I’ve never considered myself a writer, but in light of the events of this week, something in my spirit this morning said, “Get up and write”. So, here I am, writing. Knowing what I know about the law (from the admittedly limited perspective that I have gained over the years as a police officer’s wife) and what I know about the systems in this country and how they were set up, I am not surprised by the grand jury’s decision in Breonna Taylor’s case. This was the sentiment I saw displayed on much of my newsfeed this week as well. People were angry, hurt, sad, disappointed, but not surprised. Although, I must admit that I did hold out some hope that this time it would be different, but alas, here we are… again.
When I really sat with my feelings and tried to gather some awareness as to what I was feeling, the answer I came up with was numb. This truly hit me at dinnertime when, while having a general conversation, my husband asked my daughter and I what we did that day. I contemplated running through the meaningless tasks I did but I decided to be honest with myself and him and said, “Nothing, it was hard for me to focus today.”
It was hard for me to focus and be in a space to do anything productive because as a Black woman, I am not okay right now. As a mother to Black children, I am not okay right now. As a police officer’s wife, I am not okay right now. I have come to understand that it is okay not to be okay.
A collective trauma has engulfed us in 2020 — from COVID, to racial injustices, to civil unrest — and it takes a toll on your mind, body and spirit. Collective trauma is real, and it has probably affected each and every one of us at some point this year. It is the trauma you felt when you saw George Floyd murdered on national TV. Although you may not have known him, as a member of the Black community or a member of the ally community or just a member of the human race, you felt for him, for his family and for all of those who bore witness to that horrific display of inhumanity. Although I did not know Breonna Taylor, as a Black woman, my heart hurts for her and her family. That is collective trauma. It is the same collective trauma that police officers feel when an officer gets shot in the line of duty. They may not know that person but they feel for someone who is a part of their community.
So what do you do when you are experiencing collective trauma?
Today, I choose to write. This is what feels right today. Tomorrow something else may feel right and I will continue to explore what that is because living at the intersection of being a Black woman and a police officer’s wife makes it truly difficult to navigate sometimes. At the end of the day, I want what we all want, and that is for our loved ones to return home safely every day. Far too often, violence takes its toll and we are not afforded that basic human right of safety.
So today I encourage you to also find what feels right for you. It may be to log off (off of social media, off of the news, off of work, off of interacting with others). It may be to tap into your creative side and write, draw, paint, etc. It may be to call a friend and let it all out or just sit in the silence together because you “get it”. It may be to pray, meditate, move, walk, listen to music, protest, resist, write letters to officials, call your elected officials, register to vote, or cash app a friend $10 for self-care (I’ve been fortunate for friends to do this for me). Whatever feels right to you in that moment, after you have gained some awareness around your feelings, put it into action.
Also know that is it ok to do nothing. Give yourself permission to be and to resist by resting and taking care of yourself. In collective trauma is also an opportunity to build community and as we work to heal ourselves, we heal the spaces we occupy and help heal the people around us.
Selina Armstrong is a trauma informed practitioner that has over 20 years experience working with children and families in the areas of education, international development and advocacy.
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