Due to the events of the last week, people are beginning to speak out about the inequality that still exists in our country. George Floyd was killed by a police officer while pleading for his life, and while the officer was just arrested, it took waaaaay too long to make that happen. The three other police officers who were on the scene have not been charged with anything. This happens often, and unfortunately often goes unchecked. But people are finally starting to take notice of the issue. As a white female, I recognize that I am privileged and that I don’t know what it is like to be black in America today. I recognize that I haven’t been the ally I should have been in the past. I also know that I can no longer stay silent. I will strive to be a better ally in the fight for equality. I will listen to those who are closely affected by the systemic racism that pervades our nation. I will spread their stories, support their ideas, and celebrate their victories that I believe will come one day. Black lives matter.
Before I continue to talk about ways that we can all become better allies in this fight, I need to own up to my past. I have not always been the best ally. I have sat back and said nothing when someone said something racist. Sadly, growing up with family in the south, there is still a lot of racism present. I’ve listened to people say derogatory or judgmental comments towards the black community, and even though I was extremely uncomfortable, I said nothing to them. I didn’t call them out or explain to them why those comments are offensive. I know for a fact that subconsciously we all have acted differently towards people due to race. We avoid certain neighborhoods, laugh at stereotypes in the media, and have been unbothered by the preferential treatment we as white people inherently get. I own that. I also know that I can change that. Silence is easy, but it’s time to get uncomfortable.
There are a lot of things that we can do to be better allies in this fight. This is an article that I saw circulating on Twitter telling us the things we can do to aid this movement. https://medium.com/equality-includes-you/what-white-people-can-do-for-racial-justice-f2d18b0e0234 It is important not only to get involved politically but also to educate yourself. All of the books and movies on this list have gone on my list of things to read and watch next. I am not as informed as I should be. I want to better understand all of the injustices that exist in order to be a better ally. We can’t properly support black individuals without knowing the history and really seeing the despicable way they have been treated. I promise that I will do my part in learning about this movement and supporting it in any way I can.
No one should be seen as being below someone else. That is simply not true. As a Christian, I believe that we are all made in the image of God. That includes everybody. No matter who you are, you were created in His image. Everyone is equal. Everyone is a person. Everyone should be treated equally. There are a lot of people in the south in particular that are blindly following in the footsteps of their ancestors from the time of slavery. The biases have been passed down through each generation. But we do not have to be what our ancestry was. We have the ability to educate ourselves and understand that we are not better than black people simply because we are white. This fight is also not about us at all. Saying “All lives matter” in the midst of this fight is not helpful. Here’s the thing: society has already proven they believe that white lives matter. This fight is about saying “Black lives matter.” Until equality between races is achieved, that is all that we should be saying. We are not fighting for our rights. We already have them. Being an ally means pushing the voices in the black community to the top, not trying to insert ourselves.
So what do we do going forward? We educate ourselves, we speak up when we see injustice, we let our political leaders know that this is a problem that needs to be addressed, and we support those in the black community who are actively affected by the inequality that currently plagues our world. Listening is the most important. Hear their stories and let them sink in. Understand that this is a real problem and one that we should all be angry about. As a new generation grows up and starts to have kids, let’s teach them from the beginning that everyone is equal and should be treated as such. Racism is learned. Babies don’t come into the world seeing the world unequally. They pick up on the biases that are passed down to them. So let’s be the generation that abolishes those biases as we raise a new generation. Let’s use love and not fight hate with hate. Let’s educate and not condemn. Let’s continue to speak out even after the news coverage goes away. Let’s be an ally. #BlackLivesMatter
I think it is incredibly important to remember the names of those who have been killed because of discrimination. We can’t forget the names. I’m sure this is not a complete list, so if you know of someone else please feel free to put their names in the comments. We are fighting to not have more names make the list.
Here are some links where you can support the movement by signing petitions, donating, or educating yourself.
