These last many months, I have slowly allowed myself to acknowledge anew the depth and endlessness of the heartache I carry within – heartache for the ways we human beings tear at each other’s bodies and psyches and spirits and holy places and communities and cultures and homes; heartache for the ways we tear at the earth and its waters and the creatures with whom we share breath and land.

Chicago. Beirut. Kenya. Iraq. San Bernardino. Charleston. Paris. Israel and Palestine. Syria. Ferguson. Minneapolis. Newton. Afghanistan. Indigenous lands everywhere. South Sudan. Nigeria. Juárez City. On and on, endlessly on…

When I was a kid, it wasn’t uncommon for me to cry myself to sleep thinking of children I knew must be out there who were hungry and vulnerable and suffering. I remember my small body wracked with grief too strong for me to handle or understand. I didn’t realize as a kid that my little, child’s body knew how to grieve for the suffering of the world because it also knew the pain and shock and horror of a particular violence personally. I didn’t have words or memory to name the source of my grief, but I felt its full force as I listened to stories of other children betrayed by a world that should have kept them safe.

We are not keeping children safe. How many of our children – particularly black children – have been killed by the justice system in the United States? Suffocated by the prison system? Starved by poverty spewed on by capitalism? How many of our children are being raped and shamed into silence? How many have been rejected by biological and faith families for being brave enough to love as they are led? How many face threats of physical attack for living as themselves instead of that which is required by cultural laws of gender?

Sometimes, there doesn’t seem to be any point in making space for lament, in making myself present to the heartache that swirls within and around me, because no matter how much energy I put into pouring my grief into expression, I can’t imagine making a dent in its depth. I could scream for hours and days and weeks and have years of rage and sadness yet to bring to voice. What does one do with a sea of grief when the oceans of the world are already full? I don’t know where to put it.

fulloceansAnd yet, I was reminded today–as I have been so many days before–that lament is a gift. It is a gift of power and voice that keeps us connected to ourselves, each other, and the world around us. When we dare to weep and rage and bring our grief up from our inward depths and into the air we breathe, we refuse to allow the evil systems of the world (by which we are harmed and in which we participate) to flourish unhindered. Voices that cry out and bodies that heave speak the only truth that can pave a way toward transformation. No-thing that remains hidden, covered over, belittled, silenced, or unacknowledged can be transformed. All we hope to transform must first be held plainly, heard and seen. Lament uncovers and cleans festering wounds, and it does this best when we weep and rage and grieve together.

The oceans may be full. Our heartache may indeed be endless. But, when we are brave enough to do the (admittedly difficult) work of grief together, the space between us can expand and hold entire worlds of sadness. We can do this for and with each other. And, we must. Because bringing our grief up from that far away place inside and into the world where it belongs lets us cultivate the kinds of relationships that are necessary for challenging and resisting systems of violence and oppression determined to continue.

My sisters and brothers who have survived violent trauma of any kind – rape, abuse, assault, incest, battery, racialized violence, sexualized and gender-based violence, bombing, kidnapping, land seizure, home demolition, religiously motivated violence, police brutality, gun violence, poverty, prison – find your grief.

Sit with it.
With a good system of support, let yourself feel it.
Listen to what it says.
Respect its voice.
Do not be afraid of its depth.
Love your pain into speech.
Let your speech help you see the ways toward transformation.
Let your deep knowledge of what it means to suffer
make you compassionate toward the suffering of the world.
Let it connect you with the people who can do the work of grief and
transformation with you.
Let it empower you.
Do not be afraid.