Practicing Radical Compassion
About a month ago, I created a graphic for Instagram and Facebook that outlined symptoms common to both grief and trauma. I’m seeing these symptoms embodied everywhere:
Shock, denial, disbelief
Anger, irritability, mood swings
Anxiety and fear
Difficulty making decisions
Guilt, shame, self-blame
Withdrawing from others
Feeling sad or hopeless
Feeling disconnected or numb
In conversations with people, and watching different social media interactions, as well as reading news stories, I often wonder, “Why are they doing that?”. The answer to that question is usually grief and/or trauma.
You may be familiar with the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance (and a proposed additional stage - finding meaning). Our current collective grief is complicated by the ambiguous nature of our loss. Ambiguous loss is a loss that happens without closure or clear understanding, which often freezes the grieving process until clarity or closure occur.
When we know to look for the Symptoms of Grief & Trauma, Stages of Grief, and Ambiguous Loss, we can begin to cultivate compassion for ourselves and others. These experiences have placed tremendous stress on our relationships and social frameworks.
The truth right now is that we’re dealing with a completely new virus. The full tonnage of what we don’t know overwhelms what we do know about it. It is going to take time for scientific research to provide us with reliable, sophisticated evaluation beyond the bit that we have now.
Our big beautiful brains are trying to make sense of this impossible moment, filling in the blanks with speculation and assumption. This is a survival-based response, based in our fear of pain/death/dying. To seek comfort, we take to the internet to research the problem, only to find conflicting information. We turn to the news, finding more conflicting opinions and information. The spiral of uncertainty and unknown can feel infinite. Hope, love, life can begin to feel very far away.
It is our responsibility to meet this crisis spiral with radical compassion - for ourselves and others. Instead of responding to a difference of opinion with an attitude of judgement, we get to recognize the other person’s pain, their fear, their loss, and speak words of comfort and accountability to the love modeled in our sacred texts.
We are experiencing a cascade of loss and crisis very few of us have been through before. This virus pandemic is being met with an epidemic of conflict. We have the choice to see behaviors and classify them as stupid or ignorant. We also have the choice to see behaviors and look for the pain behind them, the fear behind them. As Christians, we have a moral obligation to engage empathy first.
Without clear, unified, uncorrupted leadership at the federal level, The burden of responsibility is being unjustly placed on each one of us. We are having to make decisions without enough reliable information to be confident about those decisions, exacerbating the feelings brought on by grief and trauma.
If you’re still reading this, thank you for your attention. My invitation to you is the same as it has always been, but you’ll have to dig deeper to embody it: You are incredibly loved and love-able beyond your greatest imaginings. Choose to be the embodiment of Divine unconditional love, compassion, and empathy in your body, your words, your deeds.
Together, our small daily steps toward toward love are building a new culture.