These are just a few resources so please feel free to add links in the comments below to other ways we can educate and help! I know I can definitely be more informed than I am now, so I would love to have suggestions from you. If we all work together, I believe we can help make a change.
Disclaimer: I haven’t been able to share this post until now. I wasn’t ready to let it all out there. I wrote this over the last seven or eight months. I couldn’t sit down and do it all at once because it was too much. I hope this helps other people who are grieving feel a little less alone. I wrote a song at the time it was all happening and had my brother put music to the lyrics. If you want to hear that, I’ve posted a video of him singing it at the bottom of this post. This is a pretty long post, but grief is also a long process. Thanks for reading!
This is going to be pretty stream of consciousness, and there won’t be much editing so that you can see how I process everything through this post. From all of my previous posts, you have gotten glimpses into who I am and how I think. However, grief feels a lot more personal. I’ve also come to learn that grief isn’t just something that goes away after a funeral. It lingers and shows up at random times, knocking you off balance. I have become all too familiar with grief, but I bet some of you have as well, so hopefully, this post can help you or just make you feel less alone.
My family lost both my cousin Kimberly and my grandaddy within a three month period. Their deaths were the first time people extremely close to me passed away. Both experiences were incredibly difficult. I’m already tearing up a little just writing this paragraph when I haven’t even gotten into the middle of it all yet. This bodes well for me. But, I will continue anyway.
I’ll start with the experience of losing Kimberly since she passed away first. My cousin was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) a little over two years before she passed. It was a shock to everyone. She was 38 when she was diagnosed, which is earlier than most people are diagnosed. She was having trouble with her hand and thought it had something to do with a tennis injury. No one was expecting the news. The most I had heard about ALS before the diagnosis was the Ice Bucket Challenge that went around. I wasn’t completely sure what it was. My parents called me one night in my freshman year to let me know she had officially been diagnosed. They asked if I had any questions and I said no, but I think I just had so many I couldn’t process any of them. When they hung up, I did the one thing that never helps a situation: I went to Google. It quickly became clear that this wasn’t something that got better. It actually got worse. There is no cure for ALS and the average survival time from diagnosis is three years. That is not a long time. Especially for someone diagnosed so young. When I read those facts, it was hard to wrap my head around. That night I just stood in the shower and cried.
Kimberly’s diagnosis and life expectancy made the grieving process longer than it is for someone who just dies in an instant. My therapist and I talked about how in a lot of ways we were already starting to grieve before she even passed. There was never a moment where we just gave up, but it became clear that she was getting steadily worse. For a while, you couldn’t really tell that she was getting weaker. The day she started having trouble walking was an eye-opener. Then she became unable to walk. Eventually, her ability to speak began to fade. What made this deterioration so much harder to watch was the knowledge that her personality and her quick-wittedness never went away, but her ability to express those things did. Every time I saw her, no matter how far her illness had progressed, she was still Kimberly. We still laughed about dumb jokes and ridiculous stories. I found myself telling more stories when I was around her, making it feel normal. But, the reality was it didn’t feel normal. It was really hard to watch. There were a couple of nights where I cried after visiting with her for the day because I just couldn’t understand why it was happening and I couldn’t face the reality that she was probably going to pass away.
My family is a family of believers. And as Christians, we are told stories all the time of miracles that have happened. God made the blind see, the lame walk, and even brought someone back to life. We all wanted a miracle for Kimberly. We all prayed for a miracle for Kimberly. We didn’t get that miracle, and that was one of the hardest things to deal with. Why not? Why did God let this happen when He had the ability to make it go away? I really started struggling with my faith. I stopped going to church, mostly because life got busy, but a small part of me didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to sing songs about God’s ability to heal and then go back to life where Kimberly was getting worse and not better. It was a weird relationship to have. I prayed for Kimberly all the time and still fully believed God was capable, but I was also really angry that a miracle wasn’t happening. That has been something that remains a struggle while I deal with grief. I still don’t have answers and I’m still a little angry. I’m working on it. Part of growing stronger in a relationship with Christ is admitting when you have doubts. The really hard part is not letting those doubts turn you away. I work every day to remind myself that God is there for me. But in times where grief sneaks up on me, I find myself asking those questions all over again.
