by Chris Hoover Seidel and available here
As the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues to rage on, Chris Hoover Seidel reflects on how she has learned to handle her own grief, while also holding space for those grieving around her.
Chris Hoover Seidel lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia, with her husband, Tim, and her children, Kai and Phoenix. Chris works as a spiritual director through Soulence and is part of the Mennonite Spiritual Directors Network. She assists with Eastern Mennonite University’s Sacred Pauses class and helped lead an EMU Intercultural Program to Palestine and Israel in May and June. She serves her local community by working to end family homelessness, through her work as executive director of Bridge of Hope Harrisonburg-Rockingham. She attends Shenandoah Valley Church of the Wild. Chris and Tim were co-peace development workers with Mennonite Central Committee from 2004-2007, living in Bethlehem, West Bank, where their son, Kai, was born.
The week of Oct. 7, many friends were checking in to see how my family and I were doing with the news about Gaza. I did what I knew to do — let them know that we were heartbroken but managing, thanked them for checking in and asked how they were. I could already feel myself assuming the position of the space holder. On one hand, I appreciated their thoughtfulness. On the other, I knew that we served as a touchpoint for grief seeking a landing place.
I steadied myself in this position as things got worse. Airstrikes on Gaza are a very real and regular part of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. My husband and I had witnessed the occupation first-hand as MCC peace development workers living in the West Bank. I had walked Gaza’s streets, heard the stories of her people, photographed the rubble and asked people to care. But this October was unlike anything we had ever witnessed. Save the Children reported that “more children had been killed in Gaza in three weeks than the total killed in conflicts around the world every year since 2019.” What was unfolding was utterly devastating.