11: Tending to Our Collective Grief, Trauma and Rage

Aug 18, 2019

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In this episode, we’re talking about the necessity of feeling in these times and some of the ways that you can process + make space for processing our collective experience of life while also taking responsibility for what’s yours to tend to.

Mentioned resources:


You’re listening to A Call to Serve. This is a podcast calling entrepreneurs, coaches, educators, healers, creatives and other people with a vision for change in their communities to show up with integrity, use their power and practice radical service so that they can make their impact in the world in the most sustainable ways. My name is Andréa Ranae. I am a facilitator and coach focusing my work on holding space for liberatory leadership. And I am so excited that you’re here. Let’s get into this episode.

Hey there. Thanks for clicking play on this episode. This is one of my favorite topics to talk about. And actually if you know of anybody that would be like really great to have this more conversation about collective grief and collective rage and pain and trauma, let me know. Hit me up on Instagram or Facebook and recommend someone or if that’s you, let me know.

I’d love to talk with you about this cause this is something that I feel isn’t talked about enough and unfortunately needs to be talked about more because of just the growing world. The growing inter-dependence that’s happening in our time right now where we have access to so much, but I’m gonna stop talking about that right now cause I talk about that later on in this episode. But yeah, this is one of my favorite things to talk about. I think that our relationship with our emotions, our trauma, our bodies, I think it’s an essential point and site of possible liberation. I think that systems of oppression intentionally by design cut us off from our bodies, cut us off from our emotions. And so any time when we can take a moment, give ourselves some space to feel, to process, to be with what is powerful liberatory healing. And not just for us individually, but for us collectively, for the generations that come after us.

I think we have to feel whatever is here for us. So, before I let you get into the rest of the episode, which by the way, just a side note, I recorded this episode through a Facebook live that I did, I think a day or two after the El Paso shooting terrorist attack, in response to some of the things that I was seeing being posted. So audio-wise, it’s not the best because my air conditioner’s going on in the background and I wasn’t using my mic and I was using my phone and whatever, but I felt like it was necessary for me to hop on a Facebook live and Instagram live to talk about this, especially because of what it was bringing up for me. Everything that I was seeing, I was seeing a lot of memes especially that were comparing the way that the shooter in El Paso was arrested versus the way that officers attempted to arrest Eric Garner. And that resulted in his death, his murder. So I was seeing memes of a picture of the El Paso shooter getting arrested compared to a picture of Eric Garner on the ground in a choke hold, gasping for air. And I describe it in that way because that’s what I see. Seeing that image posted everywhere was a lot. And so I’ll share more about that later when we get to the rest of the recording. But, it was a lot for me and I decided that I needed to just hop on social media and let people know how I was feeling and also offer another conversation that I wasn’t seeing talked about a lot. And then I wanted to make sure that it was more permanent, which is why I’m sharing it with you here on the podcast, just to make sure there’s a place in my work where this conversation is happening.

So I’m going to tell a little story that I’ve shared a lot, I feel, on other people’s podcasts and in certain workshop spaces and so on. But just for context, so you kind of know why this is one of my favorite topics. And not – when I say favorite, not that it’s enjoyable and that it’s fun and light. Actually, if you spent any time with me in like real time, you’ll know that I love the mess. I love the discomfort. I love when there’s conflict, because that’s where so much magic and possibility can happen. So I want to tell you why this matters to me. I promise I’ll get to it. I have had a very tumultuous relationship with my emotions my entire life. But especially up until I was like 18, 19, throughout my teen years and like tween years, I had a “no” for expressing emotions.

I had such a lock on my body and any time tears or anger or anything would come up, I would immediately shut down. And when I turned 18 and into the rest of the last of my teen years, I started to open up more, started to intentionally work more and build more capacity around being able to just let myself feel. Because I saw that there was a lot of power in it that I was dampening. But I think the thing for me that really, really broke me open, was there was a period of three or four years where I knew six people that had passed. Four of them died due to gun violence and one was my cousin, and one was one of my childhood best friends and ex-boyfriend from eighth grade.

And that last one – my childhood friend – broke me. I’m starting to cry now. When I say it broke me, it didn’t break me down, but it broke the dam that I had up. He was the last person to pass in that slew of loss. And I had realized in the way that I responded to his death, it was a big deal for me just on the level of like he was a very important person in my life and the way that he was killed and the press around it and not being able to go to his funeral and so many other things – that was one level. But then there was a back order of all of this other grief and all of these other feelings that I hadn’t tended to yet that came with it and was pushing up against that dam. And that moment for me in time made it now impossible for me to mask my emotions. I think of people that know me now, like can look at my face and know what’s going on with me. And it’s such a joy to have access to my emotions in that way now. But it took a lot of pain for me to be able to experience that joy. Because if you suppress one emotion, you suppress them all. If you suppress one part of you, you suppress the entirety of you.