I really loved Kimberly and we had gotten closer the older I got. I was a really shy kid even around some of my extended family and I was quiet a lot of the time. I remember one time when I was around ten or eleven, I stayed up late to play some card game with my dad’s side of the family. I took a shower and came back to the table, and just started talking. I remember Kimberly telling my mom that it was the first time I really showed my personality. After that, it’s like a dam had been broken and I was talking all the time. Kimberly, my brother, me, and my other cousins on that side joked around all the time. We had the same sense of humor. Almost every time I was around her Kimberly would tell some story that made me laugh until I cried. I miss her storytelling. We shared a love of playing board/card games, pink vanilla cupcakes from Smallcakes Cupcakery, and bathroom jokes. When Snapchat became a thing my brother, Kimberly, and I got very serious about keeping streaks alive. Every day she would get a glimpse into my day, and I would get a glimpse into hers. Our streak lasted 593 days. I took a picture of it on the morning she died before it went away. It seems like a silly thing, but I really did love that we had that connection. Watching that streak disappear is one of the first times it felt real. Reliving that moment just now started my tears again. Losing somebody doesn’t happen all at once. Each time something happens without them there it becomes a little more real.
As I said earlier, grief is a longer process than just the emotion you feel right when you find out someone has passed away. However, that moment is really hard. I found out that Kimberly died after my parents called me. I woke up to two missed calls from my parents and a text to call them before I got up for class. They know that I’m not really a morning person, so I knew something had to be wrong. My chest got tight (one thing that happens when I feel particularly anxious about something) and I braced myself before I dialed their number. I pretty much immediately started crying. I knew she was getting worse, but I didn’t expect her to pass away so quickly. I was already planning to go home a few days later and I was excited that I was going to get to see my aunts and Kimberly. That was one thing that was hard: finding out that I had seen her for the last time and I hadn’t even known it. I didn’t ever really say goodbye. A small part of me always pictured her getting better, even as the likelihood of that happening grew slimmer. But even when that thought makes me feel sad, I try to remember all the years I did get to spend with her. Nothing can take away the inside jokes we shared, the late-night Dairy Queen runs, or the looks we gave each other when we both were too hot and wanted to turn on a fan. Those little things suddenly seem like big things when you don’t get to experience them anymore. I miss Kimberly and I’m pretty sure I always will, but I’m grateful that I got to grow up with her being a part of my life.
While all of this was happening with Kimberly, my granddaddy was also battling a deteriorating illness. He was originally diagnosed with Parkinson’s like symptoms and was later told that he was battling multiple system atrophy (MSA). It is a degenerative neurological disorder and like ALS it doesn’t get better. It affects different systems in your body and most people die because of respiratory issues. It gets harder to do just about everything. I watched as over a few years he got worse. There would often be dips in his health, and then he would plateau for a while. Luckily during this time, the army stationed my dad at Fort Benning in Columbus, GA so my mom could travel to Columbia, SC pretty often to go stay with my grandparents and help out. It was really hard to watch his health decline and watch my mom deal with her sadness and stress. You just kind of feel helpless. My cousin died in October of 2018 and I got the call about Granddaddy passing away in January of 2019. That was a rough call as well. A week before they called to tell me that they thought this was it. He was taking another dip and didn’t look like he was going to get better. That was really hard. It was hard to focus on life stuff when your granddaddy passing away at any moment is in the back of your mind. He was in his eighties and had been sick for a while, so I was very aware that any time I saw him could be the last, but it is still a gut punch when it actually happens.
