Your Pandemic Experience and Trauma

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

“My anxiety has gone up so much since things started opening back up” is a refrain that I’ve heard quite a bit this past week or so. 

“I know! Me too! This is the week of quarantine that my hair has started to fall out,” has been my typical reply. 

Globally, we call it a pandemic. Nationally, we will grudgingly admit that what we are experiencing is a crisis. Collectively as well as individually, I only have one name for what we are all experiencing: trauma. 

I’m no history buff, but as I have studied and trained in the art and science of healing trauma, I’ve been asked to explore a few lessons in history. We all recognize war as a trauma that will lead to PTSD, and it is the psychological symptoms of soldiers that sparked a big push in trauma research. As veterans began to tell their stories of trauma, the story in many cases proceeded down two lines. First, it was the story about the actual trauma of war. Second, it was the story of returning to a deeply divided homeland with two warring sides of social and political ideologies. 

Many times in the history of our nation, Americans- soldiers and civilians, individually and collectively- have had to endure and survive the experience of actual war or living in a time of war, while also having to endure and survive the chaos and turmoil of peaceful protests turned violent and of hate speech flowing freely in the town and national squares and free press. 

Does any of this sound familiar? Not only are we enduring and surviving a global pandemic that has threatened and taken lives, we are also enduring and surviving the chaos and turmoil of a deeply divided homeland where hate speech flows freely in the town and national squares as well as in the media, where peaceful protests erupt into violence, and armed protests pose a highly observable threat to life on top of the invisible threat to life we were already trying to reckon with. 

Thanks to the years of research and the soldiers who participated in those early studies, we are now able to recognize the symptoms of trauma in other populations and related to other life-threatening events. This is why when people tell me that they are having panic attacks in stores or that their blood pressure is at an all time high, I can recognize the physiological arousal symptoms of trauma. When people tell me that they are having disturbing dreams or straight up nightmares, I can check off the sleep disturbance criteria of trauma. When I hear stories about avoiding places, people, or activities due to the anxiety it causes during this global pandemic, and I know that this meets some of the behavioral criteria of trauma. 

When I see heated debates that amount to nothing more than character assassinations over cloth masks, I want to gently insert myself and request that all parties take a deep breath and notice what is going on in their bodies. Because, that my dear, anxious friend, is what we call being triggered and responding from a place of unacknowledged and unhealed trauma. With that being said, I’m going to propose to all of us, individually and collectively, that this is too much for anyone. There is not a single central nervous system in the land that is immune to being completely overwhelmed by this. This is trauma, and it will leave its mark in us all. You will likely notice some symptoms in your body, in your mood, and in your behaviors. This is to be expected. Your body and mind are trying to help you survive. 

Thankfully, the years of research have also taught us some things about healing trauma, the first step of which is to call it what it is: trauma. Since I cannot do justice nor is it my intent try to resolve the effects of trauma, of war, or of the deep wounds we hold as a nation or as individuals in one short post, my hope is that some part of this story has helped you to recognize and name some of your own experiences during a global and national crisis. Even more, I hope it has helped you to understand that much of what you are experiencing is a normal response to an overwhelming event. 

My hope is to open up a conversation that is helpful, and since this is a big topic and full of nuance, detail, and personal experience, I’d love to continue the conversation. So far, I’ve only been able to talk about trauma and the current crisis in a very general, very abbreviated way, so if there is something you’d like to discuss more, please leave a comment in the comment section. 

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Filling My Heart Through Trauma-Informed Weight Loss

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At the New Year, I set an intention to create a practice of embodiment and decided to re-evaluate what I was doing to manage my weight given what I have come to know about trauma. We all seem to understand that stress and trauma impact the way we eat and the way our bodies metabolize what we eat, and yet, we all still seem to suffer under the delusion that weight loss is something that is performance-based, will power dependent, and a commentary on our moral character. Wanting to avoid this seemingly universal pitfall, I decided that if I were going to try to lose weight again, the way that I did it was going to have to feed my soul somehow. 

When it comes to trauma, the issues around eating and weight are the symptoms and not the problem. The real problem is the unhealed trauma. When we focus solely on addressing the symptoms, we fail to address the real problem and therefore find ourselves stuck in a pattern of disappointment and failure when we can’t keep the weight off. Life is short, friends, and I don’t want to spend one more second of it inside of this negative pattern, so I set out to find a way to address the real issues that would result in real healing and then hopefully translate into lifelong healthy habits and a healthy weight to match. 

