The Healing Power of Grief: A Response to the Death of George Floyd

GurujiMa  | 

Domination and violation of others’ rights are not new within the history of our country. They run as companion streams next to the high idealism of liberty and equality that are also part of our nation’s life.

We have a choice as to how to meet external events that shock us, that confound our understanding, that produce outrage, and that fundamentally can bring us more deeply into ourselves in order to respond. Such is the nature of our varied response to the death of George Floyd, an event that has activated profound emotional responses throughout our country and, indeed, throughout the world.

In the face of man’s inhumanity to man, in the face of violation and even abrogation of human rights such as the right to draw breath, the right to live, we know within our deepest heart that something is wrong. That this should not be happening. We know this and do not understand how it could be happening. The death of George Floyd at the hands of an overpowering and dominating force in the form of a police officer who would not allow his cries to be heard or his heart to be softened stirs the deepest emotions within us, even without our mind understanding.

Domination and violation of others’ rights are not new within the history of our country. They run as companion streams next to the high idealism of liberty and equality that are also part of our nation’s life. Domination of others and exploitation of them for our own purposes has filled the halls of our history in ways that we would rather not see or know, ways that we are now beginning to see and know more deeply and with greater reality than ever before.

We can become enraged and outraged with such injustice. We can demand power and take up weapons to strike back at a society that permits this. We can allow rage and blame to rise up in our hearts for those who act oppressively toward members of our human family, and for those who silently watch injustice after injustice be perpetrated upon people of color: African-Americans, Native Americans, Asians. Yet, if we do this, our violent emotions will lead to a joining with the violence that we are hoping to eradicate. It will continue the saga of domination and power being used against others. We must dig deeper beneath our blame, rage, and outrage, and if we do so, we will find our grief.

Grief is a healing emotion, and it is softer than rage yet not without a call to action, whether inner or outer. Grief allows us to identify with the suffering of others while at the same time allowing us to transform the pain of life into something else. Grief can move of its own accord not into helplessness or passivity as many fear. It can also move into a desire for outer change in order to spare others the pain that we presently feel. In a word, grief is transformative. It allows us to feel deeply; it allows us to share our pain with others; it allows us to mourn; and it allows us to create, out of our mourning, a path forward that will change external conditions so that we can say, with others: “never again. I want this to happen never again.”

Dr. King understood this principle. He understood how grief can be linked with love whereas violent retribution cannot. It can only be linked with further violence. He understood that grief, if it involved only a feeling of helplessness, was not enough. But grief connected with a burning desire to prevent suffering and to create change, grief in the presence of love could change the world.

In this time of shock, horror, dismay, regret, and anger, I wish to bring to you the knowledge of the power of grief, the power of sorrow-ing with others over an event as tragic as the death of George Floyd. In the presence of our grief, we have the possibility of looking with clear eyes, softened by love, at what needs to happen in order to change our hearts and our society so that these historic tendencies toward domination and exploitation of others are no longer with us. We need to do this as individuals, and we need to do this as a country. We need to allow the healing power of grief to wash through us in order to create a new day. This new day will be built out of a changed motivation within our collective heart so that the way of love for all can become this country’s new ethic, rather than the way of domination that we have learned so well and that now needs to be let go of.

Om namo Bhagavate. Om namo namah. May the Supreme One that we are all part of ignite this fire of love and commitment within us.

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