There were various moments throughout the time before he passed and after that were particularly challenging for me. The biggest moment that stands out for me was a day where I went with my mom to see my grandparents and my mom and grandmama had gone out for a walk. It was just granddaddy and me and we were talking about school and life. My granddaddy was always the one who drove because he loved it and grandmama didn’t. That was one thing granddaddy and I had in common. We loved to drive. So I knew it must have been difficult when he had to stop. But as we were sitting and talking he got choked up and said that it was really upsetting that he couldn’t drive anymore. I composed myself in the moment, but I cried later that night. It’s never easy to watch someone you love and look up to, struggle. There were other small moments like that throughout his illness progressing that were difficult because you could tell he was really upset about it. Most of the time he was his normal goofy and joking self, so those moments hit particularly hard. His funeral was also a tough day. My dad spoke and did an amazing job talking about how good of a man my granddaddy was. Watching my little cousin cry was also a difficult moment for me. I knew what she was feeling and it sucked that she had to deal with it at a younger age. But all in all, his funeral was a celebration of who he was. He had an enormous tie collection with all sorts of fun ties (Disney, M & M’s, Looney Tunes, holiday-themed, and more) and everyone in the family picked one of their favorites to wear to the funeral as a tribute him. It was really special and I’m sure granddaddy loved it.
He was a really special person to me and to so many others. He was the best grandaddy a girl could ask for. My dad’s parents passed away before I was born so grandmama and granddaddy were my only grandparents growing up. Granddaddy was incredibly funny. He was always ready with a joke no matter what situation we were in. He let me play barbershop with him when I was younger, which consisted of me messing up his hair in all kinds of crazy ways and then him paying me a dime or a quarter for my troubles. Every night before bed we would give grandmama and granddaddy a hug and he would always tell us to look out for the imaginary internal organ he made up called the “goosenglogger,” so of course, we tried to squeeze it extra tight. He used to make us milkshakes at night that he called “Super Dupers.” I was always excited to drink mine and was always curious what the secret ingredient was (it was vanilla, but love was another ingredient that made them taste extra good.) When I was younger, I loved going on my grandparent’s lunch routine with them. We would get a salad from Wendy’s first and then head to McDonalds and get burgers to put the patties in the salad. Sounds weird, but it was delicious and I loved that the people at Wendy’s called him “The Salad Man” when he walked in. My grandparents always made things fun. The love they had for each other was also unmatched and was inspiring, especially as I get older and start looking for the person I want to spend my life with. I don’t ever want to settle for less than the love my granddaddy had for my grandmama. It was truly a beautiful thing to grow up seeing. He loved his family, his church, and his community. He was an all-around amazing human being who I miss very much.
Grieving is a crazy difficult process to go through. It ebbs and flows and you never fully get over the loss of a loved one. I have had some pretty low moments, especially when it comes to my faith. Ever since Kimberly was diagnosed and the health of both her and my granddaddy started to decline, I have been struggling with my faith. It is hard to wrap my head around the fact that God would allow a forty-year-old to die from ALS and then that he would take my grandaddy away at the same time. My relationship with God was on some rocky terrain there for a little while. It’s still on a little bit of rocky terrain now. I know that God is good and He knows more than me. I know that He is there to comfort me in times of sorrow. I know that he is real and present. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have doubts. Doubts are never stronger than when grief hits me all over again. On anniversaries of their deaths or when a song comes on that reminds me of them. I still have a lot of questions. But the most important thing is that I’m still asking them. I haven’t turned away or given up on God. I also know God’s not going to give up on me.
This song is really special to me because I wrote it in the midst of everything that I was feeling. I wrote the first verse and chorus the day after I got the call about Kimberly passing away. I wrote the rest a day after my granddaddy passed away. It encompasses everything I was feeling as I was feeling it. It still hits home now. Maybe some of you have lost someone recently and are feeling the same way as I did. Maybe you also have a lot of questions and no real answers. You are not alone. I wrote the lyrics and sent it to my very talented brother so he could put music to it. The instrumental sections of this song actually come from a hymn that we sang at my grandaddy’s funeral, which makes it even more special. I hope you can relate in some way. It didn’t have a name for a long time, but I finally came up with one that encapsulates what I struggled with most. Here is “No Answers” performed by my brother, Nate Hutchings.
