Good Grief

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Two Korean deep-fried pancakes I bought on the evening of my brother's death. One for each of us, but I had to eat them both.
Two Korean deep-fried pancakes I bought on the evening of my brother’s death. One for each of us, but I had to eat them both.

What a week for Sydney. Good grief. This is not to quote Lucy from the Charles Shulz cartoon series ‘Peanuts’, but a reflection on what it means to grieve well.

A friend of mine works nearby the Lindt Cafe has provided a commentary to how events have unfolded. Not a commentary like the media have made, and not a commentary about ‘Left v Right’. It was a very welcome series of personal reflections.

Her commentary has been about the human experience, from the time she heard about the incident while she was in her office at work, worrying about what she had left undone after vacating her office to the safety of home, to her own reflections about the concern and then horror that gripped the world united as the brutal final minutes unfolded.

Returning to work, she has described the sea of flowers in words and photos, opening a space for others to speak into as well. As she does that, the commentary turns to what other people are doing all across Martin Place and Sydney as if to observe them, and they all in their own petrie dishes of experience themselves.

This is but a snapshot of the grieving process we are all going through. But why do we grieve? It wasn’t us in the cafe. Why do we lay the floral tributes? They were unknown to us. These are beautiful gestures, and gives us a view of the full palate of human response.

Another friend dropped a lovely note into this conversation to this effect:

Grief, individual and collective, is a singularly unique experience. Some do it with dignity, some don’t know how to do it and some just exploit others.

The irony that this floral tribute is taking place in Martin Place bookending the Cenotaph at the George Street end is not lost on me either.

Understanding grief is probably right up there with understanding death for many Western cultures. Death and grief are no strangers to us. We know it. But it is to use the words of my other friend, they are also ‘a singularly unique experience’.

For me, this all happened in the wake of my brother’s death last week. Reflecting on my own response to his death has taught me a lot, and shown me more than I knew about family.

The night my brother died, I wandered around Seoul going to places where I could have visited with my brother if he ever had the opportunity to come there with me. The picture at the top of this blog is of two Korean deep fried pancakes which I bought: one for me and one for him. I had to finish both.

That sea of flowers. An enduring image that will last long after the flowers fade away.

We should strive to ensure our grief is a good experience. Good grief.



2 thoughts on “Good Grief

    Fay said:
    December 18, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    A thoughtful post; I walked past the flowers in Martin Place for the first time early this morning, just as Premier Baird was being miked up to say how proud of Sydneysiders he was. I’d found the previous week challenging and sad for various different reasons and then Monday was suddenly frightening and then sombre, and Tuesday so sad. On Wednesday I discovered I knew the father and uncle of the cafe manager and this morning a friend phoned to tell me a mutual friend had died overseas. In the midst of life there are these bloody big reminders to live, keep living, live well, because they can’t any more.

      Pathfinder responded:
      December 18, 2014 at 3:19 pm

      What a great reminder Fay. To live, keep living, and live well because they can’t. And so we shall.

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