systemic level where we open to collective experience. It enables us to recognize our profound interconnectedness with all beings. Don’t apologize if you cry for the burning of the Amazon or the Appalachian mountains stripped open for coal. The sorrow, grief, and rage you feel is a measure of your humanity and your evolutionary maturity. As your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal. That is what is happening as we see people honestly confronting the sorrows of our time.” – Joanna Macy, Greening of the Self

When the urge to take sides and make declarations is strong, it is that very moment that we most need to make room for our own sorrow that we may come to understand and know it as the fundamental soil we share, the firmament on which we can build. It's not just for you - we can gently keep that space open, that our neighbors might share it and feel less alone. Intellectual awareness of the issues is an essential component of moving forward, but without honoring and sharing our sense of loss, we cannot embrace a new paradigm of healing.

The Homestead Atlanta is dedicated to building thriving, resilient communities. Resilience, though, is about more than canning or composting – it’s about resilience of spirit, about having the courage to acknowledge our pain for the world and operate wholeheartedly, together, from that space.

Want to continue the conversation? Join us on Tuesday at Crack in Sidewalk Farmlet for a potluck, bonfire, and conversation. Find out more here.