To me, creating a lifelong habit begins with keeping it simple and easy. Basically, we begin with what we already have and already know. I began by returning to a habit of tracking my meals in the Fitness Pal app. I wasn’t really worried about meeting the goals set by the app, I just wanted to be mindful of what I was eating and how often. This is the only habit I focused on for a week.

At the end of the week, I had lost a pound, so I spent some time reflecting on what I had done that week that felt healing to me. This was the week that I had hit my breaking point with the clutter in my house, particularly on our table. I had spent the previous weekend re-arranging the furniture in 3 rooms in our house so that we had a more functional space. As we lived in our new arrangement that week, we ate more meals together and those meal times were less rushed and much more pleasant. 

I decided that being mindful of these things was going to be a super important part of the process if it was going to be successful, and so I created a little therapeutic exercise out of it. I took an empty jewelry-sized gift box and filled it with small, decorative stones. They represent the things that are keeping me stuck, holding me back, and preventing me from obtaining my healthy goals. I also took a glass jar shaped like a heart, and it is waiting for me to fill it up with new, healthy thoughts, habits, and intentions. The idea is that with each pound lost, I take a stone from the pile of “dead weight”, hold it in my hand while I mindfully let go of what was working against me, and then as I place it in my heart, I mindfully fill my heart with the new healthy habit.

For the first week where I rearranged the furniture in my house, I practiced this mindfulness technique by setting the intention that I was letting go of cluttered, unworkable space and filling my heart with ordered, workable space. Obviously, that is a big project that can’t be completed overnight, but with the intention set, I’ve found that I really do make it a priority to get a little bit done each week.

The next week, I continued the pattern of being mindful by tracking my meals, still not worrying too much about meeting calorie goals or tracking macros or any of that. I continued to try to create order and workable space a little bit at a time. When I lost another pound at the end of that week, I again reflected upon what felt healing to me that week, and it was my confirmation into the Episcople church after spending several years without a faith community. That week as I picked up a stone from the pile and held it in my hand, I set the intention that I was letting go of isolation and filling my heart with community.

I continued into the 3rd week being mindful of what and how often I was eating and prioritizing orderly space and community. The third week was much more difficult. I started physical therapy for issues in my neck and back and had been in a great deal of pain. When I lost a pound, I set the intention that was releasing physical pain and filling my heart with a practice of attending to and caring for the pain. What I have learned as I have been mindful of the pain is that my body craves carbs and sugar when it is in pain and sleep deprived. I’ve also learned that pain is an enormous trigger to past trauma and the old patterns of compulsive behaviors, like eating my feelings. 

Being aware that all of those things are working inside of my mind-body system, I have had much more realistic expectations for my health this week. As in, I do not expect to lose weight this week. I won’t be surprised or devastated if I gain a little of the weight back. While I have continued to mindfully track my meals, my focus has been on managing my pain by making sure I’m taking my medicines on time, doing my physical therapy exercises, that I’m practicing correct posture, that I’m spending quality time with my heating pad, and that I’m keeping appointments with my therapist. It’s ok if I don’t lose weight this week; my body may have other priorities right now. And if I continue to be mindful about my nutrition, I won’t get way off track and will be much more able to jump back into losing weight when my pain is managed. 

I have found myself to be much more grounded with this exercise when it comes to my health and weight. My expectations feel more in line with reality, and honestly, I feel like I am actually working towards healing my body rather than punishing it or pushing it to perform a certain way. There is no restricting or withholding from myself in this way of doing things. In fact, it is more like I’m giving myself a gift each time. I’m filling my heart with something that will benefit my whole life for the long haul and not a superficial band-aid fix. 

This is my sincere wish for everyone who has experienced trauma and its effects on the body: to be grounded, healthy, happy, and healed. May we all give ourselves such a lovely gift in whatever ways that we can. If we are going to lose the weight of anything, let it be the weight of stress, hurt, and pain. If we are to gain anything, let it be peace and healing.

 

Thoughts of Faith or Errors in Thinking?

