Monday, November 14, 2016

When has Saying "Calm Down" ever Calmed Anyone Down in the History of Calming Down?

I was honored to give a talk on Friday to a Christian networking group. I spoke about finding hope in grief, and I used my personal experiences to illustrate strategies that I have found helpful in the midst of great pain.


One of my greatest hopes in writing so much about grief for the past 5 years, is that I can help grievers and those people who are trying to support/understand them navigate grief in healthy ways. And truly, this kind of understanding is needed for ALL of us, for we will all grieve in this lifetime.

I bring this up today because there are many people in our country grieving what feels like a sudden and unexpected loss, and there are many others saying, "Move on!" "Get over it!" "Let it go!"

Yes, one of the ways in which we do find hope amidst great pain is in letting go of things eventually,  --primarily an expectation for the way we thought things would/should be. This is something that often comes with time, but it is never effective if INFLICTED on someone else.

If we do not let ourselves feel or acknowledge grief, it festers, it rots, it grows. Acknowledging pain and brokenness does the opposite.

I have friends who were not able to be around my pain in losing Jack. It spoke to their deepest fears of losing a child of their own. And perhaps the messiness of my grief made them uncomfortable. I became "other". They wanted me to get better, fast, and maybe not talk/write about it so much. But if I had stuffed my grief, shoved it away, and MOVED ON, not only would I likely be in a much darker place now, I also would not have used my hard-earned (yet unsought) wisdom in service to others.

You see, pain that is tamped down or stifled says, "I've been hurt. This isn't fair! I want to hurt others so they will feel as miserable as I do!" Pain that is let out into the light, into the world, says, "I'm hurting. I will not calm down, sit down, shut up, or pretend that everything's okay. My grief is not on someone else's timetable.  I may not get the time machine I long for, but I will look ahead right now to see how I can help someone else."

That is what is going to happen. Pain that is let out in the air, not tamped down, will effect positive change.

Sure, the "losers" will eventually "let go" of their expectation of victory for their candidate. I don't believe that's the crux of what's going on anyway. But, if given the opportunity and RESPECT to feel their feelings, just as every griever deserves, they will be able to channel this disappointment into not pretending everything is okay, but rather into continuing to work for/fight for what they believe is right in a world that feels upside down to them right now.

That's what I'm thinking today.

But first I need to say I am sorry.

I am sorry for any role I may have had in not understanding pain that has gone unacknowledged or festered for many years and that may have led to an election outcome that I didn't expect.

I am sorry for oversimplifying here when I share my heart with you, and if for any reason you feel carelessly lumped into one category/one motivation/one issue when I write about the election, I am sorry for that, too.

I am sorry if linking election grief to the grief of losing a loved one causes any of you more pain than you are already experiencing. I promise that's not what I'm trying to do.

And I'm sorry if saying I will not pretend everything is okay in our country right now causes anyone to think that I am someone who wants to stir up trouble, or that I am a whiner.

For something is already stirred up in this country we love, that is for sure, and I won't be quiet and I won't calm down if there is ANYTHING I can do to help make it better, whether that makes people uncomfortable or not. My biggest fear is that we will stop paying attention to what's going on, and before we know it, what felt outrageous a year ago, or a month ago, or a day ago, will start to feel normalized. That's one of the greatest risks of calming down.

My trust is in God alone, not in any man/woman or office.

Yet I believe that God calls me to look beyond my own comfort/privilege/security to the needs of others, to not numb myself, to stay engaged with eyes wide open, and to call out prejudice, hatred, and injustice when I see it.

 Calmly or otherwise.


Anonymous said...

Anna, I started reading your blog just after Jack passed away. I've read about your struggles and triumphs with grief over the years. I read Rare Bird and after I finished, I turned right back to page 1 started reading it again. It was that powerful for me.

About three years ago, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. We've been struggling with infertility for two years. We found out a year ago that my husband would never have biological children and the only way to build our family would be through a donor or adoption. Your blog has really helped me through my own grief of never having a child that's genetically related to my husband. It's been a hard journey and I imagine it will be lifelong for me.

I guess all this to say: thank you for understanding that grieve is not something that comes in one package. I've often felt like I'm not allowed to grieve because our biological child never existed and "I haven't lost anything". People can grieve over things that have not existed - a future you imagined, a child you always thought you would have, election results. Humans are complex and grief comes in many forms and for many different reasons. So thank you.

Anonymous said...

