Resiliency and Loss

Judy Nimer Muhn

It’s been a year. A year since Breonna Taylor was murdered. How many more we could list… The list is overwhelming and far too long. This has been going on for all people of color for far too long. And we’re finally seeing a trial for one of the main policemen who killed George Floyd. The growth and spread of marches and calls to action against racism and oppression around the world continues as it should. And there is much to do. SO much to do, be, learn, share, grow.

And just about a year ago NEW’s building closed as COVID moved into Michigan.

We’ve lost over 500,000 of our beloved family and friends, coworkers and neighbors across the United States. My own year was bracketed by deaths. My sister-in-law, who we couldn’t bury or memorialize because of the pandemic, died from complications from cancer in December 2019. And cancer stole another cousin just last month.

I don’t even want to count the number of friends who lost parents, siblings and coworkers in between. I don’t want to think about the losses in my extended family or the emotional challenges of not being able to go to the hospital for my nieces/nephews and others. And the significant grief that I’m feeling in the loss of being in my beloved community to mourn. How many more times must I go to the cemetery to pay my respects alone? We still haven’t scattered my sister-in-law’s ashes…

And that’s not even mentioning that my dear, sweet cats died within a month of each other in January and February. The silence in our home is deafening. The hardest part is that people don’t see the loss of a pet in the same way as when a person dies. I get it. Yet, in our family and culture, these dear companions ARE people to us. The lack of flowers, cards, calls, visits, and discussion has been tough.

So I struggle.

But then the Ancestors show up, the dreams deepen, the cats make their presence known. And I recognize my resilience to keep moving – moving my feet in exercise, moving my emotions up and out. I feel my mind and heart growing in capacity to support racial justice and work. Here in my work at NEW, I get to support the nonprofit community in my unique way. I get to come alongside so many who are doing seriously important work.

From all of these and more, I draw resilience. I reflect on what my Ancestors dealt with, endured, walked through. Because of them, I am. And I honor the wisdom that is whispered to me in the dark of night, when I wake unexpectedly at 2:30am.

I find joy and resilience daily in the nonprofit leaders that I am honored to be with, learn from and assist. The women who surround me in my beloved community feed me their wisdom and the laughter of their children’s antics, their artwork and their unicorn natures.
Living on the edge of a forest, I draw from the strength of the trees, and the animals that come through the yard. Nearby Kensington Metro Park gives me even more of the forest and the lakes, animals and maple trees that are now sharing their sweet syrup. There is beauty before me, beauty behind me, and beauty surrounding me. That is where I draw resilience from.
I also draw deep resilience from the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), and the Water Protectors. They regularly remind me of the work that needs to be done, and their resilience in activism and power. As I stand on the shoulders of leaders past and present who teach me that resilience is daily, hard, gritty, hard, uplifting, deepening, hard, appreciative and cooperative community effort, I am grateful for the lessons.

So I’m working to learn how to balance grief and loss with resilience and action. The trauma is triggered and thankfully being processed. The joy is shared, and there are tears and smiles. And deep gratefulness for it all. I am resilient and becoming even more so every day.

Through it all with you,

Judy Nimer Muhn