How I wish you were either hot or cold, but because you are lukewarm…

It is mass shooting season in the United States again, and we watch politicians twist themselves into pretzels trying to justify their lukewarm positions on background checks before a gun purchase. It’s the same old song after every school shooting, supermarket or mall shooting; “Guns don’t kill; people do.” Tell that to the loved ones of the victims. Lukewarm politicians will blame mental illness or foreigners or “he was having a bad day” before acknowledging that the blame ought to be pointed directly at a lame Congress that repeatedly fails to respect the human rights of Americans to shop in a mall, study at school or gather in places of worship without predator gun-toting assassins shooting at them to kill.

For families of victims it is not enough to hear, “We are investigating the possible motive of the killer.” Who cares what was the motive? Who cares about a psychological assessment of the shooter? Why was the killer able to purchase weapons designed for a battlefield? Politicians protect his right to get guns and ammunition without restrictions, but they fail to protect vulnerable and innocent citizens in malls, schools, supermarkets and places of worship. Don’t regular citizens have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Where are the lukewarm congressmen when we need them?

During moments like this, I think of parents and loved ones of previous mass shootings whose grief and trauma are triggered by the news of the latest tragic event. I think of the lives that were shattered by the loss of loved ones in places now all too familiar: Orlando, Parkland, Las Vegas, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Waffle House, San Bernardino, Midland/Odessa, Poway Synagogue, Sutherland Springs, Tree of Life Synagogue, Atlanta and now Boulder. The trauma of past tragedies comes rushing to the surface of our emotions and floods us with sadness, stress, and a renewed clamor for justice.

While doing a grief support workshop for widows of war in Sri Lanka after their civil war, the conversation always returned to emotional flooding triggered by memories of the traumatic event. Many of the widows were right there when the bombs fell that killed their loved ones. Years later, the sound of a vehicle back-fire can easily cause panic and traumatic stress. Our conversations turned to “loss of self” and “soul wounds.”  Edward Tick, Ph.D. describes the post-trauma stress experience in his book, “War and the Soul.” He wrote, “The common lament, ‘Why can’t I be the person I was before?’ is one great source of grief and a plea from the survivor that we understand that he/she is different now…”  “Who am I now?” may be the most difficult and important question the survivor must finally answer.” (p. 106, War and Soul)

Because of the latest research on post-traumatic stress, we focused our work on rebuilding and strengthening “the spiritual self” as a therapeutic approach. We explored the terrain of the spiritual self in multiple dimensions of spirituality. Following that experience with widows of war, I created a workbook for small groups that wish to take a deeper plunge into the multiple facets of the spiritual self. It is now published and available. “The Spiritual Temperature Companion Workbook: A Personal Transformation Journey into Ten Dimensions of Spirituality” is a resource for facilitators of spirituality groups. The prompts, activities, charts, and journal writing also serve as a resource for individuals.

The grief work of getting grounded again after a traumatic loss is not a lukewarm activity, but a necessary journey to heal the soul wounds and recover the spiritual self.

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