Saturday, 19 October 2013

Grief (part one)

I had thought about not writing this. Or starting a new blog with a different title, or a different theme, and put my less than joyful posts in there. Perhaps to separate talk of grief and death from the loveliness and brightness of my posts about Layla and our beautiful family. Perhaps to spare you from the details of what is essentially a private time in our lives. And perhaps to allow death to stay hidden in the box that we, as a Western Society, keep collectively stashed behind things that are shinier, and lovelier and more pleasant to think about. But life is life. And although I am very positive and blessed to have the life that I do, death and grief is a part of life, and like some brave bloggers before me, I think it is important not to gloss over life events that are normal, and eventually affect all of us.

Almost two months on, the grief is still raw and unflinching after the death of our Nonna. A woman, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who was not just an accessory in the life of our family but a central part of everything we did. Throughout these last 7 weeks I have come to understand how and why people are driven to start organisations and charities, to fundraise and march, in the wake of the loss of somebody you love and miss so dearly. Because the finality of death is something that is almost impossible to grapple with. Especially in a time and age when death is so far removed from our lives, we would do anything to prevent the finality of it, and to preserve and share the memories of people who only we remember with love.

In her renowned work 'Death and Dying' Elizabeth Kubler-Ross talks about how death used to be intrinsically entwined with the fabric of life, and that the loss of this has made coping with death infinitely more difficult in present times. In the past, people would ail and age in their homes, nursed by their families. At the end of life you would pass away in the comfort of your home, where your family would often bathe you and take care of your body. Your body may stay in your home for a number of days while your family commenced wearing black, praying or carrying out their own cultural rituals, and this process of mourning would continue for a good period of time. You may be buried at the back of your family property, perhaps under a significant tree that could have been planted to commemorate your birth. People saw death and lived with death because it was a part of life. And as a part of life, it was accepted and normalised. Children saw death and accepted it in the way that they accepted birth or any other natural event. It was normal and people knew it well.

In contrast, death as we know it now is more stylised, dramatic, horrible, horrific and scary. Why? because the deaths that we are most familiar with are television and dramatic movie deaths. Death in our daily lives is minimalised, hidden, and often (tragically) trivialised in relation to how close you were to the person or how much your life should be affected by their loss. And I have found this particularly true, in a culture where grandparents are often not the focal point of family life, however I will address this in a future post. Many people age in nursing homes, out of the view of the general public, and die in hospital, at which point they are removed to a third location (not the family home) in order to make funeral preparations. The rituals surrounding death and mourning are most often limited to taking a day (or perhaps two) off from work, wearing black for the day of the funeral, and crying for one or two weeks intermittently (at least, in public) before resuming your life as before. There is limited room for extended mourning such as in cultures like some Australian Aboriginal families and communities that take whole weeks off as a family, to conduct 'sorry business'. There is limited room for discussion of death, as it is seen as a negative and difficult part of life that is best avoided. And as such, grieving in our culture and at this time, is perhaps more difficult than grieving in cultures or past times, where death has been more integrated with life, and mourning has been more accepted as a process which takes time.

Having said that, I will be addressing death and grief throughout my posts perhaps for the rest of this year, and maybe some time after that. But they will be intertwined with blogging about the more lovely, shiny parts of life, just as death slots seamlessly and silently into daily life as we know it. Perhaps because I am not comfortable with stashing the memories of my incredible Nonna in a box behind more lovely things, because she was one of our most loveliest things. And in the absence of a beautiful big tree to place her under, on our family acreage, this is how she will be remembered.  

No comments: