The grandchildren of the slain minister, Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr., in honor of their grandfather and the eight other victims killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, have initiated both a campaign and a challenge that models an adaptive response to loss and grief. Alana Simmons told CNN’s Don Lemon, “All we’re asking you to do is to show an act of love to someone who’s different from you – someone of a different race, of a different religion, gender, even a different generation.”
While offering a much healthier and productive reaction than those recently demonstrated in other cities, it is intended to heal and “bring together,” rather than to destroy and tear apart. These grandchildren (and, indeed, others in the Charleston community) are revealing some critical characteristics of individuals with a high degree of self-knowledge and of the group healing process. First, they are accepting something that cannot be changed (the loss of their grandfather and the other eight victims). No amount of anger, hatred or destruction will bring them back. Yet, they are taking control and facilitating their own grief process through memorializing their lost loved ones in a cause greater than themselves, giving it a higher level of meaning and providing hope that this tragedy can make a difference on a larger scale. They are contributing to their own necessary closure and “letting go” process, while offering the larger community (and, perhaps, the nation) a more constructive and healthy way to heal and to move on from tragedy and loss. While harboring no illusion that this will end hatred and violence, they are offering us some valuable lessons in responding to loss that will contribute to their own individual adjustment and well-being and also model a more constructive way for others to bring about change.