Though I write often about Global Grief, it is becoming more and more evident that we are all suffering in our own way from the world we inhabit. One grief at a time is overwhelming and requires a lot to reach the goal of the open heart. Horror and grief in the world are now coming at us daily and on a scale we never imagined. Where on the planet do we find happy, coping human beings who believe all is going well and more of the same is a great idea? From war, hurricanes, ethnic cleansing, cholera, starving and thirsting populations, desert growth, huge increases in personal and community violence, and disgust—or at least weariness—at the attitudes of our leaders, we are weighted down. People reporting anxiety and depression, even in their internet postings, is growing every day. And now we have Las Vegas. We naturally relate more to events that affect us, or our people, directly. We just went through a hurricane in Florida. But this man-made particular tragedy has us looking in the mirror and questioning who we have become.
The gifts of grief, the light in the darkness, can only enter an open heart. Grief shatters the walls built around the heart, giving light an opportunity to enter. If we glue the pieces of the heart together with anger, guilt and blame, the darkness reigns.
From the book “The Gifts of Grief: Finding Light in the Darkness of Loss” by Therese
The violence in our country cannot be ignored. A 2015 study shows that more people have died from gun violence in the U.S. since 1968 than in all the wars we have fought. Compiled in 2010, the figures are staggering: War total deaths were 1,396,733; gunfire deaths 1,516,863. In 2013 the CDC broke down the numbers in this way: 63% were from suicide; 33% from homicide; roughly 1% from accident.
The U.S. holds the gruesome record for mass shootings between 1983 and 2013 at 78. This has increased since, obviously. The closest other record is Germany at 7. Between 1983 and 2013, sixty six percent of mass shootings in the world took place in the U.S. Forward to 2017 and we can name multiple horrific shootings that have occurred since. And yet we are so sharply divided on the issue that it adds to the load of grief and anger already bending our backs as we attempt to deny the truth of our gun addiction.
Even today we raise our hand against our brother. We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep. And we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves. As if it were normal, we continue to sow destruction, pain, and death. Violence and war lead only to death. Pope Francis
Add to that the surge in incivility running through our institutions and people. It is no wonder we grieve. What will it take for us to stop throwing stones—or shooting people—long enough to enter into a dialogue about our violence? It’s not about rights anymore. It’s about who we have become and what we accept. As we ask our officials to address these issues, they say now is not the time. When, exactly, is the time? If we addressed our founders and caught them up to date on what was going on, would they really site the second amendment? If Sandy Hook and its visuals of dead children and grieving parents didn’t mobilize us—and it didn’t—do we think concert-goers shot by a sixty-four year old man will?
Civility means a great deal more than just being nice to one another. It is complex and encompasses learning how to connect successfully and live well with others, developing thoughtfulness, and fostering effective self-expression and communication. Civility includes courtesy, politeness, mutual respect, fairness, good manners. From “Choosing Civility” by P.M. Forni
Let’s look at the public discourse of our government head during the crisis in Puerto Rico. Even the awful destruction became a topic of dissension. Our president went in person and lectured a country where 90% of the people wanted only to find water and food and health care. He chided them about what they were costing the budget and threw out roles of paper towels as if he were dispensing prizes at a rock concert! Did he dare do that in Texas? There is a dark side to our violence that is born in prejudice and that must be addressed first. We need to see it and name it without fear. Anyone studying the history of Puerto Rico and how we acquired that beautiful island through war would have second thoughts about the rhetoric going on at the top of our government.
We claim to be a country founded on religious freedom and love of the individual. We have come a long way since then. Strides in women’s rights, civil rights, worker’s rights and other paperwork have shown us the path. The resistance to all of those things present in today’s political climate should be a red flag—no, a thousand red flags. We are in trouble, and the whole-hearted among us are grieving our fall. Watching the good people in Las Vegas helping one another lifts us and reminds us who we are as individuals. It is at the top and in organizations of hate that we have lost ourselves. Civility and genuine conversation can lead us back. It is not too late. I am an optimist at heart, and most people I know feel the same way. Our stubbornness fueled our country, but now is the time to look at the big picture of who we are and who we are becoming. We must open again to civility and compassion. Then we will be who the founders intended, not what they fought against.
In the words of Martin Luther King: I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.
If you find yourself ready to have the conversation with friends, family or even in a group, here is a tool I teach based on HeartMath® that can be your guide to Coherent Communication. May we all learn to cultivate civility and love for our fellow beings.
- First, begin by breathing deeply into your heart and finding a time when you felt peaceful or loved. Set an intention from this heart place to be respectful of others’ views or situations.
- Listen for the essence of what is being said without prejudging or being pulled into drama before the communication is complete. Remember to re-center in your heart if you start to lose emotional composure or overreact.
- When you speak, speak from a genuine tone and consider what you are going to say and how it may affect others.
- During important or sensitive communications, it’s effective to confirm the essence of what you heard to ensure mutual understanding. (When it’s your turn to speak, resay to the last speaker what you think they said. When rushing communications, this is the step we most often forget.)