Death, grief and loss surround us all the time, however this year has been one of extremes.

Amidst a record-breaking heatwave stretching from mid to late 2019 and into the early months of 2020, Australia suffered devastating losses to habitat and wildlife due to raging bushfires.  And according to Filkov et al (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnlssr.2020.06.009), by March 2020 the fires, known as the Black Summer fires, had burnt approximately 19 million hectares, destroyed over 3,000 homes and killed more than 30 people.  The rains eventually came, as they always do, however the loss was profound and was felt deeply by all Australians who collectively mourned and grieved.

Following this devastation, we then watched COVID-19 unfold.  Spreading globally, it raged through communities, cities, countries and before long it arrived on our shores, as we knew it would.  It was an unwelcome visitor to a country and nation already grieving a profound loss.  As a nation we sprang into action, mobilizing, just like we did when the bushfires razed our landscape, to support, to calm, to learn, and to understand.  As with the Black Summer fires, we all watched in despair as the virus spread around the country, claiming lives and leaving sorrow and desolation in its wake.  And we also watched the global impact of the virus, grieving with our international friends and neighbor’s their loss and despair and frustration.

But in the midst of this loss something else began to take place; a closeness, a coming together of strangers, a solidarity in the midst of profound sorrow, and a mutual reaching out from one human being toward another to comfort, to help, to be present.  We saw the strength of our humanity and though our burden of sorrow was great, this mutual outreach touched the heart and lifted the spirit, and even if at times it was only momentary, it was enough.

Michele T Knight Written by:

Dr Michele Knight is a Social Worker, Social Scientist, researcher and independent scholar. Her interest and research in the end-of-life has its origin in the lived experiences of her own bereavements, her near-death and shared-death events, the returning deceased and attitudinal responses to those experiences. Since 2006, she has been extensively involved in community development, support and advocacy in both a professional and community services/voluntary capacity in the areas of bereavement and grief, hospital pastoral care, and academic lecturing/tutoring. Her PhD, Ways of Being: The alchemy of bereavement and communique, explores the lived experience of bereavement, grief, spirituality and unsought encounters with the returning deceased.

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