And we had such high hopes for 2017.

Trump is still president. Charlottesville. Texas. Florida. Puerto Rico. Hundreds of thousands of acres burned by wildfires. And now. Las Vegas.

Whenever tragedy or misfortune strikes, whether it’s on a global, national or personal scale, the immediate thought is to send “thoughts and prayers” or “love and light.”

But that’s not enough. Thoughts and prayers are not going to bring back the Las Vegas shooting victims. Love and light is not going to create change in outdated policies.

Well, the truth is, I believe love and light and thoughts and prayers COULD create the change we want to see in the world IF we all really stopped what we are doing and sent the loving and healing energy we say we’re going to send– and IF we all did it on an intense and synchronized daily basis. But we don’t. We send a few heartbeats of love, shed a few tears, donate a few dollars and go on with out lives until the next tragedy happens.

And it’s understandable. We don’t know what else to do. Often, we’re restricted by geography or resources to do much else than that anyway. Appropriate and effective action isn’t always so clear. “Love and light” isn’t always appropriate. We can’t white-light pain and trauma away. What’s more, sending love and light to someone’s pain and trauma can also be indicative of our pain and trauma-free privilege; just like someone may use their privilege to gloss over racial issues by claiming to be “color-blind.” Color-blindness is a choice. A very privileged choice. Sending love and light is also a privileged choice.

Why?

Because pain and trauma don’t need the light. They need to be held in the sacred darkness. They need to be processed in the dark void. They need to be sat with, peered into and integrated to be truly healed. If you breach that process with love and light, you’ve put a band-aid over a bullet wound.

Okay, maybe I’ve starting to stretch this metaphor a little thin. Let’s get to the point: So what can we do instead of sending love and light, thoughts and prayers? What can we do in addition to sending loving energy that will be supportive and possibly change-making?

Well I’m glad you asked. Below is a list of things to do when tragedy strikes on the personal, national or global level. It’s not an exhaustive list but it’s actionable.

Personal Tragedy

When a close friend or family member has experienced something painful you can:

  1. Sit with them and witness their pain. Don’t say anything. Don’t try to comfort them. Perhaps refrain from touching them too (better to ask them). Just sit there and let them weep or rage. They need to know that it’s okay to experience these emotions. That the world will not end and they will not die if they experience their emotions. That they will heal faster if they experience their emotions. Sit there with them and witness. Hold this most sacred of spaces.
  2. Ask if you can donate some time or money. Donate a house cleaning service or roll up your sleeves and do it for them yourself. Organize other friends or family members to support the person with food or food services.
  3. Send a handwritten letter or card. Remember how people used to do that? If someone has died, write a happy memory of that person in the card or letter. Even better? Put the one year anniversary of that person’s death in your calendar and endeavor to send a second card or letter to acknowledge and support this important anniversary.
  4. Send a thoughtful and appropriate gift. Mourning jewelry is a thing. A beautiful thing. Commission an art piece via an artist on Etsy. Seek out a grief counselor or death midwife and ask them to help you support your friend or family member. There are also trauma midwives out there on the beautiful world wide web. Pottery is an ancient and appropriate gift: a vase, a plate.
  5. Commit to praying for the person every day for a set amount of days. A week, a lunar cycle . . . whatever feel appropriate. Then do it, everyday. Try to do it at the same time every day and for the same length of time to build energy.
  6. Commit to lighting a tea candle for the person every day. Light the candle and spend a few moments in prayer. Let the candle burn itself out and repeat for a set number of days.

National Tragedy

When something happens in your country, like a mass shooting, and although you’re not directly affected, you’d like to help:

  1. Donate blood.
  2. Donate money.
  3. Donate supplies (clothes, bottled water, blankets) to your local Red Cross– even if those supplies don’t directly go to the tragedy, you’re still contributing and helping.
  4. Donate to your local volunteer ambulance. My mom started and is the chief of the volunteer ambulance service in the little community where I grew up. Money, blankets, teddy bears for children– it all is needed and invaluable.
  5. Donate tampons and diapers! These items are not provided by government-funded relief programs.
  6. Call your elected officials! It is their job to hear from you and represent your concerns and desires. This article has everything you need to know about contacting your officials, including phone and letter scripts.
  7. Get to know the legislative process. Understanding what your Senators and Representatives have to do, and how, empowers you as constituent. As a teenager, I spent a few weeks working in my state capitol as a page for my senator. I spent another couple of weeks interning in Washington D.C. as part of a leadership program. If your knowledge of the legislative branch is rusty, re-educate yourself. If you have a teenager, seek out your state’s page program and encourage them to become involved. It doesn’t mean they have to commit to a life of politics, but it will empower them for their life.  Learn about the legislative process here.
    Contact your local senator’s office to learn about becoming a page.
  8. Again, commit to praying and/or lighting a candle every day for a set number of days. Consider organizing a prayer circle with your friends, community or facebook group and make a set time to meet or pray at the same time.

Global Tragedy

When something happens in another country and you’d like to help (most of these suggestions can also be applied to national tragedies):

  1. Donate to the International Committee of the Red Cross
  2. Research newspapers articles that are local to the event and see which organizations they are recommending people donate too.
  3. Take a moment of silence or a moment of darkness to honor the victims.
  4. Again, donate tampons and diapers. Baby blankets and baby carriers are also sorely needed after large scale disasters or misplacements.
  5. Pray for the souls of the dead who are likely shocked and in denial that they are dead. Ask Archangel Michael to help guide them to cross over.
  6. Make a donation to a local-to-the-event women’s shelter. Consider matching that donation to a local-to-you women’s shelter as well.
  7. Contact a local-to-the-event flower shop and have flowers sent to the street memorial that has likely popped up. It’s a more tangible way of sending “love and light” and is likely to make an impression on the florist, who may want to match your kindness or spread the story, which spreads hope and unity. Plus, flowers bring earth energy and magic to the scene, which help us digest and process the intense and heavy emotions that come with a tragic event. Politely ask the florist to send you a photo of your donation at the shrine if you’d like.
  8. Organize a local vigil with your community. Light candles and hold space to honor the victims and their families. This is a more powerful and actionable way to send “thoughts and prayers.” Contact your local newspaper for coverage. Getting coverage will help spread the idea of taking action and participating in the solution. Go to your local newspaper’s website and look through the list of journalists until you find the one that covers local events and/or is a “General” reporter. Tell them what you’re doing, when and why and invite them to come.