Updated: Jan 10, 2022
Have you ever opened your eyes and just sat within a single moment, wondering why you feel hollow, wondering what reality you're in and how you could be standing in the place where you are when yesterday seemed like it would last forever? Have you ever sat in a space where every breath feels like gasping for air and every exhale feels like sobbing from the heart. Have you ever just wandered off in your own mind, staring off into nothing, numb to the world around you because reality feels like a nightmare?
December 27th, Denver, CO, will never be the same again. Today, my beautiful tribe of friends sit in ghostly silence as we all fail to wrap our heads and hearts around the unfathomable tragedy that has taken place within our community once again. Two out of three of our extraordinary friends that were shot during round one of this swift and senseless execution spree have involuntarily transitioned into their new reality, while one struggles to possibly ponder why he was chosen to live; to process the events that led up to the loss of one of his loving mentors, dearest friends and the loss of his beloved wife simultaneously. There are no words for what took place just two nights after celebrating one last holiday with their loved ones. There is no way to pinpoint how any of us will process all of this today, tomorrow, next week, next month or next year, but one thing is certain, this is going to be a very long road to recovery for some of us due to the relationships we held with each of these people involved in this horrific act of aggressive violence.
During exceptionally tender moments, completely checking out or even death can seem like a logical answer for many people struggling with overwhelming grief, "I want to be with my loved one. I cannot get out of bed, there is no point." During these times, it is important to stay as present as possible for ourselves and for our loved ones, to provide compassionate comfort while we/they all grieve. Feeling hollow, empty, shattered, alone, broken, numb, destroyed... These are all common emotions that often follow the experience of the unexpected buckling of knees and or having a metaphorical dagger shoved into our heart when death greets us at the front door. During these times, when people want to understand and to support those who are traumatically heartbroken, it can be exceptionally challenging and frustrating for both parties involved, because unless someone has been there and truly understands intimate death (meaning deeply close), they cannot possibly begin to understand. This inability to comprehend often creates additional triggers for those suffering and for those working to support those suffering.
There is nothing worse than having loved ones or strangers say, "I know what you're going through," when they have never remotely experienced anything similar to what someone is struggling through. When supporting someone who is struggling through death, murder or suicide types of trauma, it is often beneficial to remind them that they are deeply cared for, not smothering them of course, but providing them with thoughtful confirmation that they are not alone. Stating things like, "Please let me know how I can support you right now. I'm here," are both comforting and important. Often times, those who are struggling to cope with tragedy do not even know what they want and need in those moments so taking the initiative to show up for them in meaningful ways is equally important, "Don't ask, just do." Prepare meals, offer kind words and authentic gestures, clean someone's house, care for their animals etc., these offerings can and will make all the difference to someone who is temporarily out of commission mentally, physically and emotionally due to grieving. Being mindful of a person's normal behavioral patterns is also important, what do people normally respond well to; you don't want to smother someone with love and affection while they grieve if love and affection feel foreign and uncomfortable to a person. Know who you're supporting and what they typically respond well to, humor is great for those who love to laugh, know the personality of the person struggling. All things generally take time during moments of complete devastation, when we are shattered, even if we love joy and laughter, when we feel as though our soul has been ripped from our body, there is often no laughter to share in certain moments. Be patient and sincere with offerings of care. Authentic tender love and care are soup for the soul, they are exceptionally valuable when caring for ourselves and others while we work through grief.
Sometimes, there are no words to be spoken with those struggling emotionally on the inside because they have no words to exchange, just pain and sorrow; they have no desire to talk. Allow the silence of that space, sometimes people just need to be alone to process their thoughts and feelings, however, check-ins are very important during tragedy. Leaving someone to be alone for extended periods of time can also enable those suffering to continue falling down the rabbit hole within their dark and shattered mind. Most people processing intimate death and traumatic situations close themselves off from the world in their own ways and for their own reasons, they isolate within themselves for a time being, sometimes to process, sometimes to escape and sometimes because they literally have no idea how to process anything taking place.
Since sorrow and meltdowns often come in huge tsunami type waves one after another, exhaustion also often follows suit. One huge and valuable thing to always keep in mind for those working through devastation, is nourishment. It is very important to keep ourselves and our loved ones hydrated and nutritiously fed in order to maintain some sense of internal balance as chemical reactions and releases go crazy within the body due to elevated stress, anxiety and depression during traumatic circumstances. Maintaining healthy homeostasis within the body while the body is working to process, overcome and heal from tragedy, is incredibly beneficial because it helps to balance the chemical imbalances that trauma often create. The healthier and sharper our internal systems function, the better off we are as individuals working to either get ourselves back together or as someone working to support those loved ones working to get themselves back together again. We are better equipped to begin pulling through trauma if our body is nourished and is functioning at optimal levels. Encourage hope, in whatever ways possible. Whether introducing kind acts, taking someone's hand for an outdoor stroll to grab fresh air or simply watching a positive movie, these little gestures have the power to shift perspective in beautiful ways.
Everyone processes grief differently. The feeling of hollowness that impacts all of us at various levels during heartache is important to be mindful of in order to understand how we can best serve ourselves and those we love during challenging times. Grief often requires time, unconditional love & support, patience and the willingness to show up for those we love in both traditional and unconventional ways due to the various ways that people cope with deep loss. Be sincere and kind, compassionate and willing to listen for those moments when someone is ready to speak. Listen, stay present for your loved ones. Take the time to rub someone's shoulders, to pour them a hot Epsom Salts bath or just simply hold their hand while you sit with them. "Love the ones you love." They could disappear tomorrow.
"Fly high and free sweetest little birds. We'll see you on the flip side of the moon."
Rest & rise in peace Alicia Cardenas & Alyssa Gunn Maldonado, we love you always. Jimmy, we're all standing beside you, ride or die hermano.
Let us also remember and bless the loved ones of Michael Swinyard, Danny Scofield and Sarah Steck, "Peace be with all of you and your families during this very difficult time. Rise and shine beautiful souls."