As I process George Floyd’s death, I struggle deeply with injustice trauma. I’ve had so much trouble even touching this case. I often find myself pushing people away just so I don’t have to talk about it. So, I thought I would write a piece of what I know about injustice trauma.
- Gravitate to situations where the “good guy” loses hard?
- Do you subtly hope the “good guys” in your life lose hard?
- Whenever someone is happy, do you automatically think “they just haven’t been through it”? When was this really wrong?
- Seek out tragic news but feel bad after watching?
- Find yourself quickly sharing your tragedies with strangers?
- Seek out dark material just to trigger yourself into accessing your grief?
- Seek out people who promise to harm you in the ways you would like to self-harm to avoid grief?
- Self-harm when you are feeling really bad and you are overwhelmed with grief? You fear the inevitable so you might as well be the one to do it because at least then you know where it is and how it happened?
You may have unresolved grief from a deep injustice in your life.
How to heal unresolved injustice.
- Ask for guidance from a trauma-informed and grief-informed professional.
- Donate and support foundations that prevent others from being victimized in the way you were.
- Try to ease into the reality or your grief instead of denying it. You are grieving injustice as trauma.
- Embrace grieving mental health resources no matter how much you want to keep on the surface of “positive vibes only”. The grief will only fester and grow until it consumes you.
- Be ready for the hardest part being the time you face all the realities you must face to resolve your grief and let your grief go. When grief is all we have, it can feel like losing everything to let it go. Approaching this point may be the time we grieve the hardest.
- Remember, you can be happy and profoundly sad at the same time.
- Remember, you can let go and maybe that is what we grieve the most. The ability we all have to feel ourselves truly letting go.
What not to do
- Make other people resolve or replay your grief so you can feel your feelings one more time.
- Make people replay your grief to get in front of it and not feel so victimized anymore.
- Pretend like you’re not grieving so as to not lose your friends.
- You can make friends in grieving support as well.
- Expect anyone to ever be able to make up what the world did to you. The world is full of mistakes.
Examples of injustice as grief
- Being a long time victim of cruelty
- Incarcerated innocent
- Cancer survivor
- Suicide survivor
- Compulsive self-harm survivor
- Death of a loved one
- Genocide in religion
- Genocide in ethniciy
- Victim of racism
- Victim of appropriation
- Victim of sexual abuse
- Victim of physical abuse
- Victim of psychological abuse
- Victim of misogyny
- Victim of religion oppression
- Victim of long term stalking
In truth, nothing can make what was taken from those who are victims in these cases right. And we must grieve that. All we can do is take it from here and do better for others despite the fact the world did not do better for us. And that is the hardest part. Nobody owes that to the world. But it can help survivors to heal and know at least they are the hope they wish they had. We can not really do this until we have grieved. We can not help emotionally bleeding from the inside out. We can not give from a denied abyss. When we try, we often pass on nothing more than our blood and the events that conspired it to shed.
The idea of “good vibes only” may be comforting, and may remind us of someone who gave us relief once in our life. But in truth, our grief is written all over our fake smiles and felt in anyone who accepts our aid. It is written in our scripted messages picked up from TV, church pamphlets, books and unenthusiastic responses. You are felt. You are apprehended. You are safe.
It makes sense to avoid grief because it is
- Extremely painful, to the point it’s hard to even be alive
- Makes us feel like bad people when we feel ourselves letting go of feeling bad, especially if we come from wealth-shaming cultures
- Feels like it will never end
- We don’t have faith we will come out
- We are afraid we will lose our friends or job (and we might)
- Associate pain with a “beautified poverty” that makes us superior to those without it as a way to feel in control of our life-sucking grief
- Enough savings
- The right professional
- The knowledge that it is not a moral failing to let go of our pain
- The knowledge we can not be in extreme pain and still feel beautiful
- The knowledge we deserve good things and to be happy
- The knowledge that nothing can ever undo what happened
- The knowledge we can both honor this fact and move on
- The knowledge we can be what we wish we had
- The knowledge that we still exist, as we are, instead of how the trauma abused us to be — we just need to make a safe space for that person to emerge and to get to know them
We can find a new dimension beyond the grief, and that doesn’t make us bad people. It hurts terribly. But you can decide to not give your life to grief.
And even if you don’t want to move on or simply can’t just know
- That’s ok.
- That’s where you are
- In the grief is where your love is stored.
- Not everyone can accept that nothing can really undo what happened, that some events were one shot and we didn’t get it quite right.
- That doesn’t make you less.
- It’s ok.
- You still deserve love.
- You can still find beauty.
- Maybe one day you will change your mind.
- Maybe one day you won’t.
- Maybe you just can’t. Maybe there’s just too much love that would be left behind. And that’s beautiful too.
The best thing we can do in injustice trauma is
- End learned helplessness
- Not help while bleeding voraciously from denied and unresolved wounds
- Not help while denying our abyss
- Not deny our grief
- Learn to stop projecting
- Learn to stop taking the easy way of transference
- Learn to take responsibility
- Accept ourselves if we can’t accept the loss
- Know that has nothing to do with the world at large
- Fight for the justice we wish we had
- Accept that some mistakes are real but understanding them further helps everyone.
- Not make any more victims
If we all had an understanding of grief, we might be blown away at what we find hiding in a burning, compulsive puddle of inconsolable and uncontrollable tears behind hate. I think such burning willingness to see as things truly are, as much as it catches us on fire and hurts to high heaven to see our chance at transference obliterated, is the epitome of intelligence. We meet where we match, and in injustice trauma oftentimes where we match is the depths of our despair.
Nobody can play God and not be made to pay by human sensemaking. What George Floyd taught me is that it isn’t all about me or you and isn’t all about the legal narrative either. What George Floyd taught me is there are immensely painful interactions going on that we may all die not fully understanding.
If you found this piece helpful and insightful, please donate to causes invested in fighting police brutality for the black and brown population.