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The Paris Attacks - On Grieving Privately in a Social World

“Bonjour! Como sa va?"

I realized late last night that my dad had used these words in his most recent text to me. 

“Be back on the 22nd. xx"

He was traveling (he’s always traveling) and so I didn’t think to ask where. 

So 11pm last night it occurred to me that I didn’t know where he was, and that there was some chance he was in a French-speaking country (despite that the fact that he wasn't *technically* speaking French), and therefore some chance he was in Paris.

It was a long shot, but I immediately jumped to conclusions and went into slight panic mode.  I texted him, I called him, I Facebook messaged him, I did all the things. 

I stalked his most recent photos, and those on his wife’s page. Nothing since October 10th! Loads of pics from their trip to New England in early October, but nothing since! 

So then, I did the only thing left to do; I waited.

If you ask any of my friends, they’ll tell you that I never know what’s going on in the news. It’s a conscious choice. Like not doing mushrooms. (I just know myself! It wouldn’t be all rainbows and giggles and walls that taste like candy).

Some people always know what’s going on in the world because it makes them feel like they can make a difference. Or because they feel it’s their responsibility to be in the know. Some watch because they are gluttons for punishment. 

I’m none of these. I’ve chosen to free my mind of the negativity and apply my efforts towards spreading love and abundance, instead of focusing on hate and poverty.

Sometimes though, I feel like I need to at least have a general understanding of what is happening to exist as an adult in society. 

While my social media feeds filled with images of the Eiffel Tower and mentions of the “paris attacks” I found myself thinking What happened?? Did someone crash a plane into the Eiffel Tower?? What is the french government doing in response? What is my government doing?? 

So I did what I never do, and I looked. (Ignorance is bliss, but walking around not knowing if there is even an Eiffel Tower anymore borders on obnoxious in my book). 

So I looked. I read one article to get the details, and then I shut my computer. I didn’t binge. I didn’t go down a rabbit hole of masochism, from one horrible image to the next. 

I just needed to know the facts, and then I needed to react in what way felt right for me. 

For thousands of people, that means posting images of the Eiffel Tower. It means changing their profile pictures and making a public statement that they know what happened, they are in shock, they have an opinion, and now you can see that opinion in image-form across their social media platforms. 

This has never felt right for me. 

When the White House made history a few months back and the entirety of my Facebook wall became a beautiful collage of rainbow profile pictures, I left mine be.

In 2006 when 32 lives were taken just a half mile from my house at Virginia Tech, I didn’t change my profile picture to a ribbon. I left it be.

While these acts of support feel right for soooo many people, they’ve just never resonated with me. I feel uncomfortable and inauthentic and then I wonder things like "When is it okay to change it back? Does it send the wrong message if I change it too soon?" which only furthers the point that this just isn't the right response for me.

I wanted to write this article for anyone else who’s ever felt the same way.

As social media continues to play a growing role in our lives and the way we “express ourselves" I wanted to create a conversation and a safe space for people who feel like they just don’t want to react, and grieve publicly in the same way as "everyone else."

There can be this pressure to follow the masses. You didn’t put a rainbow on your profile pic, does that mean that you don’t support gay rights? 

I (and all the people in my life) know that there is no place for homophobia in it. Or hate of any kind. That I support equal rights for everyone, but following a trend and changing my profile picture just isn’t how I show it. 

You didn’t say anything about the Paris attacks, don’t you have friends that live there??

I’m saying something in my own way. With this article. I’m sharing the fear, and the pain, and the utter disbelief that I’ve experienced in the past 15 hours by writing about it. And by using this opportunity to embrace anyone else who reacts, or supports, or grieves in their own way, which may or may not include a public post, a profile change, etc. 

The point of this article is not to call out people who immediately post a picture or change their profile or make their position known. That is 100% their prerogative and hopefully a reaction that feels comfortable for them. The intention with this piece is to support the individuals who prefer to react more quietly, offline,  or--God forbid--not at all.

At 2 am I finally heard back from my dad. 

“Paris airport flying out” was all he said. 

Do I wish he’d typed more? Of course. Do I wish he’d called and told me he was safe and that he loved me? Yes.

I felt helpless and I needed him to comfort me.

But he was safe. And he was doing all he could to get himself and his wife out of Paris efficiently.

He was responding in the way that he knew how. It took me writing this article to realize that, and to let the heartache which had turned to anger subside as I read my own words. 

He was responding in the way that he knew how. 

Tomorrow I will pick myself up, and get back to working on my life and my business as best I can. You will probably receive a newsletter from me about financial freedom. But today I’m grieving the loss of innocent lives, and I’m sending out love in all the ways I’m comfortable with, and capable of. 

That includes writing this article. I want to hold space for people who have felt pressure to react to world events publicly, and any shame or guilt with not feeling authentic in doing so. We’re all in this together, but we all deserve to share--or not share--in how we react to things.

We all deserve to respond in the way we know how. 

Praying for paris,