Grief: Personal and collective
It has been a while, ‘a minute’ as some of younger Generation Z friends might say, since I last wrote here. Unbelievably 8 months of 2021 have already slipped away, grains of sand lost in time. In that space my dad has passed away, I have turned 40, and another IPCC report has been published reminding us all how very close to abyss we stand. 2021 is quickly becoming a year marked by grief.
Personal grief: standing under a new sun
Science fiction writer Octavia Butler once said, “there is nothing new under the sun…there are many suns.” When my dad died – suddenly and unexpectedly – it felt as though the sun I once stood under simply ceased to shine. The warmth drained away and all that had felt so important just a day before his death was immediately rendered meaningless and empty. My dad’s jarring and profound absence stole away the sun. I also felt peace though. I felt peace in his passing with little pain, I felt peace in the understanding he had lived a good life and knew he was loved, I felt peace in my gratitude for having known a good man. But the peace was cold and numb. My bones ache with a peace that doesn’t fully satisfy.
So now it is time to seek new suns. I find myself an exile in a foreign land. A land where a parent is gone and where the one who remains is, like me, a little more broken than they were before May 21 2021.
This very personal grief leaves me reeling but exists in the midst of a larger collective grief humanity seems to be stumbling into.
Collective grief: Our house is on fire
No. I am not talking about the pandemic. I am talking about the far bigger threat to all of us. I am talking about the climate crisis.
Are we standing on the edge of the end of the world? Or, like the suns that burn out in personal grief, are we really just on the edge of this world. There will be other worlds, other realities. Yet, as the scientists spell out for us, we are touching the cloak of an ‘end of days’ scenario brought about by humanity’s greed and poor stewardship of nature. I find myself increasingly choked by this.
My dad brought me into a beautiful world. He encouraged me to see the beauty in the sea that laps the shores where I live, he encouraged me to not just see but feel it all. That world is deteriorating now. 40 years in to my own walkabout on Planet Earth and the very surface of our world is showing scars. The oceans wash up debris. Europe is on fire. My friends in Ethiopia speak of unseasonable seasons. Already we have so much to grieve.
But the sun is not yet extinguished. It still shines. We are not yet dead. And in that is hope.
I am not really ready to write yet. This blog is a rambling mess of words. I am still seeking the right kind of sun to sit beneath for a while. In the mess of this world and this numbing grief I also know I am ready for something new. I am ready to be of service in this thin space between suns.
What do we do when what is familiar is gone, lost, dead?
We grieve. We hold on to hope. We move forwards. We seek new suns.