How to Bear Witness to Tragedy

In the last few weeks, we have had the heartbreaking experience of repeatedly turning on our TVs to footage of slaughters—by the police, of the police, and most recently of revelers in France celebrating a national holiday. When we encounter our own personal tragedies, how do bear witness to them? How do we observe, acknowledge, and recover from the loss of our home to foreclosure or flood, to the loss of a precious loved one?

On July 6th, a black couple in Minnesota was pulled over by a white police officer for a routine traffic stop that ended with the police officer shooting and killing the driver, Philando Castile, in front of his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her 4-year-old daughter. Reynolds displayed amazing calm and presence-of-mind during what was probably the worst moments of her life. She live streamed her boyfriend dying in the car seat beside her, his body bleeding and convulsing, while the police officer—gun still drawn—screamed at the family as if it were his partner who lay dying beside him. During all this, Reynolds narrated a detailed account of what was occurring. Click HERE to learn more about this tragic event.

In the weeks since this horrifying incident, many commentators have noted Reynolds’s remarkable display of composure as she spoke into her phone, explaining the incidents of that evening. While I hope none of us ever have to bear witness to events as traumatic as what Reynolds experienced, her actions can serve as inspiration for how to respond when we come face-to-face with our own tragedy.

  1. When the tragic event occurs, select the one thing you can do in that moment to make the situation less terrible than it already is. If you can, do that one thing.
  2. Don’t ask anyone’s permission to do what you must to address the tragedy you have witnessed. Just do it.
  3. When and if you make it through completing the one thing you chose to do, allow yourself to completely fall apart and grieve as if the world has spun off its axis. Then a week later, a month later, a year later…take a deep breath and remind yourself that it has not.
  4. Next, find the main thing that makes you want to continue to live, and keep your focus there. (As the tragedy in Minnesota unfolded, Reynolds’s concerns shifted to her daughter.) Whenever you are inspired, add more things to the list of what you want to live for.
  5. Finally, make use of all the support friends and family have to offer. People are so often immobilized, even terrified, in the face of someone else’s grief. They want to help us but don’t know how. Just tell them what you need. In the words of Diamond Reynolds’s 4-year-old daughter, “It’s okay, Mommy. I’m right here with you.” So are your loved ones.
As we think about transformation at the next full moon, keep in mind the opportunity we have to transform our personal tragedies into a less tragic moment.

One Love,
Andrea

Dr. Andrea

About Ordinary Anointments My name is Dr. Andrea Shaw Nevins, and I am a life coach and college professor. I graduated from the Martha Beck Life Coach Training Program, and my job is to help you take your life from okay or good to fabulous! I will help you recognize beliefs and patterns in your life that are blocking your path to Boundless Joy and Beyond. This blog started life as a venue for my exploration of those tiny anointments of insight that provide some options for how we see ourselves and our world. It has now emerged as a space where I share my Moon Letter (monthly newsletter) and an advice column, of the “Dear Aunt Abby” sort. I welcome questions on how to navigate any of those personal challenges life has a habit of throwing our way. Send me your questions at [email protected] Learn more about my work as a life coach at www.andreaeshaw.com

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5 Responses

  1. Steve says:

    I think he has a very good chance to get off.

  2. Yaadinfo Jamaica says:

    I agree with you totally! But that would not mean that Buju doesn’t bear culpability in this saga. It just means he has a good lawyer, and the prosecution didn’t come with an airtight case.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Yeah he really needs some good lawyers..pity Johnnie Cochran nuh alive still..a soh him name…Come Buju get some more good lawyers and make sure they are STRAIGHT!

  4. Lisa Smith says:

    It is with deep regret that I write about our beloved “Gargamel” in my heart of hearts I pray that my denial of the real effects come true; I pray that he is not found guilty, however putting childish whims and fancies aside, the facts are the facts, tears and great aspirations are replaced by evidence and sworn testimonies. To say I am angry is an injustice to the individual in question but as a fan I am allowed to feel hurt and disappointed. Our musical art form and the legacy created by our musical greats like Bob Marley and Buju et al will suffer from the repercussions of this unfortunate event for decades to come. Buju is not just an icon but a symbol of intellectual reasoning and black expression, it is sad to experience the demise of such a son of the African Diaspora.

    love you Gargamel from one of your biggest fans

  5. gelede says:

    Well said. Whether or not he gets off, he has managed to send the worst possible message to those who have only `heard` his music but live what he criticizes. That would be most of his fans. The intellectual quality of his work is just that. It is not necessarily practiced and it is certainly not OURS. Just listen to the well-hewn rubbish that people are spouting about why he should get off, regardless of the evidence of what he has done. No person who claims his level of consciousness would ever be smuggling diamonds given the wars and bloodshed caused. As for the coke related charges, his defense sounds too much like Bill Clinton`s bullshit response that he did not inhale from the lighted spliff he put in his mouth. I am sure Buju is aware of the contradictions in his behaviour – he knows the music is not the man – but to his fans every behaviour can be excused no matter how egregious. Thats why public opinion in Ja counts for so little. No integrity to be found anywhere. Sad.