How We Move Forward, After the Supreme Court Devastations

Janet Stilson
Published in
4 min readJun 29, 2022


Photo by on Unsplash, taken in Mallorca, Spain

When I was very young, my older brother died of brain cancer. He was four years old. As you might imagine, this was a deeply shattering experience for my parents. My mother’s way of dealing with it was to repress her feelings under a big flat stone. She rarely mentioned what she and my father went through — all those repeated trips to the hospital, the crushing sense of failure.

She’d already had practice putting that stone in place. When she was about 12, her mother passed away with no forewarning. Afterward, she and her four siblings rarely talked about the feelings this welled up. Or so my Aunt Martha once told me.

Don’t get me wrong: there was much more to my mother than that willpower. Her humor and kindness, her laugh that reminded me of a wild bird. All of this added to the traits of some characters in my sci-fi novel, “The Juice.”

I’ve been thinking about my mother’s way of dealing with intense tragedy more than usual these days in the wake of the Supreme Court’s one-two punch rulings related to the lack of sufficient gun controls and obliterating Roe V. Wade. (And after this post was published, the Supreme Court severely limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to place emission caps on power plants, adding to the sense of gloom for some of us.) If you consider these rulings to be victories, then you may not understand. This post is for those of us who see them as very dark developments.

Many of us are grappling with a sense of pessimism about where the U.S. is headed — and the world, when you pile on other catastrophes like pandemics, climate disasters, famine, and war. We could take my dear mother’s approach to bone-cutting pain and simply hold it all in — or we can rage in the streets, in our communications with elected officials, on social channels. We can worry endlessly. We can be afraid or desperate if we’re a poor, pregnant woman in a state where abortions are banned, or a schoolteacher facing a terrorist with a firearm.

All those reactions are understandable. But those of us who are not in immediate danger or under threat need to do something else. We must deliberately nurture a sense of hope that these situations will change, even when it seems like we’ve scraped the bottom of our capacity to find a positive thought. Even though it means thinking out over a longer period of time than we’d like, when it comes to change.

This is not a state of mind that comes automatically. And its significance was brought home to me recently when I read a social media post composed by my friend (and very gifted writer) Kim Turner, who went through the Writers’ Lab for Women with me. She related how how a nine-year-old neighbor’s birthday party shifted her thinking.

“These kids are here, and they need us to finish the job,” Kim wrote. “I thought about poets who lived through the Dark Ages and the Black Plague, to emerge into the Renaissance. The Dark Ages were a time when humanity was brought low by fervent religious zealots but something beautiful came after. Arguably the most magnificent time of art, thought and examination of our collective world.”

It all comes down to realizing that the current darkness is not “the end” of The Humane Race. And we don’t need to go all the way back to the Renaissance to understand this (although that helps). Think about what Martin Luther King faced, or John Lewis, in their fights against racism, and justice for all. If they hadn’t met all the resistance against what they were doing by deliberately cultivating a sense of hope for a dramatically changed world, would they have been able to accomplish what they did?

Hope must be consumed like vitamins. We must deliberately fortify ourselves — by reading inspiring books, meditating, listening to leaders with the right sense of courage and conviction. For me, taking long walks helps too. More than that, we have to nurture a sense of gratitude for what’s good in the world, no matter how small: that funny kitten looking for a scritch behind the ear, a lovingly prepared meal, a friend who always picks up the phone in times of crisis or celebration.

My mother had tons of hope. She kept a “Geraldine Ferraro for Vice President” bumper sticker prominently displayed long after the 1984 race when Ferraro was on the ticket with Presidential hopeful Walter Mondale. She deeply believed that women’s rights are human rights.

As Kim wrote in her post, “There’s hope. We just have to use our best eyes to see it. We have to look out for each other and be kind.”



Janet Stilson

Janet Stilson’s novel THE JUICE, published to rave reviews. A sequel will be released in May 2024. She won the Meryl Streep Writer’s Lab for Women competition.