I stepped in to launch a book on grief earlier this week and wanted to share my words here too.
Thank you. I’m here tonight in place of Karen’s friend Senator Wendy Askew. Wendy is in quarantine after returning from Parliament in Canberra late last week and sends her very best wishes on the launch of Karen’s book A Grief Revealed.
As an author myself I understood what Karen meant when she said the idea for this book presented itself to her. Despite grieving the loss of her two daughters, Sarah and Ileana, for almost three decades, last year Karen realised there was still an overwhelming sense there was something she had not worked through yet. She acknowledged 2020 had been a really hard year for her, and she really missed her daughters.
Thinking deeper about this “something”, Karen was reminded Sarah would have been 40 this year, that Sarah and Ileana may have become mothers themselves and how she would have been a grandmother to these children. Karen realised she was grieving her “lost possible self”.
Reading Karen’s book made me reflect on times of grief in my own life: the deaths of grandparents, and of friends; but also grief associated with relationships that didn’t turn out as I had imagined, a career that has taken an extremely windy road and physical limitations that stem from a traumatic accident last year. I came to understand a concept I hadn’t ever really considered, but had experienced, in disenfranchised grief.
As Karen told me when we met, grief is so much more than the death of a person. Her use of the word “revealed” in her book’s title represents the hidden grief that is not considered by others – or even us – to be important enough to warrant the feelings of sadness, anger, shock and all the other emotions that go with grief.
However, disenfranchised grief can still have a profound impact. Consider, for example, what has happened in the past 18 months during the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses have closed, people have missed seeing their friends and family for milestone events, those who were going to start a new life elsewhere have had to put plans on hold, students learned to study at home, with their parents as teachers. We all have stories like this.
I recently graduated from the University of Tasmania and, during my graduation ceremony, Professor Victoria Carrington spoke of the perseverance, passion and triumph our graduating class had exhibited during the pandemic. She said:
As I observe the world around me, and I try to understand what I am experiencing, it seems to me that some of the anger and frustration we’re starting to see breaking through in parts of the world, including parts of Australia, reflects a grieving process. Grief at the loss of a world we all thought we knew and understood; grief at the loss of the futures we all had plotted out for ourselves and our families; and anxiety at what is to come.
In considering what Karen has written in this book, Professor Carrington’s words during her university address and through watching one of my best friends grieve the very recent death of her mother, I wonder at the way we approach grief as a society.
How many times have you considered that there should be a prescriptive time frame for grief, or a number of stages we move through to a logical conclusion, at the end of which you are done with grief? What I do know is that we all experience grief differently, and rather than grief diminishing over time, it’s more like finding a way to live with the loss and how it has changed you.
Karen’s book, A Grief Revealed, offers readers comfort in the knowledge the author has trodden the path of grief – and has a number of suggestions to help others on that path, namely journaling. Karen’s own story of grief is explored in an honest and refreshing way.
And her clients have been willing to share their experiences with grief too, each one expressing their grief at the loss of their potential selves: as fear, as a giant needle, a box, an enveloping fog, a towering man and even an old friend. And sharing the tools they have used, like exercise, support from a “grief midwife”, dreams, strength, forgiveness and letter writing.
Grief is personal to each of us, and to each of us it represents a loss that demands to be honoured. In Mark Twain’s words, “Nothing that grieves us can be called little: by the external laws of proportion a child’s loss of a doll and a king’s loss of a crown are events of the same size”.
So, tonight, let’s celebrate Karen’s book A Grief Revealed. Congratulations Karen!
Find out more about Karen Mace at karenmace.com