Writing About Grief, Writing to Protest and Take Action

Three mass shootings within seven days. Since January 2019, 979 people injured and 246 dead in such shootings.

Waking up each morning to learn what new trick the current administration has for lowering morale in our country and treating people like rodents (that word, “infestation”).

The rise in the number of cases doctors in our country are handling for extreme anxiety and panic attacks not only in adults but in grade school kids as well.

The wringing of our hands over whether there is anything that we can do to stop what is happening and alleviate what is now called “moral injury.”

My daughter, the mother of two school-age sons, who is a professor helping undergraduates and graduate students alike achieve their academic goals, sets aside time each day to call her congressional representatives and join with others to make their voices heard against a shameful lack of responsible response from the majority leadership.

She shares links with others about organizations to contact in support of restoring a sense of human dignity to our national actions and discourse. Here is her facebook post today in answer to my wringing of the hands:

[ public post; please share ]

** Call to action / #NeverAgainIsNow **

USisan friends, are you following the story of this week’s ICE raids in Mississippi? 680 people detained, and according to the reporting I heard on NPR, they were swept up & bound (hands tied) AND THEN taken somewhere to be processed, based on the suspicion that they were working without authorization to do so. Meanwhile, some of these people are parents, whose kids were at school or daycare and weren’t picked up at the end of the day or came home to an empty house.

In a sane and just society, the only entities being investigated/prosecuted here would be the employers exploiting these workers. Instead, we have terror and fear for the workers and their families.

It’s not enough to stand by and shake our heads at these atrocities. This is being done in our name. So I ask you: What are you doing about this?

(1) At the very least, we should all be speaking out & calling our elected representatives. Have you done that yet? If you need help getting started, please let me know.

(2) The next step is getting connected to advocacy organizations that can help you channel your outrage to action. Good ones in this connection are RAICESNorthwest Immigrant Rights Project, and MoveOn. I don’t know of anything specific to Mississippi yet, but will update if I hear of any. Follow these orgs on social media and sign up for email and text alerts. Yes, it’s a little more noise in your inbox, but it will mean you’re in the know to take action.

(3) Show up — find out about protests and go to them if you are able. Big ones can make a difference through impacting the public discourse. Small ones can be useful both for education (what you learn from the speakers) and networking (the connections you make). If you haven’t already, learn what you need to do to get out & be comfortable outdoors for the duration. (Hat, sunscreen, water bottle, snacks, as the weather turns warmer clothes, gloves…)

(4) Speak up: Let your friends know what are you are doing, in person and on social media. This too gets easier with practice. (Believe it or not, I used to find it difficult to make political posts!) Each time we say out loud, where others can hear “this is not normal; this is not okay” we resist the normalization and apathy that makes it easier for these atrocities to continue.

(5) Take heart: This is not going to turn around quickly, but if enough of us engage, we can do it. And if we don’t, if we just think quietly, “Well that’s a pity”, it will only get worse.


What kind of a school leaves numbers of children outside and locks the school doors when parents who normally arrive to pick their children up have not arrived? This action by the teachers, let alone ICE, did me in–I have been a classroom teacher and the mother of children who attended daycare, preschool, and elementary school. Never, never, never, never, would teachers leave young children unattended even after official school hours. NEVER!!!! When parents hadn’t shown up by the school closing, every attempt was made to find the children’s teachers and if unfound, the kids remained at the school with a teacher.

In what kind of a country do a majority of civic leaders let what is happening slide?

What finally broke your heart? What came closest to home to make you realize we all have a part not only in acting to make this horror stop but in allowing in the grieving that it has caused?

Infants separated from mothers, children in cages, mothers told to drink out of toilet bowls, it all comes rushing in not one at a time now but all together in a tsunami of cold, angry hearts disrespecting and destroying others’ lives. The comparison to Nazi Germany is surely on my tongue. I’ve seen enough films and documentaries and read enough books to know that once the flood of abuse of others becomes not a trickle but a sustained river, larger and larger evil ensues.

What we must do as human beings is protest, call our representatives, and not hide our eyes and ears from any of this. What we must do as writers is process our grief with writing.

This week I am posting an exercise from my book, Sorrow’s Words: Writing Exercises to Heal Grief, in the hopes that writing from our personal feelings when such cruelty abounds in front of our eyes will help us keep on making our calls and protesting until we reverse this insanity.


Along the Trail by Sheila Lauder



“If he could be alive again, taste huckleberries on this trail, and stand together with a kind friend, what might he want?”  –Kim Stafford, 100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do: How My Brother Disappeared

Although as viewers we can’t see the faces of the two cyclists, as writers we can imagine their expressions, what they might be thinking as they look at the sky and what their words are if they are talking to one another. Perhaps you imagine one of them as yourself and the other as someone who also grieves; or, perhaps you can imagine the recently deceased being somewhere in the scene, as cyclist or parasailor, as smoke or as path, for instance. Or perhaps you are the smoke or the path.

Alternatively, you can imagine the figures in the photograph as parts of yourself in this time of adapting to loss. What story might each be remembering while looking at the spectacle in the sky?

Your emotions and associations will infuse your words as you concentrate on the details in the stories each tells from the trail. In the details, you will discover that those who are gone have a voice inside you with lessons and messages to relay. In your writing, let a victim or the parents of a victim speak as he or she parasails before you.


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