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Authentic Conversations

Good Grief

By January 26, 2017October 2nd, 20192 Comments


A number of years ago, I volunteered as a respite worker at one of our local hospice organizations. I visited with folks on their last journey, giving their caregivers a bit of a break. During that time, I learned a lot about death, dying, and the process of grieving.

Last week, a colleague told me that the results of our recent US election made her feel like there had been a death in the family. This gave words to what I’ve been feeling, and I realized that I’ve been going through the steps of grieving: anger, disbelief, denial, depression, etc. There is still a part of me that thinks I’ll wake up tomorrow and life will return to “normal.” It won’t, and that’s both good news and bad.

The vast majority of the people in the US have never been served by systems that degrade, isolate, and dehumanize us. The good news could be that seeing this truth writ large and loud allows us to approach social transformation with fresh eyes, hearts, and ideas. The bad news is that the comfortable little bubble of my former “normal life” is no longer available to me (which in the long run, is good news).

A lot of folks have been grieving, which is a reasonable response to the specter of a hate-filled and corrupt incoming administration. It is wise that we allow ourselves the time and space to notice and respond to this historical moment. It is equally wise that we understand that others are also grieving, and to offer them tenderness, compassion, and empathy. This is not a time to turn on each other; it is a time to turn toward each other.

I’ve been watching as we progressive and liberal folk lash out at each other, and I think we can do better than that. People are hurting, but rather than slashing each other because of differences in strategy, political approach, or analysis, what if we let each other be for a while? It is so easy to turn our dismay on one another, but that’s not the way of transformation. If someone wants to wear a safety pin, or a knitted pink hat, or write a manifesto, get a massage, or binge watch Sense8 or One Day at a Time, let them! There is no “right” way to face this moment; the path of grief is neither linear nor rational, and judging others for the way they are responding is not going to get us where we want to go. Let’s take the advice of my brother José, and decide as family to hold off our debating and continue to try and stay connected.

Poco a poco, we’ll be coming to terms with a changed political context. In some ways, I could argue that this moment is what so many of us (and those who have come before us) have been working toward: the breakdown of oppressive empire, and the concomitant opportunity of new possibilities. One of my biggest points of grief was realizing that this process of transformation will undoubtedly be chaotic and dangerous. Naïve on my part perhaps, but dismaying nonetheless.

In the coming months, we will collectively decide how to respond (and not solely react). Some of us will choose to oppose, resist, and interrupt this unelected administration, others will dream up new ideas and create new life-centered ideologies. Some will sing, make art, or dance in the streets, while others will pray and guide and tend the gardens. Doesn’t matter what it is, we need it all. We need every heart, mind, hand, and soul willing to do the hard work of ushering in the new era.

From where I sit, I can see that, despite what might unravel in the coming several years, we are in excellent hands in the long run. We will get through this moment and figure out our next big collective steps toward evolution. My conversations with Gen X and Millennial leaders assures me of this.

So let’s take the time to grieve if needed, and then get back to the work of transformation. This is not the best of times, nor is it the worst. We’ll get through this; our ancestors have proven that time and again, and the generations coming along will surely lead the way.

On a very personal note, I had a wonderful and rejuvenating sabbatical, and I’m very glad to be back to my work here at Rockwood. I look forward to walking hand in hand with you as we embrace the important work ahead.

From my heart to yours,

January 2017


  • Cynthia L Winton-Henry says:

    Thank you so much for this. I am in the neighborhood in many ways! Friends have pointed me toward you.

  • Kavita Ramdas says:

    My dear sister Akaya,

    Thank you. For this. For holding space. For being wise.

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