Saturday, 15 December 2012

Good Grief

If you live on this continent, and probably even if you don't, you heard about the truly horrific things that happened yesterday. Forty two children, gone. For no reason. Just like that. Gone in a spree of horror. I can't begin to grok the real grief that those 42 families are feeling right now. And I'm not going to try.

The nature of my job means I'm rather good at keeping vicarious trauma at bay. It's all compartmentalized in a seriously locked down little cubby hole in my brain. I have to do this so I can continue to function, to do my job, to still enjoy my friends and family and the life I work very hard to maintain. But once in a while, some of it oozes out. A moment or two after my head hit the pillow last night one little sad memory (my late and still beloved puppy) was the catalyst for a cathartic, full-bodied sob. I took advantage of it (in for a penny, in for a pound) and let myself be really upset for a little while. At the loss of my dog, at the loss of 42 children, at the loss of countless children and adults in wars and uprisings and pointless crime, at the state of the world.

And then I reeled it all back in. Life goes on.

I think many of us are better at doing this very same thing than we realize or would like to admit. If we couldn't then not one of us would have been able to function after hearing about the horrors that happened on December 14. Or any of the other atrocities that happen daily, weekly, monthly in parts of the world we may never visit and to people we don't know.

I wonder if it's our collective ability to compartmentalize all of this and keep trudging on that might be part of the problem. There is this inherently human trait to feel empathy (that admittedly some humans have more of than others, some none at all) when something bad happens, to want to reach out, to mourn together, because it's socially acceptable to cry when others cry and show the appropriate level of grief. But life goes on.

I don't doubt the therapeutic benefits of sharing a moment of grief and empathy, but we simply cannot maintain it in the long run. Eventually regular life seeps back in from the edges. Eventually you have to deal with rush hour traffic. Eventually you have to do your laundry. Eventually you have to eat healthy food, shower and dress yourself and sleep. You go to work, you get busy living or get busy dying.

A favourite comedian of mine once said, "Sometimes horrible things happen to good people. And the only way of celebrating the fact that it didn't happen to you, is by having a fuckin' laugh." Granted there's a scale of horrible and the appropriateness of laughter in relation to time passed and geographical distance. So with all the shit that happened yesterday, I went out last night to a talent show/coffee house with my family of choice and had a heck of a good laugh. I felt a certain willingness to laugh, a need to laugh from the whole crowd. We're an easy bunch to get into a fit of giggles, but last night ... I don't know if I was the only one who felt it was therapeutic to laugh and be among our friends and good people.

Life goes on, you can't stop it. Feel grief in any way you need to, just don't forget to let it go. It's okay to feel joy again in your own time.