When I initially set out to write this piece, I had identified a handful of humorous and soulful podcasts to sooth us during lockdown.
Then, on Tuesday, May 26th, I saw viral footage of George Floyd being murdered by a police officer on a street in Minneapolis, near my hometown of Bloomington, Minnesota.
Now, there’s only one podcast to write about: “On Grief, And Finding Meaning,” and it is part of Brenè Brown’s “Unlocking Us” podcast series.
In the podcast, Brenè Brown speaks with David Kessler about his book Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief. For the uninitiated (for the record: I count myself among you), there are five main stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Kessler takes Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s work one step further by creating a sixth step: Finding Meaning.
After listening to the podcast, I searched for Kessler’s work and discovered he has spoken often on grieving during the aftermath of school shootings, creating space for impacted families to find meaning.
Finding meaning in completely senseless and preventable death.
It’s a difficult, seemingly impossible quest.
The brilliance of the sixth stage is that it doesn’t ask us to find meaning in the act of murder. It asks us to find meaning in the things we do afterwards. “The meaning is in us,” Kessler says.
We create the meaning.
Could the meaning be in the outperforming? I think now of the movie “Higher Learning,” directed by John Singleton, released in 1995. There’s a magnetic scene between Omar Epps and Lawrence Fishburne. (4:27). In short, Fishburne is a professor, and Epps is a student on a track scholarship. Fishburne asks Epps what he would do if he knew he were running against an opponent who’s “faster, stronger and more bigtime.”
“What do you do then? Do you leave the track?” asks Fishburne.
Epps responds, “Hell no.”
“What do you do?”
Could the meaning be in changes in law, like Cory Booker’s current work to ban racial and religious profiling and creating a registry for police misconduct?
Could it be in voting and peacefully protesting?
We have experienced enormous loss this year. But, it’s because of this loss that now more than ever, we have an opportunity to create real meaning. Let’s feel the heartbreak. As Kessler writes, “Hearts Stay Broken,” and mine will be broken forever.
Then, let’s find meaning.