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Grief is in the Air…and Our Hearts

Written by MJ Ryan, SheEO Development Guide

I learned an important practice at the SheEO global summit this year from social justice doula Lutze Segu—to call it out when grief is present. It should be obvious. Of course feelings should be acknowledged, no matter how painful. But as a white privileged person trained from early childhood to avoid whatever elephant is in the room, it’s something I’m learning every single day. I feel my resistance on calls with clients, the SheEO team and my family, my desire to avoid uncomfortable conversations, and I’m practicing, imperfectly, turning toward whatever painful, raw truth is there.

Unfortunately, there is abundant grief to turn toward right now. Starting with the horrific discovery on May 27 of the remains of 215 indigenous children in an unmarked mass grave at the Kamloops, British Columbia residential school. The depth of suffering right now among the Indigenous community is truly unfathomable to me. But I can witness and acknowledge it.

To do that, I’d like to share a poem written by Abigail Echo-Hawk, Chief Research Officer at Seattle Indian Health Board and the Director of the Urban Indian Health Institute, whose purpose is “to decolonize data for indigenous people, by indigenous people…directing a team of researchers, evaluators and epidemiologists dedicated to restoring indigenous scientific knowledge systems,” according to her profile on LinkedIn.

She posted the poem on Instagram: “For the children 💔 the 215 they found in a mass grave, and for the thousands yet to be found.” She gives permission to anyone to share, as long as she is credited. I give thanks to her and to SheEO Activation lead Jessy Wang, who read it on SheEO’s team meeting last week:

When they buried the children
What they didn’t know
They were lovingly embraced
By the land
Held and cradled in a mother’s heart
The trees wept for them, with the wind
They sang mourning songs their mother’s
didn’t know to sing
bending branches to touch the earth
around them. The Creator cried for them
the tears falling like rain.

Mother Earth held them
until they could be found.
Now our voices sing the mourning songs.
with the trees. The wind. light sacred fire
ensure they are never forgotten as we sing
JUSTICE

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