I’ve been at a loss for words since the shooting in Orlando this weekend. I woke up to the news on my 12th wedding anniversary and felt myself bounce back and forth all day between the celebration and the horror.
My emotions have been jumbled. Anger. Grief. Love. But as I made my breakfast Monday morning, hugged my daughter, laughed with my husband, I was keenly aware of everyone waking up to a new reality.
I remember thinking after Benjamin’s stillbirth how crazy it seemed that the rest of the world kept going while my life was plunged into grief. This morning and every morning for the next however-long-it-takes, there are people waking up to that awful moment of remembering that life changed yesterday, (or the day before, or a month ago) and they will never see their lover/friend/child/parent again. They’re waking up to the reality that the grief isn’t going away any time soon (or ever). They’re waking up if they were lucky enough to go to sleep at all and forget, for just a few moments, how much pain they’re in.
I remember that feeling of not being able to breathe because it hurt so badly. I remember the shock and the calm and the waves of pain and the grief coming out sideways as I got angry with my husband for no reason other than the anger was easier than the ache.
I remember the feeling of going under and the fear that I wouldn’t resurface. I remember the way I lay awake at night, terrified that my daughter would die too. I remember praying, hard. I remember the way grief shape-shifted and looked like tears one moment, fear the next and often felt like a fire that was burning me from skin to soul. I remember people being so kind and others falling away. I remember wondering how it was possible that the world felt normal to anyone.
My heart is with the friends and families of the victims of the Pulse shooting in Orlando. It is with the LGBT community and the Muslim community. It is with all of us who have known the deep grief of loss.
I want to remind you to be gentle with yourself, because grief triggers grief. I want to remind you that you can be angry and loving at the same time. I want to remind you that violence is never the answer to violence.
I want to invite you to do more than send prayers and love (although do that too). Speak up when you hear hatred being spewed or not-so-subtly hidden behind a joke. Teach your kids, especially your boys, how to navigate their feelings and express their anger in healthy ways. Learn how to do that yourself.
Hold your loved ones close. Because we all know there will be a next time. But don’t give in to the fear.
Choose love, always.
Edited to add: Love is not an excuse to do nothing, nor is it permission to spiritually bypass what feels dark or difficult. Love is about growth, getting uncomfortable, making changes and hard choices. Love is not easy, but it is what makes life worthwhile.