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Photo by Lilian Dibbern on Unsplash

If, like me, you were raised in the church, then I’m sure at some point you became aware of the Christian dialogue around suffering and negative experiences. This dialogue can range anywhere between warm, emotionally-laden sentimentality to cold judgment and blame. As a result, I have noticed that people of faith often struggle with how to think about, feel about, and respond to the negative events that occur in their lives, whether those events are stressful seasons or full-blown traumatic events. By the time they arrive to the therapy couch, their poor minds are full to the brim with platitudes, judgments, superficial encouragement, and scriptures taken out of context and sloppily applied to their situation. They are exhausted from the mental gymnastics of trying to be faithful in the middle of trial. I’m hoping today that we can unpack some of that dynamic and bring some peace to weary minds. 

First, let’s talk about how negative experiences are part and parcel of life. They are universal experiences that happen to us all, and no one exits this life without experiencing a few hard times. Yet, people of faith often struggle with some magical thinking around this concept, attributing a minor infraction on their part to be the cause of misfortune, large or small. Typically, I will kindly point out that I must in the presence of a person of great power if they are able to control the world that way, and yes, that kind of power and responsibility is likely to produce a great deal of stress. 

Light sarcasm and humor aside, the error in this thinking typically runs along the lines of a belief that says “If I would have been a better person, this bad thing wouldn’t have happened to me”. Whew, talk about pressure! But unfortunately, this thinking error typically doesn’t travel alone. It is often accompanied by another belief that says “Since it did happen to me, I must be bad”, and with that, along comes the final belief in this trifecta of self-blame that says, “Since I am bad enough for this thing to happen to me, I really must deserve it”. And with that, my faithful friend is buried beneath the heaviest pile of shame and undeserved blame a human can endure. 

With this new belief system in place in the mind, now every negative event is filtered through it. Over time, this becomes a negative feedback loop that reinforces the belief and creates behaviors to prove that the belief is true. People may struggle with this for months, years, or decades before reaching out for help. Sadly, some never do reach out and spend a lifetime under the enormous weight of shame. I hope to prevent that fate for as many people as possible, so may I offer you a few new thoughts if you find yourself nodding in recognition of any part of the pattern I’ve mentioned above?

First of all, know that your Creator wired you in such a mind-blowingly beautiful way to manage negative experiences that helps you survive, cope, and heal. Built inside of you is everything you need to preserve your well-being and survive under stress. Even your negative emotions serve their purposes inside of this mechanism, as they are the warning bell that sends the necessary systems into action to act for your protection and safety. 

Second, you are doing nothing wrong and everything right when you experience those negative emotions and uncomfortable sensations. When we try to shut down the first sign of discomfort or anxiety, we are disrupting that holy and life-giving mechanism that is working towards managing, mitigating, and mending the stressful, painful, or traumatic stimuli. 

Finally, allow the process to do its good work in you. We are better served by accepting the reality of the negative situation, calling it what it is, and allowing (even welcoming) the temporary, uncomfortable emotions and negative states and letting them do their work. Ride the wave, baby. Once the wave has crested (and it always does), engage in some serious self-care individually and inside of a safe, connected community. 

You don’t have to carry the weight of the world, friends of faith. Jesus was human, too. He knows about riding the waves the negative experiences, and he set a pretty great example of how to care for oneself during those stressful seasons. Whether he was retreating to the mountains for some alone time, reclining at a table with his closest friends, or spending time in prayer and meditation, all of those practices were serving a very human need for healing and managing stress. I mean, the man also did a fair amount of walking, so you even have a case for cardio, if that’s your thing. 

Over all, my wish for people of faith is to experience the peace and freedom promised by an active, healthy spiritual life. I really believe the first step in that direction is checking our thoughts and making sure that they are in line with the reality of our human experiences and limits, as well as our faith experiences. If the process of unpacking those thoughts starts to feel a little confusing or entirely overwhelming, then reach out for support from a trusted source, be it a trusted member of your faith community or a professional therapist. I promise you won’t regret the journey.

 

 

We Live in Two Worlds

woman-1207671_1280The holidays have been hard this year. In reality, they have been hard for many years, but this year I am self-aware enough to realize that I am struggling, to understand why I am struggling, and to roll with it rather than get confused and worked into a tizzy about it. My mantra this year has been “I officially hate the holidays, but I will continue to wear my snowman socks in full faith that one year I will enjoy all of this again”.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the holidays can be a wee bit of a trigger for those that are in active addiction. So, having lived through many a holiday season with an active user has dampened my ability to experience the wonder and joy of this blessed season.

