Tragedy: When Words Fail

Yesterday witnessed the hearts stopping of so many people. Again. Time froze, in one brutal moment of horror that broke the world inside of unsuspecting people. Again. Innocence came to an end. Again. There was a pregnant pause of grief and shock. Then the anger rushed in, politics found a leverage point, and the screaming began… again.

“Anger is a bodyguard for sadness” they say. And there is truth to this. Anger is energizing. Anger is motivating. Anger gives us a rush of dopamine. And sadness does the opposite of those things… of course it gets buried…

Therapists tend to feel some responsibility to offer consolation in moments like these… words that people can grasp with thin, shaking fingers and hang onto when the tempest of life overwhelms. But we are here too. In a world where injustices happen everyday. Kissing our children goodbye as they go to school this morning. Feeling a pit in the stomach and fierce protectiveness and determination just like the rest of you. Without words, just like the rest of you. Angry. And sad.  Feeling what’s happening in our bodies as tension and nausea. And not everyone is willing to speak the truth that things don’t always happen for a reason… please stop pretending that they do. 

Reasons can’t always be found in senseless tragedies. 
And therapists don’t always have the right words.

What we do have are hearts for lease. Space to hold as people step outside of time to sort through their emotions. To cry and curse at will, knowing that this will be received, and held. 

Sometimes, it’s easy to adopt a nihilist or defeatist attitude when these things happen. “What’s the point?” And the answer to that question can be as meaningful as the day is long.  But it is a question worth grappling with for each of us. And burrowing inside of our minds and hearts to root out our own evil is probably the most impactful first step towards change anyone can take. Horror might be senseless, but I firmly believe that hope is eternal and that saying “Yes to life, in spite of everything” (Viktor Frankl) is a path towards genuine freedom and meaning.

For me, words are bread for my soul and I carry particular crumbs around in my pocket and draw sustenance from them often when I don’t know what else to do. I’ve chosen the quotes featured on my website carefully. And I have several poems and quotes tucked away and written in journals that give me a sense of peace and connection. But while not everyone can latch onto words, everyone CAN latch onto beauty and meaning. Attending to the small moment right in front of you with extraordinary intentionality and love. “Doing the next right thing.” These tiny, routine  efforts are one of the most significant, healing things one can do when life doesn’t make sense. The everyday can be sanctified, and given deep meaning, by our intentions. So fold the laundry. Walk the dog. Greet your neighbor. Make a meal. Weed the garden. Paint a picture. Sing. Dance. Do whatever it takes to infuse goodness into the everyday. 

We may not have the right solutions or words as a society. But we each have an extraordinary ability to offset evil around us built right into our very person.