Collective Grief and Grit

Listen to Debby read this post by clicking play above.

I experienced unemployment in my late ‘20s that forced me to sit with myself longer than I cared to. During this time, I saw a poster that I have never forgotten. It said, “In the silence of not doing, we begin to hear.” My hearing urged me to reach out for help in sorting through a relentless childhood nightmare. 

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month. April is my story, and that of 42 million others (see—forced upon us, without consent. I can no longer ignore this month as if this piece of my story does not exist. 

Because it does. 

Collaborative Struggle
In light of the coronavirus however, I almost backed out of facing April again this year. Why add more difficult conversations to already difficult times, right? But there’s something in this month’s emphasis that may add value to our current collaborative struggle. For we are in the midst of something forced upon us, without our consent. A situation that we must choose to fight our way through and to rise above. A situation that welcomes collective grief and collective grit.

The Stirring of My Story
My “April” story has been brewing for a while. I’m not exactly sure how long “a while” has been. I just know it’s been there, patiently waiting. And every time I hear about someone else being sexually abused (which has been too often), my story stirs like a restless baby, sometimes falling back to sleep, other times crying out loud, wanting, needing to be consoled and reassured that all is well, that I am well. 

I am fifty-five years old and have lived a life affected by childhood sexual abuse. I was one of the fortunate ones though. An arrest happened when I was five, and the abuse stopped. 

Family Effects
But it wasn’t until my beloved grandmother died in 2018, followed by my brother’s unexpected death five months later, that I began to understand that the lingering psychological effects on individuals and families do not magically disappear. In my own family, good and decent people gathered to mourn losses. We interacted, but not through collective grieving, or gritting it out together as a family of survivors. Instead, a tendency to criticize had formed our family foundation. It was as if we were competing in a chess match, analyzing one another’s moves and possible motives­—all of it so very confusing, contorted and tangled. And then later left to be picked apart. Instead of building up through collective grief and grit, deep-seeded relational patterns of fighting to be heard, to be right, served only to tear down, individually and collectively.

I am doing my best
to lay to rest
childhood voices,
with choices
that face
the flare ups,
like when physical pain
from an injury, illness, or accident.
Triggers in the present
can resurrect the past;
but through conscious choosing,
I can formulate
yet another chance
to dance
with life
in all its glory
and with all its strife.

here I am, in April.
And here is April, in me. 

I have a lot on my heart and mind, including digging into words such as dignity, forgiveness, pain, and their implications for the past, present, and future. 

Why Speak Now?
My aim for entering April is to support a better self and a better world—an intention that welcomes collective grief and collective grit. 

Please, stay tuned.
Please, stay well.
And please, stay momentous. 

8 thoughts on “Collective Grief and Grit

    • Thank you for your words John. So good to hear from you. I hope all is well with you in the great Midwest. I know you have much on your plate right now; but Bearcats are momentous and always prevail!

  1. Thanks Debby, my dear forever friend. Collective grief and collective grit – good words. One thing that’s come out of my own grief as a mother has been the eye-opening experiences of seeing so many others around me who are grieving too… there are many kinds of losses to be grieved. Even God Himself is grieved, so say the Scriptures, so no matter how deep our pain, we are never alone in what we experience! We are collective grievers, and one day I believe, we will all be collective overcomers who can celebrate our redemptions together.

    • I am very honored to have walked with you through some of life’s toughest moments my gritty friend. We are in life together, in its ups and downs, struggles and strengths. Thank you for your words, and for you. Always.

  2. Beautifully written. Thank you for your vulnerability and your commitment to helping others overcome the things, past and present, that keep us stuck in dark places not of our choosing.

    T.S. Eliot’s famous line from his post-WWI poem, “The Wasteland,” opines that “April is the cruelest month.” Why? Because when the world is coming alive again and spring is in the air, those who suffer, as he did, from depression feel even more disconnected than in wintertime, the season that reflects their own feelings of despair.

    Bless you for being a survivor, Debby, and for choosing this particular April to overcome the past and choose to live in the beauty of new life that is, in the words of e.e.cummings,

    “… everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes…

    (now the ears of my ears awake and
    now the eyes of my eyes are opened)”

    • Good morning Janice. What beautiful words to wake up to. Thank you. I didn’t know that T.S. Eliot talked about April being so cruel. Hopefully April is now standing firm in her place and fighting back as an important and reawakening month, one to celebrate growth and new life. I like what e.e. cummings says, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” “Better self. Better world.” is all about growing up and becoming ourselves. Have a beautiful and momentous April 2 day.

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