Thanks again for reading this post. It was difficult to write, but something I needed to do. I hope this makes some of you feel less alone if you are grieving as well. A special thanks to my brother Nate Hutchings for providing the music and the video of the song. I hope you all have a great day!
When this pandemic hit, it caught everyone completely by surprise. Two weeks ago, we were living our lives and suddenly everything shut down. “Social distancing” wasn’t even a part of people’s vocabulary and suddenly we’re saying it multiple times a day. It has affected everybody in one way or another, but for people like me who struggle with their mental health, this is especially difficult. My anxiety is definitely worse since all of this started to go down. I know I’ve been feeling pretty down and limited social contact doesn’t make it better. Texting and Facetime are just not the same as chilling on the couch with my roommates talking about random life stuff. But I think its important to remember that we’re all in this together even if we are separated at the moment. This won’t last forever, even if it feels endless in the moment.
Something that I am struggling with a lot is my college closing for the rest of the semester. We are going fully online, like a lot of college campuses in the country. While this is the safest and most responsible decision, it is incredibly difficult as a graduating senior. I walked out of my last class without even knowing. I saw some of my classmates for the last time without saying a real goodbye. I left my dorm room like I was coming back. I walked across campus for the last time without taking it all in. I’m going to miss out on those last moments with my friends. Graduation is being rescheduled for August for whoever can make it, but I know not everyone will come back. It won’t be the same. We’ve worked our whole lives to get to graduation and that feeling of walking out of our last class ever won’t come. The same is true for all college seniors whose school has closed in this crazy time. It’s also true for high school seniors who don’t get to go their proms or on their senior trips. I know emotionally and mentally that its a tough thing to process. Not having closure is something that we have all struggled with in our life. The positive to this is that there is a huge community of people having these same feelings right now. I encourage you to reach out to your friends and classmates and just vent. I know my college has a student Facebook page where people are doing things to connect. Stay as connected as you can be to your peers in this very disconnected time.
Something that everyone is struggling with right now is the fear of the unknown. The word “unprecedented” is constantly in the news and it’s true. We don’t fully understand what this virus is or how long all of this will last. With each passing day inside, we are getting more restless. Some people are feeling incredibly lonely if they live by themselves. Others are struggling with the stress of constantly being around other people. It’s important to take care of yourself in the midst of the craziness. Call your loved ones if you are alone. Take some time to yourself if you are living with people. I just drove around for a while yesterday listening to music and it was just what I needed. Schedule a video call with your therapist if you had to leave the city you were in because of a school or job shutting down. I know it can be really hard working from home as well and finding the motivation to get work done, but it is important to set time aside each day to get things done. Dedicate a certain time to doing work. Try to keep up with routine as much as possible. Do some meditation if that works for you. Get out and go for a walk to get some fresh air. Do what you need to do to calm your fears. Feel free to comment or message me what you are going through, because chances are others or myself are feeling those things to. Social distancing is really hard on our mental health and its important to let other people know that so that they can try and help alleviate some of the loneliness, depression, or anxiety we feel.
I have no idea what lies in the future. I think it is important to take it all day by day. I also think it is important that we let ourselves feel what we are feeling. If you are grieving the loss of the end of a senior year or time at a job like I am, then grieve. If you are feeling sad, cry on someone’s shoulder or by yourself. If you are feeling angry at the situation or even angry with God for letting this all happen, then get mad. That one is one that I struggle with, but my therapist and I have been talking about how it is okay to feel angry with God sometimes. People in the Bible shared their frustration with Him all the time. I think in the end, it will create a deeper bond. No one has gone through this, so no one knows how to feel. It is important to remember that all feelings are valid.
Some of these extra anxieties or depressing thoughts come out of having a ton of time on our hands to do nothing. With that time, we are able to just live in our thoughts, which can be detrimental to those who struggle daily with their mental health. Because of this, it is important to fill our time with other things. You can click HERE to see a list I found of things to do while stuck inside. It has some pretty good ideas. I personally am reading, watching some light-hearted TV shows, watching more movies, and trying to write more.