So this is important to me because I realized how powerful, important, and necessary it is because we collectively are suppressing so, so, so much. We’re suppressing so much. And that also suppresses the possibility of change, of freedom of something different. I experienced that on a personal level. I’ve seen that in other people’s lives on a personal level. But I also see how when we allow our emotions to come to the surface, so much can happen from that point on. So much of the emotion that was not suppressed, that was expressed through Black Lives Matter, especially in Ferguson and Baltimore and so many of these places where there was a huge surge of energy around that movement that would not have been possible if all of those people chose to suppress.

So all of that to say, this means so much to me. Feeling your feelings can feel like – and especially in our culture – can feel like such a trivial thing and such a simple thing and like a thing that kinda gets in the way, it’s inconvenient. Consider the possibility that that’s not the case. That it’s actually the opposite. It’s energy that can be used. It’s power. It’s information. And now I’m going to stop talking and I’m going to let past me do the rest of the talking. I hope you enjoy this episode. Thanks for listening. And, before we get into the rest of it, consider leaving a rating and review for the podcast so that more people can listen to this episode. More people can listen to the rest of the episodes on this show and consider getting in touch with me and telling me what you get from this episode. I would love, love, love, love, love, love to hear from you. I’m not doing this just so I can talk to you and talk and talk and talk and never hear anything back. That’s no fun for me. So, I hope to hear from you soon. Now let’s get into the episode

If you’re catching the recording of this or if you’re jumping on right as I went live: before I get into anything, I want you to check in with yourself to see if you’re just automatically consuming this right now because emotions or because social media just sucks you in. But take a second to check in with yourself, to ground yourself, take a deep breath, whatever works. And see if what I’m about to talk about right now is actually something that you need. On Instagram this will be up for 24 hours. On Facebook this’ll be up forever or until Facebook dies. I don’t want you watching this from like a super heightened, triggered, desperate, what-am-I-going-to-do place on Instagram because y’all don’t have context. I’m going to talk about collective trauma and grief and rage and how we process it.

And this is specifically in response to the mass shootings and terrorism happening in the US right now. But also, it is a blanket over any major event or traumatizing event happening in the world today. And there are many. So check in with yourself, see if this is what you really need. A big reason why I decided to hop on live is one, because collective trauma and grief and rage is something I really love talking about. But personally I’ve been seeing these memes across social media where there is a comparison happening between, specifically, Eric Garner’s attempted arrest and murder. And the way that the shooter in El Paso was arrested. Those memes are triggering as fuck. And I wrote a post about it to pay attention to the utilization of black trauma and death, to try to make a point, to try to teach a lesson, to shed light on an issue. Pay attention to the ways that we’re desensitizing ourselves to this violence and dehumanizing ourselves.

Also, as we try to get others to see our humanity or get others to see other’s humanity, you can’t de-humanize yourself to liberation – that does not work. And when I say that, it’s specifically, one, I’m talking about getting into arguments where you’re defending your humanity or defending your way of processing or your experience, especially for people of color where we get into these arguments online to defend ourselves, to defend our humanity, to defend other’s humanity. What is that doing to you? For anybody that is sharing those, those memes comparing Eric Garner – there’s also one going around that’s comparing the arrest of a black man where the arresting officer beat him with a flashlight. And so it’s like, his bloody picture next to a picture of this white man who had just killed 20 people. What is sharing that image doing to you? What is sharing that image saying? What’s your message and what message is being received? What is exposing ourselves constantly and amplifying imagery of black people in their trauma, in their experiencing violence, gasping for air? What is that doing to you, to your psyche? What IS that doing to black folks around you? How is that contributing to the continued violence against black and brown people?

Because the more desensitized we are to it, I don’t think being desensitized to it helps. And I get it. I get the want to shed light on this. I get the want to bring other people into the conversation. I get it. I get the frenzy, I get the: “This is happening again, what can I do? What are we going to do? The people that have direct impact on the decisions that make this possible aren’t doing anything or aren’t doing the right thing. So let me show this meme because that’s what I have.”

I get it. I’m not into it, though. And I think there’s so much to explore as we think about. We have never as a human race been in this position before where we are so exposed. And so we have so much access to content and imagery and video of the things that have been happening for so long. We’ve never had so much access to this, to this level of stimulation. And I think it amplifies our experience of collective trauma and collective grief and collective rage. And we don’t know what to do with that. But, my hope is that we find another way than continuing to push forth images of violence to try to make a point about how the violence shouldn’t be happening.

I want us to just feel it. Have you felt it? Have you like really felt beyond the initial “fight, flight, freeze” response that we have to seeing trauma? Have you felt the grief, have you felt the rage? That’s the real question. Have y’all been feeling it? Tell me in the comments. I’m a big fan of allowing yourself to feel the feels. I have such strong boundaries around things like mass shootings or when another black person gets killed by the police or violence happening against indigenous people. I have such strong boundaries around how I engage with that because it takes me out. It takes me out and I can’t show up for the work that I do consistently and sustainably if I’m constantly exposing myself to that imagery and to that pain. I know what’s happening. I’m not avoiding it, but I am avoiding the post about it.