Anna, This link of political grieving and personal grief makes a lot of sense. **Trying to be somewhat neutral here** I appreciate our democracy, the process and that I won't like every president. The mourning is very real. This was not a normal election. It feels like we took a step back, way back into an era where there is acceptance of some scary values. However, like you I am turning my sadness into action and engagement.

Sharon in Indy said...

Beautifully said, Anna.

green said...


Anonymous said...

Hi, Anna, I am currently pregnant with my third baby (a boy who will be named Jack and also a "later" pregnancy I suppose...I am 42 and he was a "surprise") :) and I was asked yesterday by my precious little girl why I am so careful with myself and my "baby tummy" as she calls it if there isn't life inside. Talk about trying to tell yourself to "Calm down!" Apparently she had seen YouTube clips at a friend's home where the teenage son is writing a paper on Roe v. Wade of Hillary Clinton discussing abortion and the lack of actual life in the mother's womb. It especially broke me inside because we have always told our children that no matter what may happen to us in this physical life there is a Creator who made them and knew them before even we did. She was crying and I just gave in and cried with her. I pulled the car over on a neighborhood street and just cried and hugged her and told her that no matter what she sees or hears it doesn't change the beautiful reality that the child inside me is full of life and God's love and that no vote-seeking professional politician or popular political stance can change that. (I understand if you don't post this as you may alienate followers, but it feels good to write it.) It amazed me, there was no anger inside my daughter or me; just sadness at Clinton's statements (which I have heard her say many times over many years), but as I looked at the moon last night and the stars and wonders of the sky that God has given us, my sadness was lifted and I was filled once again with the wonder of this world, His Creation, and the Life, yes, the Life, growing inside me. I don't have the answers to the catch-phrase of "My body, my choice", but I do know that we have the responsibility to protect all life. It's my body, but it's my baby's life and the call from God to protect that life is sacred and real.

Unknown said...

I am tearing up reading this. You've captured where I am right now regarding our great country. I am grieving the result of the election. I want to get to work to make things better for the people who feel left behind. I also am sorry. I missed that so many people are suffering and have not recovered from the Great Recession. However, as a follower of Jesus, I cannot stand idle when whole segments of society are diminished and degraded with insults and threats. So I pray that my grief will push me to do more.

Jessica said...

This couldn't have come at a better time. Reeling from the election, from one child's emotional strife (and the ever-increasing concern he will follow in his suicidal uncle's footsteps) and two children's acute health woes and the accompanying loss of sleep (and school!), from lack of time to devote to super-needed self-care, from a challenged marriage and from a conversation with my husband and the woman who raised him telling me essentially to calm - and quiet - down. Thank you for helping me feel less alone and steadfast in my assertion that my feelings matter and for giving permission for their expression.

Anonymous said...

Anna I am so relieved to read this and hope you carry on developing and sharing your thoughts on this - you are exceptionally able to write in a way which helps.

Anonymous said...

So beautifully said. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Thank you for speaking publicly those God-given words. May it NEVER be acceptable to MURDER LIVING BABIES before they are born! Where is their God-given right to is as valid as anyone else's! Let's vote to stop killing them!

EmilyR said...

I appreciate your taking the risk to express these sentiments. How sad it is to me that it does indeed feel risky. I too hope these feelings will spur greater integration of our country and greater awareness of those segments who've felt abandoned, for whatever reason. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Pamela D said...

As usual, you beautifully articulated what so many of us are feeling. Give us time to grieve.

Anonymous said...

I've actually been wondering what you would say about these recent days, and you have, of course, written something interesting and eloquent. It's an apt comparison, I think, although differing in scope and hopefully, severity. Thank you!


Dian said...

Grief is grief no matter the cause. Let's not forget the segment of our society that are diminished and degraded and not even worthy of life. The millions of unborn innocent babies murdered thru abortion.

Unknown said...

Thank you Anna for your words and acknowledgement of the grief. My extended family members are bewildered at my family's grief post election and it is painful when we hear 'calm down' 'don't fret' 'it doesn't impact you [as a white Christian heterosexual mom]'. I am grieving that the lives, freedom and health (environment) of my cousins, friends and neighbors are not valued in the commentary during and after the election. I am trying to listen to those impacted and lift up the voices that have had their experiences of oppression dismissed. I want the grief revealed and the grief to sit with us. I've learned that when I listen and trust the experiences of others, it makes decisions and positions so much more difficult. But I think when it is difficult and the grief is seen, it is a better place to make decisions and understand the impacts of those decisions. These are difficult times. I'm pro-life and I'm a fierce advocate for #black lives matter and immigrants. I personally can't stay silent for these issues because at heart of them, they are lifting up and valuing life.