By Kate Naylor and Bettina Shultz-Jobe
Natural Lifemanship is a training and mentoring institute focused on the science and healing of trauma. We see trauma each and every day, and yet, we will never get used to it.
We are heartsick over the deaths of so many people in Uvalde, TX this week. It is all too easy to imagine the complete and utter despair of the families that are left to pick up the pieces. A devastated community is reeling. As mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, siblings, and chosen family ourselves, we at NL have struggled to absorb the news.
To withdraw, to feel helpless, to hide from the scary reality of our world would certainly make sense – and we will all do it at times. It is simply a part of being human and experiencing deep grief and fear.
We all crave safety and when that sense of safety feels out of our reach, the brain and body go into a survival mode. We will all need to be gentle with ourselves.
Granting space for grief
The truth is, the reason we as an organization haven’t said anything publicly about Uvalde yet is because most of us have been grieving, crying our own tears, and at a loss for words. When we encountered the words of the San Antonio Mennonite Church from 2020 we were reminded of why.
“There are not adequate words of consolation or outrage.
There are not ideas or concepts or explanations.
So first we have to go ancient.
We have to go into the ancient old prayers in a language we don’t know
We have to go to ancient truths and trust our mortal and mourning hearts there.
It begins with tears.”
Do you remember the webinar Bettina and Kathleen gave on the concept of embodiment? Here it is if you missed it. In this conversation, the big take home message was that in order for us to fully grapple with something as profound as grief we must allow space for both being and doing. One without the other is incomplete, we are incomplete.
Honoring liminal moments
Once again, we find ourselves in a moment when the way forward isn’t either/or, it is both/and. We need significant contemplation and deep feeling; AND then our actions can be informed by our embodied experience.
In these liminal moments – this “great inbetween” where the tragedy has already happened, but the impact is only beginning to be fully realized – we have a responsibility as healers and trauma informed professionals to pause.
This doesn’t mean we don’t take action – we know we have a responsibility to say and do something, and we have clients who need the support that we offer. However, action without intention can do more harm than good.
Grief is a powerful motivator for action – but if we jump into action before we truly allow ourselves to grieve, to avoid the recognition that pain is the inevitable bedfellow to love, then we move into action from a place of survival. At times a selfish place, it is reactionary and lacks the well of compassion and humility needed for truly seeing the complexity of our own internal experience, as well as the complexity of others.
Pausing allows us to feel what is arising for us in our shock and sadness. When we feel deeply but cannot move into action eventually, our feelings remain stagnant and unproductive. In fact, this thwarted action can become trauma stored in the body.
You are not alone
We love our NL community, and we remember that moments of utter darkness offer us something, if we can bear to accept it. When others are suffering, we can offer connection and remind them that they are not alone. When we are suffering, we can seek connection and remember that we too, are not alone.
It is a simple, yet profound, gift. It is thoughts and prayers, deeply felt, plus action that is fully embodied.
Some wounds cannot be fully healed, but connection can be like a salve, making wounds more bearable – we do not have to carry the experience of grieving alone.
Do not look away
At a time like this, we are reminded of Brené Brown, and her words about suffering, pain, and the power of human connection.
“My mom taught us to never look away from people’s pain.
The lesson was simple:
Don’t look away. Don’t look down.
Don’t pretend not to see hurt.
Look people in the eye.
Even when their pain is overwhelming.
And, when you’re in pain,
find the people who can look you in the eye.
We need to know we’re not alone – especially when we’re hurting.
This lesson is one of the greatest gifts of my life.” BB
This is, of course, not always easy. But remember that connection exists on a spectrum, and we each have kindness to offer in some form. When helplessness creeps in, remember that small acts of kindness (a meal, a hug, a listening ear) done intentionally, make an impact. NL trainer and co-founder of Pecan Creek Ranch, Rebecca Hubbbard, has written an important children’s book about this called, Kindness in a Scary World, that we highly recommend for children and adults alike.
As trauma informed professionals, it is important for us to remember that we must find connection and care for ourselves so that we can offer connection and care to others.
The ripple effect of our own healing
Because we are a community of trauma professionals – we will be holding the hands of those who suffer, who grieve, who fight back despair. It is a very real and tangible experience for those of us who do this work every day.
Offering connection is our human responsibility, and even more so as trauma professionals – we are called on to help shoulder the burden of suffering. This is something we can do, even when the world is a scary place. And when we take action from a place of thoughtful, intentional self-awareness and self-connection – we are doing something profound for others, and for ourselves.
As hard as it is to accept, as our respected colleague, Dr. Veronica Lac, Executive Director of The HERD Institute®, articulates so clearly in her poem, we are indeed in the same room where this pain is happening. We cannot look away.
In the Room Where It Happens
I never want to be in the room where it happens.
These tragedies that keep replaying.
Again, and again.
I never want to hear the screams of terror, grief, and anger in the aftermath
of these atrocities that keep repeating. Again, and again.
I never want to feel the anguish and fear of the first responders who rush to the scene,
nor of the teachers acting as human shields,
nor of the parents whose precious children
are in the room where it happens.
No one wants to be in the room where it happens.
But we all are.
____V. Lac, May 2022
We want to know, what do you need in order to keep going? What do you need in order to not look away? How will you sit with your pain, so that you are better able to take action that comes from a place of service and connection?