I sat down today to write this blog post about resilience and healing and how we can all begin to move on as a community of helpers when everyone is so depleted. When I suggested the topic, I was feeling optimistic, thinking the warm, sunny weather may bring a wave of relief and energy as the school year wraps up, summer comes, and we can push the reset button. And then Buffalo happened. And I am reminded that there is not going to be an “end” to where we are. Yes, we will move on from the acuteness of the pandemic at some point and we will begin to see its impacts wane. But I’m not sure we’ll ever, at least not in my lifetime, see an end to racial trauma and this divisiveness and hatred that has wracked our country for…well forever.
So how do we find a way through rather than seeking an end? How do we talk about bouncing back and resilience when we have a wound that keeps scabbing over and getting reopened? How do teachers, nurses, doctors, social workers, counselors, and countless others show up for their patients, their clients, their students when they themselves are hurting, scared, angry and bone tired? And for those who are black and brown, how do they continue to walk out the front door and attend to the needs of others when they were just reminded in the most horrific way that they are not safe in this world, even at the grocery store?
The past two years have been brutal. Collectively and individually, we are broken. For those who experience racial trauma, there is no rest, no opportunity to recover, no chance to reset to carry on. And although the self-care and wellness industries would have us believe that we can indeed achieve happiness and bliss if we can just be mindful, learn to master our breathing, focus on the present moment and let go, there is no easy answer. In fact, that narrative discounts the very real and very powerful opportunity we have for change. What if instead, we accepted that when things hurt, it’s okay to say ouch? Right now, things hurt. For some it hurts a little. For other, the pain is unbearable. And we need to name that, accept it, and allow it rather than trying to shut it down. Because that diminishes and invalidates the pain. It says that the pain isn’t real or isn’t valuable or has no purpose. And it takes away the power that fury can bring. So perhaps instead of “bucking up” and “carrying on” and “getting back to normal” what we need is to collectively allow ourselves to be open to our pain. To metaphorically allow ourselves the kind of gut wrenching sobs that leave you wrung out and raw, but then also determined and fired up and ready to change something to make it better.
Maybe we need to treat each other with gentleness – to say I see you and I know what you are going through and I’m here. We need our leaders to be gentle with their staff and staff to give grace to their leaders. We need adults to make space for children and all the crazy ways their pain and grief over their last two years is manifesting itself. We need to love each other whole heartedly and accept that we are all hurting right now. Because it takes just as much energy to love someone as to hate them – so I’m putting my energy into love. Will you join me?
Resources to support relationships, promote belonging, and nurture our collective well-being
- How White Managers Can Respond to Anti-Black Violence, Michael Kraus, Yale Insights
- Although created for fall 2021, our video discussion series on coming back from COVID in schools is still relevant today. In particular, check out the two sessions on Fostering Positive Relationships Between Students, Families, and School Staff and Addressing Adult Stress and Anxiety
- Understanding Racial Trauma, an overview from Mental Health America