Sitting with emptiness and grief

The following story comes from my pastoral care work in the local hospital. Sitting with emptiness and grief inspired this piece. The patient name has been changed to protect privacy and confidentiality.

Lying still like a corpse with dark glasses and an instinctual glance when she senses me enter the room, Olivia is in hell. She doesn’t have anything to share, to eat, drink, say, or do. This is despair yet I only realise it after I return to the Pastoral Care room. We sat in silence for about half an hour. Occasional comments about how her life is awful. Her worry that no one will put out the trash. “I know all that” whenever I speak about healing the spirit.

Walked in in the dress she is wearing. No energy for a shower, Not happy at the predicament of being force fed. But determined not to take in nourishment. As I get up to leave, she has taken off the dark glasses and she meets me eye to eye saying

“I am empty, hollow, nothing means anything to me”

But I turn and walk away.

We are empty, hollowed out by the loss of this beautiful, peaceful life. The country, sea, river, mountain, sky that has bred and nurtured us is being destroyed by the greed and violence of capitalism. We are losing hope and living with sadness and despair.

Grief is a constant companion as we try to find our next breath.

The lives of millions are at risk from starvation, war, flood, fire, sea rise, and earth quake. This Armageddon is real. We are in trauma and the lightness and joy of innocent hopefulness has been drained from our hearts. And so we weep. We fear what is about to happen as the wind blows more powerfully, smashing us into each other. The value of our currency is leaking like a sinking ship.

Every attempt to find an answer meets with defeat. We are empty and we have forgotten how to feed our spirit. We have lived so long devoid of a spiritual awareness that we are hollowed out like burnt toast. There is nothing nourishing us from within.

This is grief. When the future is unthinkable and the past is too painful to exist.

We have an inner core sense of being alive that was born when we took our first breath. This consciousness can be manipulated and changed by life. It is a fragile thread that links us to our ancestors and to our destiny. We exist as long as we accept responsibility for the self that develops along this thread of life.

Our actions, thoughts, and feelings shift in constant motion around and around this indefatigable sinew of spirit.

The culture that raises us can really colour what we do with this gift. If we are born with black skin, life can be wonderfully connected with the earth and family and nature. We manage our obligations and morality according to the values implanted in us by our Elders. We respect and care for each other and the living body of the earth into which we emerge on our spiritual journey.

But if our skin is pale and our values informed by hatred, superiority, greed, and exploitation, our life can be miserable and destitute of peace. We war with each other and invade our neighbour’s land with disrespect and hunger. The insatiable unknowingness of our existence seeks to dominate, assimilate, and integrate “lesser” peoples. In our arrogance, we have missed the step and we are falling into the abyss of our Hadean age. We are returning to our source rather than evolving into our future.

The answer is collaboration.

The answer is collaboration, which involves listening to each other. Learning how to listen and how to be heard are the two most necessary skills for the 21st century. We must be able to communicate. Instead of being rail roaded into acting and reacting to the loudest voices, we need to stop and hear what the soft spoken people have to say.

We must learn how to sit with emptiness and listen to our grief.

Our chance to speak the truth

As we listen to the voices of First Nations people in Australia, we recognise that they speak the truth.

Noel Pearson’s 2022 Boyer lecture is an inspiring and uplifting articulation of the case for voting yes in the upcoming referendum. In her 2022 Charles Perkins oration, Larissa Baldwin, CEO of Getup, characterised the referendum as a vote for freedom.

Supporting the Uluru Statement from the Heart represents a powerful opportunity for collaboration.

We must learn to communicate with undecided voters and listen to their concerns while guiding them to vote yes.

If you would like to learn more about this topic, please leave a comment below.

If this post has raised issues for you, please call Lifeline 13 11 14 or book a Grief Counselling session with me.

Kindly, Tessa

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