The Problem of Grief
Rector Chris Girata's latest article in the Katy Trail Weekly
Grief seems like an oddly dark subject for my column, but I have witnessed a phenomenon that has begun to worry me: People are exhausted by grief. We can’t go a week (sometimes even a single day!) without hearing of violence, bombings, shootings and other problems in the world. With the high frequency of terrible news, it’s no wonder that studies are showing that people are beginning to ignore the reports because they are overwhelmed.
Now, more than two-thirds of Americans say they are “worn out” by the amount of news they receive every day. And when that news is negative, combative or downright horrible, the reports of exhaustion become epidemic.
I was horrified to hear that multiple churches and hotels were targeted for terrorist bombings on Easter Sunday morning. There is nothing more despicable than targeting innocent people as they pray, regardless of their beliefs. Yet time and time again, houses of worship have become targets for shameless acts of terrorism. Just a few days ago, another shooting happened in another synagogue, killing and wounding innocent people while they prayed. It’s easy to be worn out.
Some writers have termed this exhaustion “disaster fatigue.” Today, when most people spend more than one-third of their time on their mobile phones, it’s far too easy for the most sensational news of the day to occupy an unprecedented amount of our consciousness. In generations past, we would hear bad news, but that bad news would be mostly episodic. Today, bad news has become the norm. So what can we do about it?
The obvious answer is easy: stop using your phones so much. How likely is that? Not very. Although I wish we could all use our phones half as much, the reality is that we have succumbed to a bad habit of depending on our phones to make us feel connected. The truth is that the connection we think we’re getting is nothing more than an illusion, but it’s an illusion that will be hard to break.
Instead of asking for something so implausible as using our phones less often, my ask of you today is to become more intentionally hopeful. Hope, or perhaps optimism, is one of the best ways to combat disaster fatigue. At the risk of sounding cliché, finding the silver lining and looking at the bright side is actually proven to help you achieve and maintain a healthier worldview.
There is good news, too. You don’t have to just act like you’re optimistic, we can actually be optimistic about the world we live in. In meaningful ways, the world is actually healthier and safer than it has been in the past. Over the last 100 years, deaths from war have fallen, people are less poor, and more countries are democratic, just to name a few. In nearly every metric, our world has improved over the past century. This is indeed something to celebrate!
The problem of grief is one that will not be solved overnight, but the hope is that people like you and me will see more of the positive movements, rather than only the painful moments. When people hurt one another, those tragedies cannot stand without seeking justice. But hold tight to who you were made to be and keep the faith, because our world is not as good as it could be, but thankfully, it’s getting better.
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