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The Rhythms of Grief

My soft hearted 26 year old and I teared up in the kitchen a few days ago. We were talking about how to live with our hearts ripped open.

How to see little brown girls (she was once a little brown girl) killed by bombs on Instagram and scroll through to ads for make-up and hair products.

It’s something I’ve been struggling with too and have deliberately been quieter than I would usually be, having come from a long career in the international humanitarian sector. Quieter because it’s not my voice that needs to be amplified, and we’re not ok on social media and in the public space, we’re not coping with this divisive dichotomy – post relentlessly (and feed a hate-filled algorithm) or get shamed and cancelled. I want no part of that ugliness.

So I have IRL conversations, I donate, I sign petitions, I read to learn. I become more comfortable being guided by non-Western voices in how to navigate grief on this scale and how to move forward. We must check our own internalised racism and how we tend to centre our own perspective.

We (as white and Western) must let go of the idea that we are the arbiters of values and morality, the leaders in bringing peace.

I have been thinking a lot about the side that was chosen for me growing up in fundamentalist Christian spaces and how much I have had to unlearn, how lacking in understanding I have been.

My humanity pulls me toward grief, I am heartbroken at the suffering I see and am forcing myself to witness. I tend to my own trauma stewardship so I can enlarge my capacity to feel it and bear it with the global community.

And of course, this type of devastation has always been with us, just so much more present to us as the world has become smaller, as our access increases. We can find our role in responding, but what do we do with it? How to we find a rhythm for this sort of grief? How do we carry it?

In short, I don’t know. But I suspect it’s like the way we grieve when losing someone we love, perhaps with a different sort of complexity. And what I do know is that we need breaks from what we see on our small screens, we need to release ourselves from saviourism, it’s not our job to save the day. Certainly not if we are white and Western.

My daughter and I talked about visualising the vulnerable people who have been killed as now being free, of suspending our ingrained or imagined ideas about what happens when we die, and allowing ourselves to believe in freedom from pain.

I light candles and I seek out art and poetry. I bought a book by an artist who was banned from her story. I follow the peacemakers.

I listen to the voices of people who know how to heal in community, to share meals and music and laughter in spite of the heaviness. I breathe into the pain in my body, I dance, I nurture the parts of me that grieve this horror but also feel the grief of my own tender spots this horror is pressing on.

I pick a flower from the garden and imagine giving it to a displaced woman, connecting with her. I resist whataboutism, othering, and choosing tropes and narratives to shame those who disagree with me. I try not to suppress my emotions (like anger and rage) and let them work their way through my system. Did you know a life cycle of an emotion is about 90 seconds?

This type of grief is often so hard because we feel like we must do something to remedy the pain of others but feel powerless. We are split between going about our day and knowing people are living an actual nightmare. If we haven’t lived this type of horror we can only try to imagine the longing for peace.

But we can enlarge our capacity to feel. I think this may be what we struggle with the most. Feeling. It’s uncomfortable.

With creativity and softness, we can live one hand on our heart and the other outstretched. We can find our own rhythm of grief and let it ground us and lead us to action in service of others.

Reach out if you need support to process this grief or would like to connect.

I see clients in Marrickville Thursdays and Saturdays and online (Telehealth) other days.

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