Grief and Trivia

Bereaved and grieving, I experienced an unexpected lack of patience with things that seemed trivial.

Watching a celebrity chef holding forth with unmatched certainty, as if he had invented food and philanthropy, I suddenly thought: ‘Oh Jamie Oliver! What’s the point of you?’

Looking back, I know I didn’t see the point in anything much then, myself included. I was angry and full of misery and sorrow.

When I was in that state of deep grieving, I couldn’t bear the weight of the world as well. It was enough to get through the day. To put one foot in front of the other.

The things that gave me solace then were walking and the natural world. The daily walks that re-established themselves during lockdown have kept me going now. It helps to see what is changing; how life in all its colour goes on. You can lose yourself in the moment, watching a bumblebee or listening to birdsong or smelling the fragrance of elderflower on the hillside.

We come back to life; we carry on; trying harder than ever to make good use of our time, to do the right thing, to be fully alive because it could all end at any moment.

And yet we still have to do all the ordinary things: dull admin and cleaning the bathroom. There are personal relationships to maintain, people to care for and about. Sometimes there are beautiful things: supportive friends and love and understanding. We can laugh again. Or focus on gratitude at least once a day.

Only, as we rise from the depths of personal misery and break the surface to take the public air we find it poisoned. We come back to Brexit; Trump; refugee crises; war; wrongful imprisonment; genocide; homelessness; climate change; the Covid-19 pandemic; exploitation; injustice; murder; racism.

It’s enough to make you want to look away again.

But the death of George Floyd before our very eyes has turned us all into witnesses. Without that video taken by a 17 year-old girl, what happened to him might have remained a statistic, not the start of a shockwave.

We can all wonder what we would have done if were there. Filmed it? Or tried to intervene? People did both and it made no difference. The anger that follows is inevitable and understandable.

We can all see that racism has warped the development of an equal and just society; that history reviewed reveals inglorious horrors.

And now?

I’d tell you about the flowers on the hill and the birdsong another time.


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