Moral Injury and Grief

A picture of boulders.

Some days can feel like a weight is on our chests, inside of us, welling up, like we don’t know what to do to make things better. Covid 19 is still ravaging the world, so is racism and horribleness.

At this time, you may be wrestling with difficult things in your personal life, or at the very least, with difficult emotions like sadness, loneliness, irritability, anger, fear, frustration. The world is dealing with difficult events, mass deaths from the virus, ongoing murder of black people, violence by the police, the imposing doom of climate chaos and instability within the United States and the world. There is a grief in all of this.

We are also seeing people around the world protesting against systemic oppression. We see people around the world standing up, using their voices for what is right. We are seeing people around the world reaching out and helping each other. We see people being compassionate with one another and showing love. There is hope in all of this.

There is a thing called MORAL INJURY. This occurs when we do something or allow something to happen that we know isn’t right. We see this happen in many different situations. An example would be in war when a soldier acts in a way that is more in line with following orders than it is with their humanity. We saw it when the police knocked down an elderly man who was protesting, injuring him greatly and not helping him up. That is a moral injury of the officers who allowed it to happen. Perhaps, it is also a kind of a moral injury to those who see the act on video with no way of helping the victim.

To work to fix a moral injury, a person must make things right. There are different ways to do that and every situation has different needs around the way to make things better. In a case where a person has killed another person or watched them be murdered, they cannot bring that person back, so they must find other ways to make things better. To add to our grief, we know that, unfortunately, some people will not do that or perhaps don’t know how.

You may have also been a bystander to something at one point in your life where you didn’t take action. That may be a moral injury and you can find ways to heal from it. Right now, exploring the idea of a moral injury and writing about it may not make everything right, but on this blog, we are trying to find ways to have a release of these emotions for ourselves and to find a kind of centering and healing for ourselves. I would say, even around the moral injuries of others.

I would like us to write about moral injury and about grief.


What conversation do you need to have today- and with who- about moral injury? How does it include grief or another emotion? How does it include hope or the strength of people, (maybe even your strength)? You may write about a moral injury you sustained or one that you witnessed on video (we have quite a few public examples which also affect us. They may not be direct moral injuries to us but they affect us as we can almost see the ugliness surrounding them when not healed).

Try to describe the emotions for us rather than naming them, what are they like? How do you see them?

If you need more of a direct way to start, I am going to list a few possible starting points. See if any of them grab you and see if you can write in the direction of addressing moral injury and also grief (about what has been lost).

  • The ancestors saw…
  • Blood on the pavement…
  • On the video I saw…
  • The grief inside me right now…
  • The future I see you in…
  • I would ask you (to)…
  • Now that we are here together…
  • When apology was born, it…
  • It seemed I was alone…
  • It seemed he was alone there…
  • The amount of strength my body holds…
  • The sun still shining, the wind still at war…

Read what you wrote out loud- to yourself, to someone else. Gift your ears your voice reading your words.

If you would like to write to more than one prompt or about something else using the prompt phrases, please do. Sometimes we may go in a different direction than a prompt directs and that is perfectly okay. Hands down, it’s better to go with whatever you want/need to write than to try to bend to the prompt. Just write. Unleash your creativity.

Thank you for being here and writing.

If you would like to write with us every Tuesday, please follow the blog.

Be safe. Be well.


Published by lizawolfffrancis

Liza Wolff-Francis is a poet and writer with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Goddard College who is proud to have served two terms as a member of the Albuquerque Poet Laureate Program’s Selection Committee. She was co-director for the 2014 Austin International Poetry Festival and a member of the 2008 Albuquerque Poetry Slam Team. She has an ekphrastic poem posted in Austin’s Blanton Art Museum by El Anatsui’s sculpture “Seepage” and her work has most recently appeared in Steam Ticket, eMerge, Minute Magazine, Weaving the Terrain: 100 Word Southwestern Poems, Bearing the Mask: Southwestern Persona Poems, Poetic Routes, Poetry Pacific, Edge, and on various blogs. She has a chapbook out called Language of Crossing (2015, Swimming with Elephant Publications), which is a collection of poems about the Mexico- U.S. border. She loves breakfast food, popcorn and dark chocolate.

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