akamau: My Travel World

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Taking Time-Out to Knock-Out Grief

It is an unusual way to write a post not based on travel-stories but this time I decided to take a little bit of my time to go in a different direction. As I have a very strong passion on social issues, especially on homelessness and injustice society we live in. I try to advocate for people living with grief from personal perspective, especially for friends and those I come across along my pathway. It is all about “Living well with Grief” and “Understanding Grief”. 

As I was serving and talking to a gentlemen in his late 60’s travelling alone. I began to asked him if he was enjoying his time up here in Far North Queensland and why he has chosen this destination? Like all tourists to the Far North, because of the ideal weather condition to get away from cold winter down-south. I began to ask few more questions depending on the outcome of his answer and suddenly he broke down in tears in front of me. His wife recently passed away and they both promised to visit the area prior to her death 12 months ago. It was not about feeling awkward from a stranger but it was about understanding the very experience that a person was going through. I than told him, I am sorry about his loss, I fully understand his emptiness, I have been through that myself and a friend of mine recently lost his wife 12 months ago. I wanted to assure him that he was not alone. It was coincidence, prior to that, I was talking to a lady travelling alone on the train in her late 70’s and during our conversation she mentioned that her husband of 60 years passed away of cancer. She felt that part of her body had been ripped apart. She felt totally empty in her life and wished she had gone to the grave with her husband. It was profoundly heart-breaking for me to hear that from an old lady. However, I was so privileged that I was able to give her the hug-of-comfort. Having a conversation in an unfamiliar environment with these two strangers from totally different backgrounds, living in different parts of the country, never met them in my life and probably will never meet them again but sharing and hearing their difficult moment in life with a stranger had a profound effect on me. This was all part of grief.

Yes, life can have an instant life-changing moment when dealing with the death of someone close. It is a very difficult time in our life but we need to understand and do raises a lot of questions. We need to understand grief:

  • Grief is about loss and comes in many forms – whether from death, separation or divorce, ill health, redundancy, loss of a pet etc
  • Grief is healthy and normal – It is about adjusting our loss and learning to live with the changes it has brought to our life
  • People grieve differently – There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to grieve. It is not about timing, it may take short or long term. 
  • Grieving is up and down – It is not about step-by-step process but it is a journey where we will encounter spiral journey
  • Grief is physical – Feeling of uneasy in our body and physical appearance – from lack of sleep to loss of appetite etc.
  • Grieving doesn’t last forever – but it comes part of our life and finding ways to live with it.
In “understanding grief”, at the same time, we need to understand “living well with grief”. People react differently but I have learnt to understand that through personal experience. It is about giving time to reconstruct themselves and contemplate deeply how grief affects them personally and how awkwardly it impacted on people around them. Yes, everyone will encounter grief and loss, difficulties and suffering in our lives but the challenge is how we manage these times, how we survive, develop resilience and understanding. People don’t have to be judgemental and need to understand that grief is not a neat, step-by-step process that has a set timetable. People will have few good days and then something can bring the grief crashing back. As the saying goes “Never judge a book by its cover”.

As I relaxed at home and reflect on this two strangers sharing their emptiness with me, I began to recall on what I had gone through during my time of need. At the same time, I began to make a contrast between this two strangers loss and the interviews I had with people in palliative care that are approaching their end of life and their loved ones. Suddenly, I had a phone call from a very good friend of mine who lost his wife 12 months ago asking me if I could accompany him to the cinema to watch “Mamma-Mia – Here we go again”. Without any hesitation, I said, Yes, before he could finish his sentence. With profound understanding of grief, I needed to be beside my friend as he grieves. I also needed to spent that few hours with him to ease some of the difficult moments that he is facing now and what he is going through. This whole line of event seemed very freaky to me but with understanding, this wasn’t a mistake. I felt that, they were very comfortable in sharing their grief with me and I felt honoured in some respect, knowing that it is ok to share with someone, even with a stranger. 

This movie is very significant to me and not only it triggered my grief as it was the last movie that I watched with the person that is not around here today but it reminded of me how I enjoyed watching the live broadway show in Westend – London. Yes, it was brilliant to watch it live on stage. The magnificent display of colours, actors, singers, choreography, lighting, transition etc on stage was just mesmerising. What a thrill it was to watch it.

IMG_2606 copy
Westend - London

As we set there watching the movie till the end, it felt like it was a live theatre show. It was just brilliant movie. I felt that it was a right movie to knock-out grief and get hypnotised, which my friend needed it.

From personal perspective: In my travels or work,  I talk with people from all walks of life. I tend to observe everyone around me and make an effort to take a little bit of my time to chat with them. I leave no-one behind during my conversation wether on the train journey or at the station. Everyone may look cheerful on the outside but reality is from the inside. We can only know through when taking a genuine conversation.

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