I actually understand that to be the reason for my holiday blues this year, but in years past, I have been confused by it and spiraled out into weird behaviors that seemed like coping but really only made things worse. Even with this year’s self-awareness, I found myself responding to things with more of an edge than I intended to have. I intended to have no edge at all in the things I have said, but the Grinch still found his way into my words or tone.

Despite all the grumpitude (the word we use in my house for grumpy with a side of attitude), the newfound self-awareness also let me really see the long view of my life. I have been able to understand how completely chaotic and awful things were years ago, how much better things are now, how much better I AM now, how I have really changed in about a million microscopic ways that make the pace seem slow, how much work is left to do on myself, and still how far there is to travel.

But having the ability to see the long view keeps me grounded in reality. Honestly, it is where my hope lives. Trauma has kept me shortsighted and focused only on survival for a very long time. To finally be free of it to the point of being able to see a future again is a huge deal. To have hope again is a blessing beyond words.

If you believe in spiritual warfare, then you will understand that this newfound hope has been under attack. I wish I could tell you that I have handled it like a warrior champion, but mostly I’ve learned that I need a thicker skin.

A few weeks ago, I received feedback along the lines of my “inconsistency, lack of structure, and chaos” is the reason for all my troubles and all my family’s troubles. I attempted to explain the trauma history and the progress made, but as is often the case, I was treated like I was making excuses and subsequently dismissed.

I chewed on this feedback for a long time, because there is truth to it. I know that healing from trauma takes time, and therefore, the chaos is still present even if it is there to a lesser degree. As I chewed on it, I recognized a pattern in my personality: nothing will light a fire in me like the opportunity to prove that I have been misjudged. I decided to recognize the huge gap in this person’s perspective of my life. This person only saw where I am now and clearly was not interested in learning about where I came from or how far I have come. I was not going to receive validation for the hell I had already conquered from this person, so I gave that validation to myself. And I used the fire ignited by the feedback to simply move myself farther along the path of self-improvement that I was already working on.

Then yesterday, as I was shopping for a few things to spruce up and help organize our house, my daughter started lighting into me. She has taken to lecturing me about how I should behave, and these conversations have often ended with me issuing one of the clichés of motherhood: “because I am the mother” or “because I said so”. But this time, she said something that was a true knife to the heart, because it was clear that she was repeating something that she had heard from someone else. She ended her little rant with “you need to start acting like a real grown-up”.

Having been somewhat prepped for this by my last experience with negative feedback, I chewed on this for only a few hours rather than a few weeks. Again, I have to remind myself that only I know where I have been, where I am now, and where I am going. I cannot expect everyone to see, understand, or validate my experience. All I can do is keep on going and doing the next right thing, understanding that the people who want to know the truth about me will stick around long enough to figure it out.

But, none of that did anything to satisfy my ever growing concern about the 2 worlds my little family lives in and how it is influencing my child. I often think about how different my daughter’s experiences would be if we were really living a life that was congruent with our resources and circumstances.

My daughter goes to a private school that I will never be able to pay for. She is surrounded by dual-income families with high-paying, professional jobs that have many more resources than I do. She spends her afternoons, play dates, and birthday parties in homes much bigger, newer, and nicer than our home. She has and is developing expectations of me and of our life based what she sees all around her. When she returns to our home and to the limited time and financial resources of the single parent, I do not measure up. And in her child-like honesty, she lets me know it.

It begs the question, would my daughter have a greater appreciation of me if we were surrounded by families that looked more like our family? If she attended a public school and was immersed in a community where everyone, much like her own mother, was creatively using their limited resources to put together a life for their kids, would she have a different perspective of what “a real grown up is”? Would she be more grateful and hard-working instead of demanding and entitled if she saw that there were a whole lot of other parents holding life together with their teeth and fingernails?

I don’t have any answers for any of these questions. Maybe I just needed to vent, because the pressure in this culture to live up to THE CHILD’S expectations is REAL. When did that insanity happen?! And I don’t want to sound ungrateful, because I know full well that we are supremely blessed by the people in our lives and the school my daughter attends, and I do not take that for granted even a little bit. Certainly, I don’t want to deprive my child of anything that is beneficial to her development. Yet, the truth remains that our reality is very different than the life we lead, and it is setting up some serious future conflicts between my daughter and I.