Let me know what is getting you through this quarantine. Also, let me know if you are struggling. We can get through this uncertain time together. Thanks for reading! This blog is really helpful for me to write, so I appreciate that others seem to find it helpful too. Have a great week and stay safe!
Also here are some resources if you are feeling overwhelmed:
If all the talk about COVID-19 is making you feel overwhelmed or frightened, contact the SAMHSA Disaster Helpline: Call DistressLine at 1-800-985-5990 or Text TalkWithUs to 66746
The SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline provides 24/7 365 day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human caused-disaster. This toll-free, multilingual, and confidential crisis support service is available to all residents of the United States and its territories.
As a human being, it is pretty impossible to never compare yourself to other people. It has become even more difficult with the rise of social media. We are constantly bombarded by people’s best moments without getting a glimpse into their actual life. Because of this, we are left comparing our struggles with their picture-perfect persona. That can be really difficult. I’ve been feeling this a lot lately. I feel like once you hit your twenties, comparison becomes commonplace because everyone is starting to pick the path their life is going to take. Suddenly people you knew in middle school are getting engaged or married. Others are already having kids. Some people already have good jobs, while others are taking a year off to travel. All of these things are found out through social media posts that talk about how great their life is going. Then you shut off your phone, and look at your own life and go back to taking unsure steps into the future with a sadness that you can’t be as content as everyone else. But we have to remember that we aren’t seeing the whole picture of other people’s lives or even our own life.
There is not a single person on this earth that is happy and content all the time. Even the people who you think should be the most content struggle with things. Letting yourself believe that you are seeing a person’s whole life based on three Instagram posts is damaging because we do see every second of our own days, which are not always good. Remembering this is the first step in overcoming the need for comparison. But I know this can be difficult. A lot of people who I know from middle and high school are getting engaged. Some even have kids with their partners. Meanwhile, I am single. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me, but sometimes when I see multiple people get engaged in the space of a week, I call into question whether I am really content right now or not. I question my own happiness based solely on someone else’s. I have to remind myself that that isn’t how feelings work. No choices that other people make should directly impact your emotions. If that is the case, it means you have fallen deep in a well of comparison, which can only lead to disappointment.
Some of my questioning whether or not I’m happy when I see other people hitting life milestones comes from feeling like I’m falling behind. There’s a song by Phil Good (great name) called Be Somebody that hits on this idea perfectly. One of the lines of the song says “Can’t help but compare, all my friends already there I can say that it’s not fair but maybe somehow it’s my fault” and later “Every day I’m afraid I’m not even in the race and I’m feelin’ kind of left out.” I definitely relate to those lyrics. But I shouldn’t be living on other people’s timelines. If we all accomplished things at exactly the same time, we would be living in a very dull society. I have to try and remember that it’s okay that my priorities aren’t the same as some of my peers. I’m focusing on school and work right now instead of relationships and that’s okay. Relationships will come in their own time and when I have more time to give. Everyone moves at their own pace and there are no deadlines. Comparing another person’s timeline to your own is comparing apples to oranges because they have different life experiences that shape their path. Trust me, I know that reminding yourself of these rational thoughts is hard. Lately, I haven’t been doing a good job of listening to my own advice. But by comparing to others, we are only worsening our mental health.
I really liked this article that I found that talks about things to do when you start to feel yourself comparing too much. I especially like the point they make about this not being the end of your movie. We have no idea what lies ahead. Only God truly knows what will happen. So reminding yourself that you aren’t seeing the full picture can help you when you are feeling disappointed in the moment. Your time to shine could be just around the corner. Instead of spending time comparing, we should be actively pursuing goals and people that will aid us in our search for happiness.
Thank y’all for reading and I hope this is something someone needed to hear. It’s definitely something that I needed to write for myself. I hope you have an amazing week!