And then when I have the space and when I have the time and when I have the energy and I have the support, I dive in so that I can actually just feel it, not from a place of “let me intellectually get what’s happening here”. I only dive in to whatever big event, big traumatizing event is happening. I only dive in if I have the space to feel it. Because having the intellectual awareness that this is happening won’t save us, won’t change it. We have to feel it and find and ask for support around feeling it. And I’m trying not to cry, but there’s so many of us who see what’s happening in the world and we read the articles about it. We share memes about it. We talk about it with friends and talk about, “Oh, did you see that thing that happened?” And, “Oh my God, that’s so crazy!” And, “I don’t know what we’re going to do.” But are you feeling it? We can’t suppress this shit. It comes out in other ways. It comes out in violet ways. It comes out in toxic ways.

So let yourself feel it. Find space to feel it. Ask for support around feeling it. And let it come up as it as it needs to. And also, put more energy into who and how you follow the people that are using their voice and their power around this. Just because somebody is talking about it and you agree with them does not mean that they’re aligned with the values that you hold, the way that you hold them. Challenge the people that you choose to follow, the people that you choose to let lead. You challenge me if you follow me. Or if you’re resonating with what I’m saying, if there’s something that comes up for you that doesn’t resonate or doesn’t feel right or it feels like it’s missing something, challenge me. And if you’re following people that don’t allow themselves to be challenged, do I need to finish that sentence? That’s dangerous.

And somebody on Instagram asked: How can we move beyond feeling it to action to stop it? I firmly believe that our emotions are a source of information and power and that the actions that we take when we are in the process of stifling and suppressing our emotions is nowhere near as powerful as the actions that we can take once we’ve like felt it and integrated whatever knowledge is there for us. So feel it.

And once you feel it, there will be so much more space for imagination and creativity and possibility for what you want to do next and it won’t feel so, oh my God, I’m powerless against this. It’ll be like, okay, I don’t have the power to do that and I don’t have the power to do that or the access to that. But this is what I do have access to and this is what I do have power around. So it’s asking that question, but feel it. Don’t feel that as a means to get to action. Don’t feel it as this capitalist productivity thing where I’m going to be productive, so I’m going to let myself feel this and then get to the next thing. Don’t do that. Just let yourself feel it and flow with it.

There is a lot of urgency around these issues and there’s a lot of space. It’s urgent and it’s been happening for hundreds, thousands of years. Both can exist without negating the other. Some other ways to process, be with the feels, the collective trauma and grief, or just to like take care of yourself and to tend to your body. Hydrate yourself, which I need to do because I’m hot. Hydrate yourself. Get some fresh air. Make sure your body is nourished. Get into some ritual or magic if that supports you. Dance, move your body, connect with local organizations or movements that have been working on this to prevent it, to stop it, to heal it. Holla at ya therapist. And if your therapist doesn’t bring these collective structural systemic cultural issues into their praxis, find a different therapist or coach.

Talk with your friends, talk with your family, talk with your coworkers, talk with the people at your church, talk with your children, talk with your partners, talk with any communities that you’re a part of. Talk with them about this and bring it below the neck. Recognize the ways in which we intellectualize all of this world that we’re living in as a way to protect ourselves from the pain of it or the pain of being human. But also to avoid responsibility. But talk to the people about this, about how you’re feeling, about what you want to do next. Write about it.

Sing about it, scream about it, create about it. Punch some pillows. Have sex. Connect with the land. Think about and explore how you are tied to the culture that made this possible. When I say “this”, I mean literally any situation, any scenario, any of that that you’re like, “Ahh, this is crazy that this is happening or this is so messed up or this is so upsetting and heartbreaking!” Tell the people that you love that you love them, show them that you love them. Unpack. I’ve been thinking a lot about love, especially during this series of workshops where we’re unpacking our values, and there are so many ways in which we love and that love looks like perpetuating systems and cultures of oppression. So unpack that. Look at the ways in which you are terrorizing yourself and terrorizing others the way that you are perpetuating violence against yourself and against others, but especially against yourself. Because we want to talk about that and nobody wants to talk about that.

Take a nap. Be fierce about your boundaries and cope and process the way that you know best, but give yourself space around this. And ultimately, ultimately what I want most, right this second? Is for us to not forget that we are responsible. We’re responsible. Not for the harm done, not for the person who has done the harm, but we are responsible to the harm and we are responsible to the person. We’re responsible. And I think that’s one of the most loving things to do is to take responsibility for what’s ours. Thanks for watching and being with me. And, let me just make sure I didn’t miss anything. This is the last thing: when I say pay attention to the ways that you’re perpetuating oppression, violence, terrorism against yourself, do not use that as a way to beat yourself up. Don’t use that as a way to abuse yourself or as a reason to continue whatever patterns you have inside of you of neglect, abuse, whatever. When I say that you’re responsible, it’s not an indictment. It’s just what is. We are a part of a culture that made it possible for a young man to enter into institutions and commit mass murder. You are not responsible for that, but we are responsible to it. Response-ABLE, we are able to respond. We have the capacity to respond to that, to that reality. Cry about it. I love tears. Let them come. Okay. I’m getting off here. I was on here a lot longer than I expected to be.

On Instagram: if you have any questions, feel free to DM me. On Facebook: don’t DM me, but comment underneath this with your thoughts, your feels, questions, whatever. Love you.