What do you say after a week like this one? I’ve been struggling to figure that out. I have this standard that I’ll only write when I feel inspired, but this feeling? It’s not an inspiration. After pondering for a few days, I realized it’s grief that I feel right now.
I don’t think I could have identified this feeling if I weren’t already mourning a friend lost suddenly one year ago. This Monday was the first anniversary.
I woke up with that sinking dread about the election. Then a message from a friend. She was crying in her car, listening to the song they played at the funeral. “I know you don’t take requests,” she said, “but I need a letter about grief.”
Her message, the song (listen here
), all of it took me right back to where I was. On Sunday, I was at the hospital all day. On Tuesday, I got on a plane to Michigan for two speaking gigs in as many days. I flew home Thursday night after the final presentation and just in time to attend the funeral on Friday.
I spent the entire week doing everything I could to hold myself together. I expected to take a nap on that flight, but instead, I wrote a letter about small gestures and how they influence our lives - how my friend influenced mine with a smile and hello every day. You can read that letter here.
I wrote about how small gestures can change everything. In reflecting on that today, I realize moments of grief have that significance too. These little emotional moments sideswipe perfectly simple days. It happens when that song plays or the sun looks a certain way. In the deja vu and exploring new things that they always wanted to experience.
Nobody knows how to say goodbye.
Grief is an emotion everyone experiences, yet no one prepares for it. I would venture to say it’s the closest thing to time travel this generation will ever experience. Grief takes us to a whole different time and place where feelings overwhelm and all the coping mechanisms we have gathered every day since they left disappear.
It also makes people feel very alone and isolated until they recognize it in others. This week, especially the day after the election, I realized I was grieving: my friend’s death, 2016, my patriotism, and my faith in people. Then, I recognized that grief in others.
Our grief isn’t about the outcome, however it turns out. This collective grief is a mourning of reality. I’m disgusted that any issue, you name it, could persuade millions of US voters that the reality of the last four years in this country has been acceptable or something they’re proud of. I have been naive to the extremes of hate and the fact that people will vote against the better good to get more - more money, more status, whatever.
I am mourning my belief that most people know the difference between right and wrong; I thought we shared a definition. I knew better. I swear, I did. But my heart has always held on to the sliver of hope that no issue would take precedence over humanity and lives.
500 children, 200,000+ lives, and 60+ million votes later, I know better. So, for now, I’ll grieve.
I want to sign off this week’s letter with the last line I wrote on that plane one year ago. As we redigest reality and make a plan to change this world for our ancestors, this is where we start.: Influence is not significant, firework moments. It’s not a keynote or a big project. That’s not how we are remembered or become memorable. We are cherished for small gestures. Kindness. Compassion.
I hope you love your people a little harder this week. If your heart is not ok, I’m here to help.