As a mother and a Jew, my heart aches for the mothers who have lost their children in the crisis in Israel and Gaza. As a mother myself, I cannot even imagine the level of pain and suffering that mothers must be experiencing. In times of crisis, it can be challenging to connect with our humanity. We are blasted with heartbreaking images and stories, leaving us helpless and despairing. The recent conflict in Israel and Gaza is a prime example of this. However, those of us who work in early childhood education know that more and more families live in grief and pain. Children experience violence close to home and perhaps lose members of their families to this violence.
Is during these difficult times that as educators or family members, we must find ways to connect with our humanity in these difficult moments. In early childhood education, we often talk about family engagement. I believe that in times of crisis, our work becomes vital. We must create an emotional space for families to grieve even when we may be grieving ourselves. We must connect with our humanity and leave aside political views and opinions during these times. We must also permit ourselves time to grieve. Families are coming to you not to find answers (they know you don’t have them) but to feel safe and find a moment of refuge. They may need a person to listen and perhaps a hug. In this blog post, I want to share my thoughts and feelings about this heartbreaking situation and explore how we can reconnect with our humanity to support grieving families and friends.
1. Practice Empathy: In moments of crisis, it can be easy to disconnect from others and become consumed by our thoughts and feelings. Practicing empathy can help us stay connected to our compassion and our humanity. This means putting ourselves in the shoes of others and imagining what they are going through. We can do this by actively listening to their perspectives and experiences rather than dismissing or ignoring them. There may be moments when we can’t hear other people’s experiences, but we can offer a kind word or a token that says, “I care.”
2. Find Common Ground: It can be easy to focus on differences in times of crisis, but finding common ground can help us connect with our shared humanity. This might mean identifying shared values or experiences or working together towards a common goal. By focusing on what unites us rather than what divides us, we can stay connected to our sense of compassion and humanity.
3. Take Action: Feeling helpless can be a significant barrier to connecting with our humanity in times of crisis. Taking action, no matter how small, can help us feel more empowered and connected. This might mean donating money or resources to organizations working in crisis zones or finding ways to support those affected by the crisis in our communities.
4. Practice Self-Care: It is important to remember that we cannot support others if we are not taking care of ourselves. Practicing self-care, whether taking a break from the news or engaging in restorative activities, can help us connect to our sense of compassion and humanity. By prioritizing our well-being, we can better support others in times of crisis. Remember that play helps us heal in times of crisis.
5. Look for Positive Stories: it is essential to remember that even in times of crisis, there are stories of hope and resilience. We can stay connected to our compassion and sense of humanity by seeking out these stories. This might mean looking for stories of people coming together to support each other or finding examples of individuals who have overcome adversity.
6. Take a Walk in Nature: Nature walks cultivate gratitude and mindfulness. By taking the time to appreciate the beauty of nature, you become more present and mindful of your compassion and humanity. You begin to notice the small things you might have missed, such as birds chirping, the rustling of leaves, or the gentle breeze on your skin. This awareness cultivates gratitude as you recognize the wonder and abundance of the natural world and your place in it.
7. Reach Out to Your Caring Friends and Family: Find comfort in gathering with people who care for you and you care for them. Tell them how much they have meant in your life and how much you have appreciated their support. Share a meal or a cup of tea. Laugh, share life stories, take old photos, and go down a memory walk that connects you with happier times. Cherish the precious moments of life.
8. Light a Candle: Something is soothing and calming about the soft glow of a flickering candle. It has this almost magical power to make us remember our past while bringing hope for the future. Candles are a symbol of safety and peace. Candles are powerful symbols of hope, resilience, and solidarity. Lighting a candle for peace is a simple yet meaningful activity. Invite friends and families to light candles of peace.
9. Disconnect from Technology and Social Media: Gather with friends and talk face to face. Turn the TV off and spend time with people. Sharing a meal or a cup of tea can go a long way when grieving. Social media thrives by building an emotional hype that gets to the core of your fears. The last thing we need is to continue hearing and reading the opinions and thoughts of people we don’t know. Instead, find solace with a trusted friend.
10. Children need adults that are present during the difficult times. As educators, we may have to answer questions for which we have no answers. Remember that talking to children may not be what they need at this time. They already hear a lot of talk from adults. They perceive their families’ grief and may also be reacting to it. Create spaces that bring a sense of safety and normalcy for them. Design for play and free exploration that helps them release stress and express their fears.
A Call for Unity and Hope
Finding our humanity will help us continue to advocate for an end to conflict. We must work towards a call for unity and hope that respects the rights and dignity of all people living in this beautiful place we call Earth. This may mean challenging our beliefs and assumptions about conflict and being willing to engage in difficult conversations with people with different views.
We can support families by becoming allies and advocates for all marginalized communities. We know that the pain of losing a child is not limited to any one group or community. It is a universal human experience that transcends borders and boundaries. By standing up for justice and human rights for all people, we can work towards a world where no mother has to suffer the unbearable pain of losing a child to violence.
In times of crisis, it can be easy to feel hopeless and disconnected from our humanity. However, by practicing empathy, finding common ground, taking action, prioritizing self-care, and seeking out positive stories, we can stay connected to our sense of compassion and resilience. As educators and members of families, it is up to us to model these behaviors and help children and our communities do the same. Let’s advocate for peace and justice and work towards a world where all children can grow up safe and free. May we find the strength and courage to do this work, and may we honor the memories of all those who have been lost to violence.