Hello friends! After a brief pause, Grounding Climbs is back. We have so much we want to share with you all, but for now, I want to address something that I think has been on all of our minds; 2020. Before you skip this post because you think you’ve heard it all, hear me out:
We all now know that 2020 inflicted grief we never saw coming and exposed grief that has long existed and far too long been ignored. In the aftermath of public lynching’s, riots and immeasurable loss and injustice in the Black community, we’re seeing a scramble among individuals, brands and businesses to “do their part.” We’re seeing floods of social media posts that state their allegiance and promise to do better. But the overdue interest in the Black community begs the question, will it be enough? Will it last? Will we keep the conversations going long past the shift to new news? Because ultimately (and unfortunately), media outlets will surely find something else to occupy our attention with.
I had been thinking a lot about how we can keep the work and conversations alive long past their trending expiration date when I realized a few very important and key points. As we navigate disassembling our own inner racism and building our own roles during the multiple pandemics our country (and the world) are facing, here are some things to remember:
The first is, rest is a luxury. It is a privilege. I believe it’s okay to know this while acknowledging and honoring when we need to take them. If we lose steam, become unmotivated, disinterested, maybe even exhausted, taking a break allows us to reset and return stronger. If you're like me and have access to this privilege, we can use it to our advantage in order to keep the work going no matter what social media or the news tells us to pay attention to.
Next, we must continue doing the hard work. But then, and equally important in my opinion, we must find connection. Rather than regurgitate information that we feel no connection to or mindlessly share because everyone else is, let's find something that we can relate to, even if it’s just in a small way. Use it as a tool to continue this path long after the media stops talking about it and your friends stop posting about it, because that genuine interest will fuel continued research and growth. Find what gets you excited and motivated because whatever it is, I believe that if we create connection, we’re likely to form new habits that stick and increase our chances of keeping these conversations going.
This next one is more general, however, it’s important to learn how to better speak with someone moving through grief. Even if we’ve been through it ourselves, it’s hard to remember just how disorienting it can be when we’re not in it. The first rule of thumb I like to remind people of is, please do not compare yourself or a situation you have been through to someone else’s. Refrain from language like, “It seems like you’re doing great!” Or, “At least…”. No matter how good your intentions may be, statements like these are invalidating. And, they are assumptions. When I was going through my divorce (mind you, I know this is nothing compared to what is going on in our country) it drove me absolutely crazy when people would tell me how well I seemed to be doing. I was hanging on by a thread. I was seeing a therapist weekly because my mental health had taken a scary toll. But we aren’t taught to be raw and vulnerable. We’re told to be strong, and most often people want to hear that you’re doing well, so we force a smile and maybe let out a, “I’m ok.” In this day and age, “I’m ok,” should probably be universally accepted as a silent cry for help.
Moving on...It’s okay to not ask someone every day how they are doing. It's likely it’s not changing from their day to day yet. Again, I know this gesture is well intended, but a better offering might be, “Is there anything I can do for you?” Or, “I’m here if you need anything.”
Be mindful of stories that you share with someone in pain. If someone is dealing with trauma or grief, hearing about someone’s brother’s sister’s wife’s best friend’s experience might actually not be what they need in that moment. In fact, this can have the opposite effect and trigger the trauma they’re already going through.
Be thoughtful of the advice you have to offer. While I love the trending self care that goes around, it’s important to remember that this in itself is an exposure of privilege. While these tips and tricks might help you relax, when it comes to deep-seated pain and trauma, bubble baths and face masks just aren’t going to cut it. We must be mindful and intentional about the advice we offer for one’s road to recovery.
I strongly encourage refraining from saying, “At least progress is being made now.” I implore you to not glorify movement toward basic human rights. Please do not glorify working toward what should already be in place for every single human being. Yes, thank God we are making strides, but we should not pat ourselves on the back for granting someone the ability to live freely.
And finally, I don’t care how successful a person appears to be, how well their family appears to be doing, the size of the smile on their face…often times we have no idea of the weight a person is carrying, and sometimes it’s the silent sufferers who are hurting the most.
Still with me? Feeling a little peeved because you said all of these things to a loved one? So did I at one point! This post is meant to offer suggestions for better communicating with one another. I’m still learning. We are still learning. Many of us are navigating new territory we've never encountered in our lifetime. But the more we know, the better we can be.