The Las Vegas Shooting-Holding Space for Grief

Yesterday in Las Vegas, Nevada, a gunman randomly shot into a crowd of hundreds of people who were attending an outdoor concert. At this writing, 58 people are dead and 515 are injured. Yesterday afternoon, the Sheriff of Clark County made a live statement that there were still bodies in the venue that had not been recovered. The process of identifying the dead and notifying family is long and tedious, and officials were still in the process of getting through it all.

In the meantime, my Facebook newsfeed is blowing up with conversation about the shooting. There are many who are just praying for the families and the victims, but a huge percentage of folks are on their soapboxes already. Gun control, the NRA, mental illness advocacy, Democrats, Republicans, and on and on and on. I posted something yesterday on my personal Facebook wall about it being disrespectful to use this as a platform for these conversations in this moment.

My democrat friends argued about how there’s never a “right time” to talk about gun violence, etc. My republican friends were virtually fist bumping me because the republican public rhetoric yesterday was about how this tragedy should not be made into a political platform. Ever. Because of course, that meets with their agenda. It was not my intention to align with either “side” by posting what I did. So here, I want to clarify my plea to WAIT about all the political stuff, hoping that a few more people can truly grasp the concept of making space for grief.

We, as a society, are completely incapable of sitting in our sadness. When we feel sad, anger feels safer, so we launch off into finding an issue or a person to blame and things to argue about to distract us from our sadness. Or we set about to contrast the circumstances in our own lives with those of the victims to distract us from our fear that it could happen to us. My post yesterday was meant to be an invitation to create a safe space for grieving before we shift the conversation. It was an invitation to be the society that is willing to hold space for the pain of these victims and their families. To offer the spotlight to those who have lost so much so that they can use these first few days to give all the attention to the lives of those that were snuffed out yesterday. I’m asking us to set aside our need for the instant gratification of making our viewpoints known and to quell our urge to voice the important issues at hand RIGHT NOW. I’m asking us instead to put our arms around the hurting and the broken and say nothing other than, “I am so immensely sorry for your pain.” If you need to talk about the issues, please whisper in the hallway until after the funeral. Don’t try to yell above the eulogy.

I want to hold that center stage place for a mother who wants to share about her son who served our nation in the military and made it home safely, only to lose his life celebrating and having fun at a country music concert. A space where a wife can post about the amazing man she was married to for barely a year and all he meant to her before he left her life yesterday forever. TODAY, it’s not about the body count or even what caused it. It’s about the fact that a brother will be missing from the Thanksgiving table in just a few weeks. A mother won’t be in the stands at her son’s soccer game this weekend. It’s about the daughter who won’t be there to make Christmas cookies with her mom and sisters the week before Christmas. Multiplied by 58. People died yesterday. Not “victims of gun violence.” Not “gun toting republicans.” Not “liberal democrats.”

People. Neighbors, sisters, brothers, moms, dads, daughters, sons, cousins. PEOPLE. And those people deserve the spotlight for at least a little while. Before we launch onto that stage with our soapboxes and our political arguments. Those issues need to be talked about, they definitely do. But let’s give these families a chance to bury their dead. If we must get on our soapbox? Let’s make sure we haven’t set it on top of the bodies still lying in the square, waiting to be identified. Let’s hold space for grief, and allow those who were personally and directly impacted by this unspeakable tragedy to honor and mourn and bury their loved ones before we turn our focus away. Because until we can start viewing people as PEOPLE again? I suspect violence will be something we have to live with. And if you lost someone in the tragedy of yesterday? I am so immensely sorry for your pain. <3

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