Do you feel out of sync I’m wondering? Are you sometimes surprised by how it is now, out of the blue?
Did you know you can do a virtual tour of the State Library? When I did it I saw the spot where I often used to work at the Russell Street entrance. I used to drink in the ambiance. Seeing it I almost cried. People who are suddenly bereaved can feel that what’s happened isn’t real. But then they know it absolutely is.
The weight of what’s happened to us, to the world is sombre. It’s all happened so suddenly. A feeling that’s not exactly sadness seems to run beneath my everyday. Perhaps it’s simply awareness of the big changes in and around me. I’ll be going along with a task, not thinking. Then I’m stopped in my tracks. ‘Is it all just a dream?’
No wonder we’re feeling out of sync with ourselves. I’m looking at cards we use in grief and bereavement training. The box says: No Script to Follow.
Out of sync. We’re all doing it differently
Everyone’s doing it differently. I just got off the phone with someone who hasn’t had time to herself in weeks. ‘People say they’re learning a new hobby!’ Hobby? What are you talking about? I’ve got a four-year old, I’m working full-time. I’m flat chat!’ For someone who’s lost all sense of purpose and role through the upheaval it’s totallly different. ‘I’m realising I may never be able to offer those programs again,’ a friend says. She’s in mourning.
Some are on a steep learning curve with online meeting platforms. To others it’s old hat. Some are struggling to learn to stay at home. For others it’s no big deal.
I’m an introvert at ease with quiet and time to do my own thing. But even I’m lonely. I’ve heard a number of extraverts say how much they’re missing company. It’s so quiet! They’re embracing their 20-year old, and posting pics of themselves on Facebook. Why? Not sure. I’m sick of self-isolating. Solitude’s become lonely and at times sad.
It’s an individual journey to find a way of being that fits. Who am I in this new situation? And it’s a group journey navigating different needs and approaches in a household. Turbulent times with moods up and moods down, financial anxieties and the sheer pressure of home schooling.
A friend comes by and we talk across distance. She’s going crazy. Being alone and only having yourself to talk to is awful. How to get through this and stay sane? I text her this link to Lody Njiokiktjien’s sweet cartoons later.
Sometimes we need to turn to someone who cares about us and say what’s churning around inside.
No script to follow, no experts in loss
For most of my life I’ve been part of a culture that turns to experts for answers. People who know stuff that we don’t, who might have the right advice. Right now many great experts are putting out a mass of material to help us through the crisis at work, and in our personal lives. Yet at some level it’s like froth on the deep waters of our un-knowing and uncertain future. Perhaps we know in our heart of hearts that no-one outside of ourselves can help us make sense of this.
It’s the first thing we say in our workshop: there are no experts in loss. There’s no right way to do this time, no script to follow.
The discomfort of having things turned upside down is hard. It’s unwelcome. It’s human to say to oneself: I can’t stand it. I just don’t want to have to deal with this. In shock, loss and bereavement a person is stretched beyond normal limits.
There are times when the universe uses us. It takes time for great upheavals to abate. And people do recover from going through very difficult times.
Making the best of how it is
My friend Lina says she’s ‘trying to work with the limitations of this time’ rather than against them. What might this look like?
I’m appreciating the change of pace. Wow! the details of a snowpea, the gravity of a line of writing, the sweetness of words from a friend. Someone asks on Facebook: ‘Have you noticed that the birds are really loud. They’re having parties!’ This time is a special opportunity for noticing.
It’s good to have practices that settle body heart and mind. So many are talking about the benefits of meditation. Sitting down for ten or fifteen, twenty or thirty minutes without expectations, to suck it and see. If you started a practice a few weeks’ ago and it’s fallen away, be persistent. Get back to it. Or you might want a guided relaxation break or anxiety relief. Try Meditation Oasis
How we speak and how we write make a difference. It’s a time to think about one’s audience in all communications. Are they well supported? Are they alone? Might they be doing it hard, or having an okay kind of a retreat? It may not be the time to be using the words scary, terrifying or chilling in article or email headlines.
How about this for a description of how very big our words can be? Poet Ali Cobby Eckerman talks of the angels coming to appraise the song/in the amphitheatres of our mouths … To my mind Cobby Eckerman is the great Australian poet of lamentation. You can find of her work here .
I do believe that in upheaval people tend to grow, and to come through in their own way. On their own terms. At their own pace. With their own inner resources. There’s no script to follow.
I’m awestruck by the efforts I see everyone around me making. And I’m letting the deli assistant, the post office manager, the market stall owner, and especially the parents know.
** Thanks to my colleague Grant Broadbent-Smith who devised No Script to Follow to respond to the needs of his clients in the Victims’ Assistance Program (VAP) after sudden traumatic bereavement. We have co-led many workshops for workers dealing with clients’ grief and bereavement.