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Gates of Grief Continued: Mourning actions in response to global sorrow

In Part 2 of this blog, I begin by sharing some of the truths that I learned from Abbot Aidan, a Benedictine Monk who I cited in Part 1. These truths are the bedrock convictions that he held dearly in life. Please note that the beliefs Abbot Aidan espoused are from the Judeo-Christian perspective. Even if you adhere to other spiritual belief systems, I invite you to consider whether any of these are your bedrock convictions within your own spiritual beliefs or soul. See which ones connect to you. Then, we’ll work through some example mourning actions for addressing the grief you may feel about the state of the world. 

  1. God [a Higher Power] exists and is present to every aspect of human existence; therefore, one must bring into the world reverence and mindfulness.

  2. Prayer is not the only thing worth doing, but without prayer, nothing else is done as well, nor are all things kept in perspective.

  3. Begin and end with prayer

  4. Punctuate with prayer

  5. Be mindful of the world

  6. Every person is of equal worth in the eyes of God [a Higher Power]. Therefore, no one is a thing or object but rather a human who should express his or her own voice and destiny.

  7. Authority is necessary in every human society and must be obeyed insofar as it serves the common good. 

  8. People are meant to live in mutuality and not in alienation. Given the wide variety of backgrounds and cultures, people are meant to live in harmony. This is doable when one lives for God [for a Higher Power or Good] and not for oneself.

  9. Personal fulfillment is just as important as the profit of the community, but mature fulfillment (happiness) comes in serving others.

  10. Truth is never served by aggression or violence.

  11. Competition is an artificial means of stimulating human strife. Cooperation avails more in promoting peace and joy.

Which of these points do you believe in? Why?

Using these points as a starting place, perhaps write in a journal or a letter to yourself how you can address the real issues of grief about the Earth’s fragility, the pain of innocent people, and the dangers to other animals in the world.

Example mourning actions that hold the world and its people in reverence:

  • It’s terrifying to think that people in Mexico City may have no drinkable water or even water for toilet flushing and basic hygiene. Of course, this happens in sub-Saharan Africa and other countries all the time. Did you know that? In mutuality and harmony with them, I can refuse to waste the free-flowing water I have. For example, I can turn off the water when soaping up my dishes and turn it back on only to rinse them. Similarly, I can take a shower every other day instead of daily or twice daily. After getting wet, I can turn off the water to soap up and shave. Then, I can briefly rinse and turn off the water. To make this action more challenging, I can time myself to do my entire shower in under three minutes. I can charge myself a quarter for each minute I go over two or three minutes of using water, save that money, and donate it to a cause that digs wells, for example. I can handwash myself every other day with the sink and a reuseable washcloth or with a single cleaning wipe. At the gym, I can do the same, charging myself for every minute over two or three that I run water. I can encourage my friends to do the same.

  • The microplastics overload in the oceans, ground, seafood, other animals, and in human embryos and mother’s milk is appalling, frightening, and dangerous. Imagine all the microplastics in each baby born and in each ocean creature harvested for food. Go a step further and think about the animals we don’t eat; they still have to live with the biological burden of insoluble microplastics in their bodies. One action I can take is to refuse to buy small bottled water and to avoid foods wrapped solely in plastics. I can drink filtered water from my sink or, if necessary, from a returnable, reusable 5-gallon jug (having made a one-time investment in a water cooler system for a one-time fee). From this cooler, I can fill and refill water glasses and BPA free, reusable water bottles to carry with me. Another action I can take is to refuse plastic grocery bags (where they are still offered) and always bring my own reusable bags. 

  • The idea of the “common good” isn’t very popular to consider these days. What is the common good? How do I grapple with and acknowledge the common good? These questions often fall to the question of authority, which is necessary in working societies. However, what someone else decides is for the common good might not be what I think it is. How can I show that every person is of equal worth in a world that values “success” over “contemplation” or “wealth” over “enough”? Interestingly, people admired St. Mother Theresa for her poverty and work with the impoverished, so what were they seeing in her regarding the common good? The common good can be measured in small numbers as well as the whole of society. Who in my community—if only one person—most needs my attention (despite what the popular thinking about that person’s needs might be)? What action/s can I do to help that person have a better life?

  • If mature fulfillment, or happiness, comes in serving others, who can I serve in my local area or in the world? Will I

  • Donate some of my sick leave to someone in need of more time to grieve and mourn a beloved family member?

  • Sponsor a child or elderly person in an impoverished country to support their lives and ongoing development (cost of about $40 – 50 per month).

  • Offer financial support to a medical charity, the ASPCA, or other charity?

  • Adopt a “rescue” animal? Donate my extra or duplicated things to the animal shelter?

  • Volunteer for Habitat for Humanity or donate my good-used items to this organization or ones like it, which can then resell them at a fair price to the needy?

  • If truth is never served by aggression or violence, what can I do to decrease the violence in my own home (because, as it is well known, children learn what they live, as Dorothy Law Nolte shared)? What can I do within my town, city, state, or country? How do I vote or act in civic ways that may decrease aggression in the name of the truths I hold. Just as important, in the interest of mutuality, how do I behave in ways that honor that other people may hold different truths? If I can accept those truths and talk with them as equals, I can decrease strife, at least in smaller, local ways.

  • If cooperation or collaboration promotes peace and joy more than competition can, then how can I be more cooperative—with my family, friends, workplace, and others—to avoid the competition that comes with being “right” about everything from what I eat, where I work, and how I vote, for example? Where can I begin collaborating and stop—right now!—thinking everything I do is the one right way? How can I educate myself and others to begin enacting cooperative behaviors?

Grief for the world and its condition hurts people; admittedly, it hurts some more than others. But as with any other grief, the hard work of mourning takes us to new levels of life and demonstrates the gifts that grief bestows on human beings: post-traumatic growth, prosocial behavior, maturity, deeper love, better self-understanding, and greater kindness.

What mourning actions can you undertake to heal yourself, your society, and the world about which you’re grieving?

Please remember that these are difficult issues and you can only make a difference if you protect yourself with reasonable boundaries about how much of the world you take into yourself at any one time.

As the Benedictine monk Abbot Aidan would say, “Pax.”


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