There’s no monopoly on grief

A few weeks ago on our ride out to Strathewan, we were approached by a local woman as we stood at the sunflower memorial on the second anniversary of Black Saturday.

Like the bloke at King Lake on the same day last year, she warned us off being in the area and expressed the fact that we had no right to be there on that particular day.

Really? I’ve been riding motorbikes and pushbikes in the King Lake and Strathewan area since I was a kid. The place holds a very special place in my soul and I enjoy every moment I spend there.

I’ve said a number of times since seeing this woman, “It’s like she thinks they have a monopoly on grief.”

It’s clear I don’t agree with her sentiment and I believe whole-heartedly that I had every right to be there.

It’s been an interesting past week for me. I have experienced grief on a number of different levels with “the right” to feel every one of them.

Level 1

On Saturday I raced the Ottway Odyssey 100km mountain bike race… or I tried. It’s one of the most important races of the year for me. I felt as fit and confident as ever and I expected a very good result. At the 35 kilometre mark, through no fault of my own, my bike fatally malfunctioned. Whilst racing strongly in a very good position, my rear derailer exploded and I could go no further.

All that chocolate I’ve resisted. Those hours and hours of solid training. The weight I’ve lost and the money I’ve spent on my bike. All for naught!?

I can still feel the Ottway grief but it’s just a bloody bike race.

Level 2

On the way home from the race I received news that my brother and sister-in-law’s cafe had burnt down in St. Helens Tasmania. It’s razed. They put blood sweat and tears into that place for seven years. It is the heart of St. Helens for many reasons, not least of which is their absolutely brilliant coffee.

Many people will grieve the loss of The Village Store and More.

I returned home late last night after three days in St. Helens helping Nic and Marika through that initial period of grief whilst dealing with a certain amount of my own.

I can still feel the St. Helens grief but it’s just stuff. Nobody died.

Level 3

On my return from Tassie I started hearing the news of the events in Christchurch. Yet another disaster so close to home and so many lives lost.

That grief is still raw. I wish them so much of the best.

It’s easy to start feeling that survivor guilt when observing the news out of New Zealand.

Grief over a bike race? Grief over some property damaged in a fire? What right do I have to feel that?

Every right. Yes, there is perspective and we must put things into it. But there’s no monopoly on grief. Everyone has the right to feel it at every different level and I’m no stranger to it. I speak from experience.

The losses in NZ are beyond comprehension and the secret recipes of The Village Store and more will remain a secret forever…


3 thoughts on “There’s no monopoly on grief

  1. It's a very good post here mate. It is so true that many feel there is a monopoly on guilt (good terminology too). For if no one felt grief except for those directly affected (and define directly too…a blunt approach to that woman could be, “Have you lost every one of your family members, as others have? If not do YOU therefore have the 'right' to grieve?”) then there would be no one to share grief with and each person would bottle up their individual emotions.

    Also, on a purely objective level, I have an issue with those who have this feeling of a monopoly on guilt but are then just as happy to accept public donations (of which we know Australia is arguably the most 'giving' nation in the world when it comes to helping our own.)

    I would like to see this woman's reaction to these points… However I believe the reason she does feel this is due to her own inability to grieve, seek assistance and overcome the loss. For this I feel for her, as this bottling up of grief and emotion will not serve her well in the long term.

  2. Grief is really only understood and dealt with over time when your community around you enters the lament with you. Mate you have obviously had a rough week and by the size of your huge heart you have choosen to enter into the grief and lament of others. By us reading this post we too enter into that lament, not to down play or simplify the range of emotions involved but simply to acknowledge that these events at each level suck and hurt and are an experience of loss. A well expressed post mate!

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