Feeling the thing we fear

Last week I started crafting a blog about the heaviness of the asylum seeker crisis, of seeing little boys that could have been my nephew lying dead on the sand and how I feel like all I write about is that heaviness and how to carry it (perhaps this is my occupational hazard).

I was going to write about the amazing women I spent a few days with at a retreat where raw honesty brought healing and was celebrated in a lush setting with catering by chef who has worked with Jamie Oliver.
I started writing about holding darkness and light in opposite hands and how not engaging with pain, your own or the world’s, doesn’t make life easier, it sort of just removes you from reality and makes it so much harder when your bubble bursts.
Putting it all down helps me make some sense of it all because I still find it all so hard to accept, a world with such unbearable suffering, where people groups, religions and political parties are right with such certainty and their opposers so wrong, causing hatred, war and conflict on so many levels.
I had lots of words and some lovely pics and planned to post them over the weekend.

Then on Thursday morning, we heard that a year 10 girl at one of the schools where we work in rural Fiji had been attacked and killed on her way home the day before. Her father was in hospital with injuries sustained from trying to protect her from a crazed cane cutter and her mother was beside herself with desperation. A group of her friends who were on the same bus home saw it happen and the perpetrator ran free (he has now been apprehended).

It took my breath away. As I spoke to our coordinator and heard the grief and fear in her voice, I was shaking, hiding away in a room at work trying to hold it together. I could picture the faces of the girl and the students who witnessed it all, I could see the road, the bus, the community.

We know that school well, we have supported girls there right from the start of a Girl & her world. The principal and his wife are huge advocates for girls’ education and work closely with us to identify the needs. Recently when a group of our supporters from the German International school in Sydney went to visit, they opened up their community for a valuable time of cultural exchange. Their girls taught the German students how to cook Indian curry and roti and they painted tee shirts together and danced.

Their school is grieving, we have offered to support them to provide local trauma counselling for the students, which may prove to be challenging in a rural area with no mental health services. We will walk with them through this painful journey and feel inadequate that we can’t do more to lighten the load.

But that’s the thing with pain, it demands to be felt.

There is no easy way to avoid it, grief is not for the faint hearted, it requires the strength of an ox and a commitment to the long haul. We can numb it and compartmentalise, drink, get high, form addictions to distract us, but yet there it is, waiting to writhe its way out of our hearts, kicking and screaming. That’s the part we fear.

And we are all grieving something, disappointment, abuse, broken dreams, loss, unfulfilled potential. I feel freer in my forties than I have ever felt but am aware that it doesn’t take much to reconnect with sadness and as I wrote about in my last blog, when we are given permission to grieve publicly over an event that affects us all in some way, the floodgates often open up a surge of emotion.

I gave myself permission to be sad at the $&*@$ up state of the world this week, the precious young life that was taken, the refugee crisis, pain and injustice, the powerful and arrogant towering over the poor and vulnerable, all the things that make me angry and motivate my work.
I also continued to find joy at the way I had just last weekend witnessed a group of women letting go of some way too heavy burdens. They chose to move bravely through the writhing of grief and pursue freedom. Then we drank champagne!

Sadness and grief are scary to face, but if we numb the darkness, we also numb the light. We have to feel the thing we fear so we can also feel life’s great joys and experience its beauty. There is a time to weep, but also a time to dance.

If you would like to help us support our friends in Fiji to process their loss, you can give here.

We are so grateful for this great community of people who are on the journey with us and support the Girls in Fiji in so many ways.

Jane for team ‘a Girl & her world’
*If you need help processing your own loss or sadness, here are some organisations you can reach out to beyond blue and lifeline both have free phone services.

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