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Monthly Musing: The Tragedy of Inaction

The seasons continue to change and many bright opportunities rest on the horizon of our lives now that some of the stress around the pandemic has lifted. I, for one, have been excited to return to in-person events and keynotes in 2022. However, we are now not only navigating a new world of health protocols but are constantly reminded of the imbalance between peaceful acts that unify communities and harmful violence that destroys them. From Ukraine to Uvalde, many tragedies continue to unfold and we are in a perpetual state of shock from them all. Before we can move forward, we need to be present with our grief and emotions.
The solutions to world peace are not simple, but there are very rational, applicable, and even existing practices that can help curb the potential of such events from happening in the future. This musing starts with the notion of taking action to heal ourselves from the tragic losses we face and how to help support each other through them as well. As the adage states that: “hurt people, hurt people,” the converse can also be true: “healed people, heal people.” The biggest tragedy would be to freeze forever in the face of atrocities instead of grieving and evolving as individuals and as conscious citizens of our communities. This is an opportunity for unifying for the betterment of the world.
As you read on for ways to take action in the healing aftermath of recent events, I invite you to continue reading the Question of the Month to learn more about the actionable steps and resources you can reference to be of service to the larger issues and efforts to prevent violent crimes and wars in this world. There are many organizations and communities in the world that can offer great help!
The Sandy Hook tragedy took the lives of 20 1st graders—only 6 and 7-year-olds, plus 6 adults. Uvalde is a close replica with 19 lives lost by 3rd and 4th graders—merely 9 and 10-year-olds and 2 adults were gunned down in similar automatic gunfire. These young souls had many more years of living to do, and it breaks my heart (as I know it does yours) to see such young souls taken away from us forever. It is a sad, devastating, and avoidable tragedy that continues to occur and I wonder when we will wake up to address it.
As a father of a son who was murdered at the young age of 20, I can relate. You never, ever, get over losing a child. For each of us whom this sort of loss has personally touched, these often-occurring shootings, awaken the emotions of loss and cause one to relive the tragedies over again. In 2021, for the first time in 40 years, we lost more young souls to gun violence than automobile accidents. Every hour we lose a young child to a gun – this must stop!
So, what do we do about it? First and foremost, we must grieve along with the families of the victims. As a culture, we have predominantly lost the benefits of grieving. We either do not let ourselves grieve, do not know how to grieve, or, sometimes, we have so much to grieve about (like we presently do with our current concerns) that we can feel numb. Grieving is medicine.
A Turkish quote teaches us, “Those who conceal their grief do not find a remedy for it.”
In my Sufi tradition, we have a 40-day grieving period. My spiritual guide taught me that my son’s soul stayed close to family and friends during this 40-day period to aid in the grieving process by being nearby. During this time, I had tremendous support from my community who brought breakfast, lunch, and dinner and helped with household chores so that my family and I could actually grieve. We recited prayers every hour and held hands supporting the grieving process. Rituals, prayers, and vigils are all important during these early days and when grief undoubtedly resurfaces.
The victims of this senseless shooting need our support and will continue to need support in grieving for a long time as they navigate the loss of their loved ones. Journaling, spending time with nature, reading spiritual texts, time in communal prayer, and meditation helped me navigate those early days. I could not have come through without the support of my community. The Jewish faith has a similar ritual called sitting Shiva. These rituals from all over the world and all the various faith traditions that are time-tested and thousands of years old desperately need to be brought back into our modern lives.
I remember that I had to repeat the details of that tragedy that took Tariq’s life out loud several times even though the experience of reliving the event by speaking it repeatedly was excruciatingly painful. I now understand that sharing my tragedy was cathartic and healing. There is great power in sharing as validated by a Swedish adage that says, “Shared sorrow is half sorrow, shared happiness is double happiness.” In some rituals, people gather in a circle and state their name and their relationship to the departed as a way of honoring their unique bond and loss to their loved ones. Often in our modern culture, we skip these powerful steps, and the opportunity to release the pain that accompanies the death of a loved one is lost due to inaction.
It is important to “call in the troops” in the form of your friends, family, counselors, and community. We Americans are not great at asking for help—we believe it shows weakness. At times like these, we need all the support we can get. I had no tools to deal with the loss of my only son. I felt my life had ended as well. It is a sign of strength and courage to ask for help. First, from close family members and friends and then from others in the community who may have suffered the same loss and dealt with it in a healthy way. I remember there were many strangers that I met in the aftermath of my tragedy that lovingly and unselfishly supported me. So, do not be shy to reach out… Know that help is there for the asking!
My spiritual teacher also taught me at the end of the 40-day grieving period, that my son’s soul moved to a new consciousness in preparation for its forward journey. In my faith, we believe there is life after death and a continuation of evolving our souls towards enlightenment and unity with the creator. I was further counseled that the “good, passionate deeds done in the name of the departed is ‘spiritual currency’ that provides high octane fuel for the soul’s journey to the next world.”
In other words, when you are ready, transmute grief into service for others so that you, your lost loved one, and society can reap the benefits. That was my inspiration to found the Tariq Khamisa Foundation in my son’s name. TKF does good passionate deeds in Tariq’s name every day creating millions of dollars of spiritual currency to help him finish his journey (hopefully) to the next world, in a rocket. This action also gave me purpose and strength, which I had lost, and still continues to inspire me after 27 years to do good deeds for Tariq. TKF has reached over 2 million children and youth in this time period.
We are witnessing profoundly traumatizing and tragically sad events all over the world, sometimes day to day or week to week. It is imperative that we first take the action to grieve and heal our hearts that bear witness to the world–and then learn to support one another in their healing process. Together, on the other side of our grief and pain, we can unite efforts to stand up against the injustices and violations we have endured to create legislature, systems, resources, and safety nets to reduce and potentially eliminate repeat occurrences of senseless killing.
As the founder of TKF, I am someone who has personally seen people reform their actions, lifestyle, and mindset. Being at the frontlines with our youth helping prevent future killers in our communities, I can offer a glimmer of hope that we can not only heal our own hearts but we can heal the heart of our communities by creating peaceful alternatives.
Peace and many blessings!
Azim Khamisa
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