I’m really not railing at the problems in our culture, community, or families; I am railing at my own participation in what I know to be the less-than-healthy parts of our world. I have fed into “entitlement culture” as much as the next girl. But I have also come to a place in my life where I accept the fact that there is nothing in my life or happening in my life that I have not allowed. I have also accepted the slowness of the pace of my recovery in a world that keeps telling me that I’m not doing enough fast enough. Having lost the majority of my possessions to trauma, I no longer place any sentiment in things and am truly content with living simply. My child, on the other hand, is another story. My point being, I have accepted the fact that my life is going to look different to the majority of people and that I will always be doing battle with the ways people perceive me to be counter-cultural or “a little bit off”. I’m ok with that.

Needless to say, if a fire was ignited in me with the first feedback, then the second feedback has fueled that fire into an inferno. Things are going to change in this family. I can’t yet say how or when, but I know through prayer, the answers will come.

Redemption in Divorce

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If I had remained married, today would have been my anniversary. This day has become like the New Year’s holiday to me, because I tend to reflect deeply about the time that has passed and the time that lies before me. I do not set goals like I may choose to do for a New Year, and I guess this is where my holiday analogy would move toward Thanksgiving. On this day, I find myself so very, very thankful and deeply humbled at the redemption the Lord has brought to my life, which leads to a story that I haven’t shared with many people until this moment.

When my marriage reached the pinnacle of insanity, I dug into my Bible looking for answers. At least, I thought I was looking for answers, but I was really looking for justifications. I was using what I was reading in the Bible to prop up my own insane thinking and to justify continued efforts to ignore all the very obvious evidence that my child and I were in very real danger. I would pray for protection, for 10,000 angels to form a protective perimeter around my house, but I would not leave. I would not leave, because “God hates divorce”, “the husband is the head of the wife”, and “wives obey your husbands” (that was my ex-husband’s favorite) and all those other scriptures, not to mention all the Christian judgments that have become so deeply ingrained in some sectors of Christian culture that they are mistaken as scriptures, were perpetuating the same cycle of shame as the abuse I was enduring. I was trapped by “my faith”. My ex-husband knew it and I knew, and he exploited it for all that he could.

It was not long until I reached a place of such deep mental and emotional anguish that I cried out to God from a place so deep in my soul that I never knew it existed. And you know what, He answered me. Clear as day, He answered me with, “If you will trust me to lead you out of this, I will give it all back to you. Family, friends, everything that you’ve lost will be restored to you”. In that moment, scenes from the last year of my life flashed across my mind, and I recognized them as opportunities God had put before me to escape that I hadn’t taken.

You might think that I packed us up and hit the road right then, but I did not. Trust was not something I was in possession of at that time. My head was all messed up, and I had a long history of poor judgment to prove it. Trusting God to lead me out of that deep hole was out of the question at that time, but like Gideon and so many others, I kept asking for confirmation. I bought a little notebook at the dollar store and carried it around in my bag everywhere I went. All day long for months and months, I would write my prayers and questions for God in my notebook, and when those answers came, I wrote them in my notebook too. In this way, I started building trust with God. He started giving me small successes that helped me begin to trust my judgment again.

That process played out for a year or so, and I finally did leave. And you know what? Only 2 people threw the whole “God hates divorce” thing up at me. One of them was my ex-husband and one of them was another man who had chosen to exit my life for the entire 8 months of my divorce process, and therefore knew next to nothing about what was going on but chose to levy his opinion against me the week that my divorce was final. It makes me wonder what those 2 men have in common that out of all the people who knew the scenario, from professional counselors to preachers to close friends and family, that only those 2 men expressed eerily similar opinions that had I followed them would have kept me in danger. It begs the question: what compels us to use the Bible the way we do, much like a shield to hide our secret sins? But this I know without a doubt: everyone’s secret sin will be exposed at one point or another. All houses built on sand eventually fall. I’ve spent years crawling out of my own collapsed house of sand, learning what true repentance means, trying to show my family and friends that I understand and take full responsibility for the ways that I went wrong, and that I intend to spend every day of the rest of my life following the path that God has laid out for me.

