Not Ready To Forgive.

Via Michelle Marchildon
on Jul 23, 2012
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I am sick of hearing about how we need compassion.

Maybe it’s time to get pissed off?

Today, Colorado, my new home, burns to the ground. The first attack came in waves of red and orange as fire struck the mountains left vulnerable by the pine beetle. Then this week the mass murderer, whose name I will not mention, walked into a movie theater just a mile or two from my house and opened fire on hundreds of unsuspecting children, teenagers and young adults sitting in the dark.

Helpless does not begin to cover how many of us feel. On a family vacation in the East Coast, we read the papers and watch the news hoping to find the names of those injured in the attack. Who do we recognize? What can we do from thousands of miles away?

But most of all we want to know, is everyone all right?  The answer is no. None of us will ever be “all right” again.

Tragedies, disasters and heartbreaks have the capacity to change us forever. That is the meaning of dissolution. From the ashes in the Colorado mountains, a new forest will grow. From the pain and loss in our hearts, a new person will emerge.

I am starting to believe that asking for compassion is a spiritual bypass of the worst order. Oh I feel so terrible for the poor children, and even the confused young man who did this. Let’s get a latte and meditate.

We have all survived a terror in our lives. If we are awake, if we are open to it, it will change us. We will probably feel sadness, fear, anger and/or depression. I am starting to believe that only in a kind of numbness will we skip all those stages and go directly to compassion.

Years ago, I was a young reporter on vacation in Florida when I looked up into the sky to watch the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Watching the explosion unfold it was hard to understand what we were seeing. Is that smoke normal? Are there supposed to be puffy white plumes circling down from the sky?

This is how tragedies happen: v.e.r.y. s.l.o.w.l.y. Even the tragedies that take just seconds to unfurl, those seconds will turn into eons in your life where nothing is ever the same again. I watched the smoke in the sky not understanding it at all. Then the phone rang; it was my editor. He wanted to know how fast could I get my copy into Knight Ridder, and all I could think in my numbness was “For what?”

The initial story took just a few minutes to write. There was a space shuttle carrying seven people and the hopes and dreams of a nation. Then it was gone.

Overwhelmed by grief and confusion, I went down to the ocean the next day to sit and digest what I had seen. There were children playing on the sand as the waves lapped up debris to the shore. A little boy held up something and said, “Daddy, what’s this?” We turned to look at the prize in his chubby little hand. Then we realized it was a finger.

That was an award winning story for me. Yes, I capitalized on the body parts of the Challenger crew as they washed to shore. But there was a big price to pay for having been there. Again, once you survive something like this, you are never “all right” again.

The photographers were the first to suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, as they trained their lenses on the unfolding tragedy for days and days. The reporters were next. I had nightmares and anxiety for years. To this day, I am not the same person for watching planes in the sky, or the waves at the shore. I see the possibility of very bad things. I am not “all right.”

Tragedies become part of us, they are interwoven in the fabric of who we are. I doubt there is a person in the world that will walk into a movie premiere in a mall again without looking over their shoulder or around the room for, what? The boogey man? It is hard to know what he or she will look like, or why the smoke unfurls in the sky, or why the sea gulls gather frantically at the waves.

People are saying we need compassion, and better gun control laws. I actually agree. But first, it’s okay to admit that we are not alright. I am mad, and sad and terrified to let my children go to the movies. Frankly, I’m overwhelmed with grief that Colorado, one of the most beautiful places on Earth, seems to be burning to the ground.

Before I’m ready to offer up compassion, I hope I learn something from this terrible mess. From the pain and loss in our hearts, I hope something better, wiser and stronger emerges. That would be the lesson of dissolution, so that the lives of all those young people are not wasted as we bypass the messiness of life in our eagerness to be “okay.”


Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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About Michelle Marchildon

Michelle Berman Marchildon is the Yogi Muse. She’s an award-winning journalist, and the author of Finding More on the Mat: How I Grew Better, Wiser and Stronger through Yoga. Her second book, Theme Weaver: Connect the Power of Inspiration to Teaching Yoga, is for yoga teachers who want to inspire their students. Michelle is a columnist for elephant journal and Origin Magazine and a contributor to Teachasana, My Yoga Online and Yoga Journal. She is an E-RYT 500 with Yoga Alliance and teaches in Denver, Co where she is busy raising two boys, two dogs and one husband. You can follow her on Facebook at Michelle Marchildon, The Yogi Muse. You can find her blog and website at And you can take her classes on


8 Responses to “Not Ready To Forgive.”

  1. Annie Ory says:

    The growth and peace that comes to us through suffering and tragedy, called Post Traumatic Growth by mental health professionals, comes through and after grief. That said, how close you are to a tragedy, and how often it occurs, impact how much you need to grieve.

    Since vaccinations and anti-biotics have kept most people alive much longer than was once possible, people rarely know anyone who dies, who isn't old. My grandmother buried 9 of 11 children. She and her generation, who lived through a great global depression and 2 world wars, polio and other diseases, knew death with an intimacy we do not. Of course she loved all her children the same, and of course she grieved all of their deaths, but her grief process was faster and easier on her heart and soul as time went by. She knew she would live. She knew it would pass. She had already grown, and had learned to remember that life is precious and short and that people die and our job is to carry on.
    Yes, grieve. You need the time you need for that. Be in the experience of this loss. And you are right, it is not just a loss of life. It is a loss of the belief, albeit false, that we are safe. But also remember, it isn't completely false. The world as WE know it, white Americans living in nice neighborhoods with our computers and our discount card at Whole Foods and a membership to a nice yoga studio and our Volvos, IS mostly safe.

  2. cathy says:

    I wish I understood the seemingly underhanded jab at many people in your last sentence. I really appreciate the article and the truth.. ¨that we can not be or become all right i just in an instant¨¨. There is a need for grief and questioning for anyone, whether they have a discount fo rWhole Foods or buy from Target.


  3. bernieb says:

    Yes. Thank you.

  4. edie swensen says:

    F—k the NRA. I'm not all right, either, Michele. Appreciate this.

  5. Michelle Marchildon says:

    Wait a minute…. You have a discount card to Whole Foods? Where do I get one? I am grieving anew.

  6. Emma Magenta says:

    The contribution of this perspective to the yoga/"spiritual" community is invaluable. May we grow ever more adept at facing tragedy and loss instead of bypassing it.

  7. SQR says:

    The term "compassion" is not automatically a pass for behavior society finds abhorrent. No matter how "enlightened" the rest of us are, it will still be necessary to segregate dangerous people from the rest of society, and it will still be necessary for law enforcement to have deadly force available among it's other tools. But by practicing some compassion, we might be able to eventually achieve a society in which less of this tragedy occurs. If you want to be angry and engage in retribution you'll have lots of support and sympathy right away, but if you want a better place for your kids you might want to think about the cycle all that anger and retribution perpetuates….

  8. Larry says:

    One of the scariest things for me, about the horrendous cinema shooting was the fact that up until he fired the trigger he had not broken any laws. Gun control laws may not be the perfect solution, but surely 'the right to bear arms' was written at a different time for a different country…..