The Feeling Person’s Guide to National Trauma & Tragedy

The Feeling Person’s Guide to National Trauma & Tragedy
by Kiki Lovelace

With thanks to my friend, Wise Woman Cindy McPherson, & Jhos Singer, one of the leaders of her local Jewish congregation Chochmat Halev, who helped me 

crystalize these thoughts and feelings into words.
After 9/11, I spent endless hours reading and watching the news, grieving and terrified and almost catatonic. Months later, I remember crying on the phone with my mom; she told me in her kind and concerned way, “If you continue to act like this, dear, the terrorists win.” That rang true, and her very direct way of speaking helped spark my resolve to claw my way out of a long stretch of darkness, depression and binge eating that had started many years earlier. It’s taken me the better part of two decades to learn how to work with my sensitive heart and to have the courage to face the continual barrage of national traumas and tragedies that I feel and read about every day —  the reckless and unjust killing of black men, women and children by police officers, mass shootings, our Water Protectors of Standing Rock being pelted with rubber bullets and water cannons during peaceful protest, and most recently, the election and the President Elect’s truly terrifying cabinet appointments. 
We now live in a world where media is at our fingertips at any given moment of the day; we are all learning to live with a constant and unrelenting collective trauma in our bodies and our nervous systems. Oftentimes many of us feel a deeply compelling drive to binge on media, clicking on any and every link that catches our eye. I’m not the same person I was back in 2001, and with very conscious intent, I’ve got my tendency to overindulge on disturbing and dysregulating media under control. I want to share with you what I’ve learned. Humbly, I offer you a guide for feeling and dealing your way through the world that we are currently living in: 
Step 1: Breathe and feel your feelings. When something traumatic happens, there is a collective sharpening and holding of our breath, as a nation. We tense up in our shoulders and upper back and neck and our pelvis and legs go on freeze. So start there: get your breath into your shoulders, do some movements or stretches to start to unravel the physical tension you’re holding in your body. Free up your diaphragm and connect to your pelvis, legs and feet in a feeling way. When the numbness starts to thaw, and you can track an emotion, name it and let yourself feel it. If you feel fear, feel where does that fear live in your cell tissue? Breathe into that spot and do some movement that gets the blood flowing through it. Let the feelings come. You might feel like crying in grief or screaming to move the rage out. Do it. Your emotions remind you that you are human and so is everyone else. We need that basic empathy in our country now more than ever, so be one of the courageous ones and actually feel it. 
Step 2: After you’ve cried and raged and flailed about for a time, breathe and start to regroup. Call upon your friends. Find out what they’re doing to cope. Recommit to your self-care routines and your spiritual practice, if you have one.  Read some articles about the event from a reliable news source that help remind you why you care so much. Seek out articles that inspire you to think deeper and take positive action (or not — perhaps part of your regrouping means taking a media fast). Make conscious choices to down regulate your nervous system, as much as you are able, because we need you grounded and well-resourced for whatever is coming next. 
Step 3: See the Beauty around you. Take a walk in nature so you can reconnect to your senses, and to your appreciation for the trees and the water and the wind. Breathe and feel yourself in relationship to the Earth and Sky. Snuggle with your dog or your kitty. Laugh with your loved ones. This isn’t about putting whipped cream on a pile of shit, it’s about remembering that life is complicated and that even when horrifying things are happening, you have a lot to be grateful for in your life. This is a vital step in healing for any trauma, national or otherwise. In Forrest Yoga, we call it “Uptaking the Sweetness;” without actively working this skill, you will feel bereft of any will or courage to take positive action.  
Step 4: Take Positive Action. Put yourself and your unique gifts and talents in the center of it all and ask yourself, what part of this can I control? What healing action can I take today? 
Recommit to your life’s work or make a pledge to discover what exactly that work is. Take a deep breath and ask yourself “How can I make best use of my time on this planet with the body and the experience and the wisdom I have?” Are you a healer, a social or political organizer or activist, a protector of the Earth or its people? Are you here to help raise children who will become responsible and caring citizens? Remember your purpose, and do your work with heartfelt passion and commitment. We need all kinds of people using their best skills to do their best work in order to move our planet and our human race forward.
Note: In my experience, the process of healing and grieving is not linear, so this order may or may be helpful to you. You can dip into any part of this process on any day at any time, as I do. 

Sending you all my love and care,