With that being said, let’s go back to the promise God gave me the day that I stood in the bedroom of my beach duplex, face to the ceiling, crying out for relief. The best part of today is looking back and counting the ways He has been faithful to that promise over the years. The first year, I won the right to move out of state from the Florida Court. The next year, I accepted a job that would allow me to support my little family. This year, May Lee and I moved into our very own home. And that is just the “big” stuff! I see His promise answered in some small way just about every week, whether its rekindling relationships that were lost to the chaos of my marriage and divorce, new relationships that have come into my life, advances at work, being able to enjoy experiences that I never thought I would be able to have again, and being able to dust off and reignite talents that have been dormant under the heavy frost of trauma for so long.

All of those things are so very awesome, and I will admit that I am amazed and deeply humbled every time I recognize a new layer of His promise coming to fruition. But I think the best part is yet to come. Some day, when someone else’s sandcastle collapses and all their secret sin is revealed to what feels like the entire world, I’ll be there to help them dig out the way only someone who has had the same experience can. One day, my story is going to help someone else see the light at the end of the tunnel, as well as the light of the One who wants to restore everything they have lost. That will be a great day, my friends. Who knows, maybe that will be one of the experiences I’ll be sharing with you a year from today. Either way, today I trust in His promise fully. I trust the instincts and ability to use good judgment that He has restored to health within me, and I know that goodness and adventure lie ahead.

AMEN.

A Word About Grief

By trade, I am a therapist- the mental health kind- and I have spent many years studying, observing, and theorizing about human behavior. Since grief is an inevitable part of the human experience, it has been a theme of study and practice throughout my career. Every culture, every group, and every family has its own beliefs, rituals, and traditions surrounding loss, dying, and death, and they serve an important purpose in the survival of that group.

Grief and loss signal to a family or group that it is time to circle the wagons, to move closer together, to conserve and share resources, and to work for the benefit of the entire group. There is a kind of unity inside of grief that is not experienced during any other time. At least, that is what a healthy grieving process looks like. I think about the atmosphere of unity in grief that our country experienced during the days following September 11th with all of the amazing stories of humanity transcending one of its darkest hours with faith, resilience, and bold acts of generosity and kindness. People worked sacrificially to meet each other’s needs, because everyone knew instinctively that it was time to take care of each other. It was time to circle the wagons and people didn’t wait for instructions on what to do or worry about how others may perceive their actions, they simply acted.

September 11th was a trauma to all of us, and we are learning more and more that trauma is inter-generational. That means that even the kiddos that were born years later are subject to the repercussions of the original trauma. We know that in families, the effects of trauma often result in addictive behaviors, even several generations away from the original trauma. The addictive behaviors serve the purpose of avoiding the pain associated with trauma, and it blocks the natural and healthy process of grief and recovery.

When I look at our country today, I see unresolved trauma and a pattern of addiction. The trauma of 9/11 was so great that the stress still runs through our veins. At some point in our collective grieving process, fear was able to weave a destructive web around our hearts and minds. With each new tragedy, large or small, our collective nervous system was overwhelmed and unable to manage the heartache of a new loss. We retreated to whatever soothed us, to whatever temporarily numbed the pain. Then the next tragedy occurred and we again retreated to our self-soothing mechanisms, and this cycle has played out so many times that we don’t even need to retreat any more. At this point in the cycle of our collective addiction, there is no one left in the middle to retreat outward when tragedy strikes. Everyone is now permanently spread out, isolating in their sanctuaries of false security, and attempting to communicate with each other by shouting across the divides.

Friends, what happens when the wagons aren’t circled but are spread far and wide with no form of effective communication? The answer should make your blood run cold, because you know the cost is high and the loss of life is imminent.  If we want to survive, we can no longer allow our first response to tragedy to be debates over policy. Don’t get me wrong, the social activist in me loves a good policy debate, but I truly believe that our retreat behind policy is taking the human element out of the tragedy. It is our drug, numbing the pain and heartache so we don’t have to feel it anymore.

Like everyone else, I don’t have answers or fixes for the senseless tragedies that our country continues to experience week after week, but I do know that collectively we are trauma-weary and coping in an unhealthy way. I also know that without unity we will be devoured, either by our own unhealthy pattern or by an outside force that we are now too unhealthy to defend against. It could be that those first steps toward unity may lie in allowing ourselves to grieve together once again. If we grieve together as one nation, we will not be washed away by the sadness. We will transcend as we draw closer and are able to really hear each other again.

Friends, it is time to circle the wagons.