Grief Without Borders, Explained by Dr. Saliha | Savoir Flair
Grief Without Borders, Explained by Dr. Saliha
by Dr. Saliha Afridi 6-minute read November 1, 2023

Dr. Saliha delves into the collective sorrow shared globally during the ongoing crisis in Gaza, dissecting the layers of pain, loss, and resilience witnessed in the Palestinian struggle, and offering ways to cope and connect in these trying times.


The tragedy and devastation unfolding in Gaza is not a new story. For more than half a century, Palestinians have endured an occupied homeland and an ongoing ethnic cleansing. Yet, in recent weeks, the lens of social media has finally magnified the suffering of the Palestine people for global audiences. Every image and video shared illuminates the enduring anguish of the Palestinians, capturing the relentless injustices they have faced and continue to encounter, while also revealing their profound sorrow, perseverance, and indomitable spirit.

Witnessing such profound suffering has evoked deep grief in individuals globally. This collective anguish magnifies as we observe, day after day, powerful military forces relentlessly targeting defenseless Palestinians. In these moments, a profound human instinct compels us to act, to reach out, to intervene. Yet, for many, this grief deepens with the crippling sense of helplessness, seeing Palestinian children be killed, their homes razed, and communities displaced in real-time, all while feeling powerless to alter the unfolding events.

We grieve the disheartening loss of faith in the adage "history won't repeat itself if we learn," as we witness a genocide being live-streamed. 


As we mourn the continued tragic loss of innocent Palestinian lives, the ripple effects of the catastrophe in Gaza reverberate, bringing to light numerous other sudden and painful losses we grapple with in its wake, our grief extending beyond borders and timelines. Suddenly, we see on our screens what the Palestinians endured for over half a century, as hundreds of thousands of them faced death, displacement, and subjugation. Suddenly it's as if 75 years of collective grief and suppressed sorrow came to collect. 

Our grief also stretches to encompass all people who have faced oppression. As people of color and other minorities, we remember our mothers, fathers, and grandparents – and countless others – who have been, or continue to be, subjugated by colonial, fascist, and racist policies and governments. In our collective memory, we hold space for every individual who has been denied their fundamental human rights and dignity.


We grieve the loss of the idea that all human lives matter or they would matter if ‘people only knew,’ but now we know for sure that Muslim/Arab lives don’t matter.

We grieve for those individuals, trapped so tightly within the confines of their ideologies, hatred, and fear, that they remain blind and deaf to the anguish of another human being. Those who, because of differences in religion, race, or color, cannot mourn the unjust loss of innocent lives. 

We grieve the loss of a worldview we've clung to since youth — the dream that ‘peace on earth’ wasn't just a platitude but a potential reality. Today, we grieve the reality that such peace may elude our lifetimes. 

We grieve the disheartening loss of faith in the adage, "History won't repeat itself if we learn," as we witness a genocide being live-streamed.  


We grieve the loss of respect in corporations, celebrities, artists, athletes, and governments we admired, believing they championed humanity; instead, they've selectively amplified the tragedies of some while remaining mute for others.  

We grieve the loss of safety and trust in the protective shield 'international laws' promised. Instead, the world feels more like an anarchic realm, devoid of justice. 

We grieve the irrevocable loss of innocence as we are forever changed, our outlooks reshaped by the realities we've come to confront. 

We lost so much so suddenly. 


Make Space for Your Grief

Understand that your grief is valid. Don’t dismiss or deny it. It is expected and it is normal to feel sorrow, anger, or helplessness and all the other feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that result from this deep sadness. Accepting and making space for these emotions in your day is the first step to addressing them. You can do this by carving out time in your day and removing all unnecessary events from your schedule. 


Let Your Heart Break

If you resist the sadness or deny it, it will only get heavier. See your grief as a sacred invitation that connects you to all of humanity. Do not be afraid to let your heart break, not in instances where it is breaking for humanity. And also rest assured that when your heart breaks for another human being’s suffering, it breaks open, it expands, and so does your capacity to love. 


Share Your Grief and Help Carry Someone Else’s

Grief, especially collective grief, is not meant to be carried alone. The word grief comes from the Latin word gravis, which means “heavy.” Surrounding yourself with friends or in a support group who are encountering similar struggles can help you name, process, and metabolize your difficult emotions.


Engage Consciously and Responsibly with Social Media

In such instances, while it's crucial to stay informed and show support online, it is also important to do so consciously and responsibly and in a way that is sustainable. Set specific times when you will engage, choose reliable sources for your information, and give yourself permission to tend to your life and family alongside showing up for the Palestinian plight. 


Take Constructive Action

You will be justifiably angry, however, if you are not conscious, you will lash out at those who are closest to you. So use your anger for constructive action. Anger is a mobilizing energy and when it is used to fuel compassion, peace, and humanity it has the power to change the world. Consider supporting humanitarian efforts or organizations that work towards peace and rehabilitation. Even small gestures, like supporting someone who is actively engaged, or donating, can make a difference and provide a healthy outlet for your painful emotions. 


Practice Self-Soothing and Self-Care

Tend to your body. When grieving, the body often holds onto trauma, manifesting as tension, aches, or other discomforts. Slow, gentle, intentional movements and breathwork can help you release trapped energy, and process your grief on a cellular level. Continued emotional overwhelm can result in your psyche moving into ‘protective’ mode resulting in desensitization, disassociation, or numbing. Engage in activities that nurture your mental and emotional well-being so that you can remain engaged. 


Seek Professional Help

If your feelings become too intense or persistent, consider consulting a mental health professional. They can provide a space to process your emotions as well as coping strategies tailored to your needs.

The collective grief that has emerged from witnessing the suffering of the Palestinian people is a testament to humanity's interconnectedness. This profound sorrow, while heart-wrenching, carries the potential to catalyze change. The global outpouring of support, protests, and demands for justice for the Palestinian people signify a shift in global consciousness. Many around the world are calling for a more comprehensive understanding of the conflict, urging a move beyond partisan rhetoric to recognize the inherent human rights of the Palestinian people. And in this moment, as voices from every religion, race, ethnicity, and country advocate for the Palestinian people, we find a powerful reminder of the enduring ties that bind our shared humanity. 

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