Tuesday, September 14, 2021

It Comes and Goes in Waves

Today’s blog is about two things and comes off the back of a clinical supervision session I had yesterday with a woman I have been working with in supervision for several years.  She is an awesome professional and inspired this little piece. The first topic that springs here from my conversation with her, is the place for work when you are struggling with a personal issue. It’s not just a distraction from the stress you are going through, that work can provide.  It is also the relief from the stressful even or situation and an opportunity to take-ones-mind-off having to be steeped in that, if only for the few hours of a working day. Recently when I was back at work very shortly after my sister’s death, many people surprised at my presence at my desk (albeit through a video platform), would ask why I was at work – to which I replied how at that moment in time, it helped my wellbeing to be in the workspace. 

Of course, a reasonable concern that must be considered (and addressed) is whether or not I was  fit to work and did the death of my sister impact negatively on the job and tasks I was being paid to do. In answer, I believe I was able to fulfil the requirements of my work and role and I sought feedback from those whom I was working closely with.  The work and what it required, took me away (albeit only for the number of hours I worked that or any other day) from the pain I was going through. 

My focus became the job at hand, not the loss that had just occurred in my life. There was also however, a limit to my capacity and ability to work. Some days, I simply could not face sitting at my desk, tuning into a zoom or teams meeting, or immersing myself in a 200-page document that required review and therefore a deep level of extended concentration. Some days the politics of working in an organisation, was also not within my coping mechanisms. The trick was knowing when to step away. When to say I can’t work today, I need time out.  This beautifully expressed and with a high degree of self-awareness, but my supervisee as “I had to just not work”.  For me, it was a combination of physical and emotional weariness that signalled the need to take a break, or to not work.  And always, those  to whom I reported in the organisation I was working for, gave a  resounding, “we understand, take care”. 

My supervisee found peace in her garden, with her animals and in the healing that came from giving herself to what she was going through and the space and time to do it.  Through time out, time-to-self, and time away from the desk – one recovers.  The waves of emotion and the impact of the stress or grief beneath the emotion, become more manageable, less frequent over time. 

The second topic from the supervision session yesterday, is the how the stress and its impact on functioning is always transient. It passes, it changes. The angst of the moment, the sadness, the awfulness of emotion doesn’t last.  And, though we know that for some, if and when the awfulness does endure, there is something more seriously amiss. Something that requires more active intervention. But, when there is still the movement of emotion, that is supported by an awareness and attention to the healing required, there is change and there is growth.

Right now, there’s a song in my head – it comes and goes in waves – by Dean Lewis. That’s indeed how it can be, how the journey of my own grief has been. I wrote a little piece last year while struggling through the second lockdown in Victoria and inspired by something my sister Libby said – tomorrow the sun will rise. It reminds of the transience my supervisee was talking about. It comes, you’re in it, it’s awful and you might think it will never end. But it will. 

Tomorrow the Sun will Rise

The way you feel today, is the way you feel today.

Tomorrow things will be different.

I know today it might feel like there might not be a tomorrow, 

Or that things couldn't get worse, and this is really bad,

Or it feels like this has been forever.

But, it won't last - 

nothing does; there is always an end.

Good or bad,

circumstances will change.

So, take it for what it is, 

Keep one foot in front of the other.

Keep marching, keep working, keep hoping - if that’s what helps you.

Just don't give up.

Do give in though - to the knowing that,

Tomorrow the sun will rise. 

Thank you to my supervisee and my sister Libby, for the inspiration


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Getting Out Of My Head

For those who have a propensity like me to live inside my head, you'll understand this can be an important way to make sense of what is going on around us, and in the world. We all have ways of working stuff out and the need to make meaning of and in our lives is an innate human trait.  But I also know that if I stay in my head for too long, and too often, I can over-think and complicate something that should actually be simple.  And, I can forget to reach back out into the world, to seek connection and feedback from others.  The meaning making that normally helps me understand what’s going on, can become isolative, destructive, and depleting.  

At this time in many of our worlds, there is so much lockdown fatigue and ill ease because we are missing out on those hand-to-hand, face-to-face, touching each other connections.  So, the getting-outside-of-ourselves, or even just out of the house or wherever you live,  is so important for our wellbeing and health.  So too, is continuing to find ways to have contact with others. 

Sometimes I catch myself, as I did this morning on my bike ride - a distance down the road before I realised, I had been absent from my journey and was stuck in thought about something that had happened yesterday, or last week, or last year. Or when are we getting out of lockdown. Or what were the numbers for today?

So, on a dusty unsealed road, not far from my house, in this little place called Somers, I stopped.  Got off my bike and looked at what was around me. Did a 360 and a big breath in.  Saw the open paddocks, the cows, the birds, the wind dancing through the trees. Farms houses in the distance. Big blue sky.  Fluffy clouds, huffing and puffing, pushed along by a southerly, no doubt. What a sight, what a place, in which I am lucky to live. How humble, how small, and how grateful I felt. 

I then got back on my bike (pushing through the southerly). I went home and joined a wonderful group of people, albeit on zoom, come together for the pleasure of playing ukulele. Thank you, friends, for taking me outside myself and bringing me so much joy. 


Friday, September 10, 2021

Rituals and Tradition


Writing this piece today, I feel somewhat self-indulgent, in world still reeling from the recent horror in Afghanistan and the on-going mortality and loss of this awful pandemic - my own recent distress and grief following the death of my eldest sister, seems to pale.  However, I feel moved to connect through my writing and no matter how small in this universe, there is always something to be shared and gained even through life's every-day small yet big events.  

It is accepted that the experience of grief is unique to the individual. While being a journey that many know and may share at the same time, how we travel and navigate the loss of those we love can be as different as night and day. In my culture (and many others), we have rituals and traditions that support the journey of grief. The rituals and the traditions we pass down through the generations help us express and  accept what has happened. Through the loss, there is much to be gained, much to share, much to let go of.

I made it across the ditch for some of my sister's tangihanga (funeral ceremonies) just before the recent Victorian lockdown that we are still in. While not physically present for her actual funeral service, burial, and the Maori ceremonies for those rituals (though there, on zoom), I did have 3 special days with her in Wanaka  immediately following her death.

What I write or feel today, barely touches the surface of what happened, or the ground beneath.  The connections made through the sharp and raw pain, following the loss of our family matriarch, our tuahine (sister) and the value of sharing that with others is powerful and restorative. 

I look forward to a process that helps me order the words I have created from those shared experiences, into stories and prose about my sister's life, her death, and how I travel the road ahead without her love. For the moment, much of what I write is still disordered or only forming and I know this is part of the journey.

Having said that, what brings me to the page today, is the need to acknowledge and unpack the healing from death, that comes through expression, ritual, ceremony, tradition and sharing. So many ways to do this. So many methods and mediums. No one right way, but a multitude.  And the rituals and ceremonies I have learned and practised through my life, will endure. That they have been passed down beautifully, lovingly, with care and respect, through the generations, is true and real, and will continue.

So, as I sit now, still with so much life of my own to live, while holding the experience that my dearest sister's is no longer, I of course ponder my own ending. That too is part of the journey. 

Thursday, September 9, 2021



In a sunset I seek the calm,
from a weary day at my desk
Along the sand I tread in silence,
the coming twilight, up ahead.

This place I can rely on,
to unwind and prepare for rest.
The pace of a work-day now behind me,
in a covid lock-down, 
lest I forget -
The beauty that surrounds me,
only minutes from my door.
As the waves lap my ankles,
I know I am a lucky one,
to be here on this shore.