The Seven Stages of Grieving is a poignant monologue on Aboriginal grieving, stories of tragedy and survival of the Australian First Nations. As my friend said yesterday after the play, “we cannot even imagine the depth of the grief Aboriginal people are enduring”. How can we, non-Aboriginal Australians step into their shoes? How can we encompass the extent and the depth of such a disturbing trauma? How can we, ordinary people, contribute to the healing of this trauma in our country? How can we “make a difference”?
In his committed article “How do we heal trauma suffered by native communities?” Canadian physician Gabor Maté declares that “The source of that multi-generational trauma is this country’s [Canada] colonial past and its residue in the present [...] The questions we must ask ourselves nationally are very simple. How do we as a country move to heal the trauma that drives the misery of many native communities? What can be done to undo the dynamics our past has dictated? Some may balk at such inquiry, fearing the discomfort that comes with guilt. This is not a matter of communal guilt, but of communal responsibility. It is not about the past. It is about the present. And it is about all of us: When some among us suffer, ultimately we all do.”
Maté explores the many ways the Canadian government could address this issue, politically, through national education, economics, social and justice systems. I believe most of those suggestions would fit nicely into our Australian landscape. And yet, the question for me remains, what can we do as individuals to soothe the pain, to heal our national wound?
The 7 Stages of Grieving gives us some clues. It is a “plea to be heard”. We can listen, listen and listen again. Listen to their lament. This is the least we can do, when the despair is so intense. As we would do for a friend, being present and holding the space so the tears can flow and the sorrow can be expressed. Then we can grieve together, so the grief no longer remains unspoken.
“We are not angry”, says the actress in the play, “we are grieving”. Nothing we should be afraid of. If we have the courage to face those hard truths, reconciliation will happen. Maté pledges: “We need to celebrate the First Nations cultural renaissance, a tribute to human resilience, now taking place."
Similarly, at the end of the play we are invited to walk alongside Aboriginal Australia, to keep walking alongside them like we did during the bridge walks for reconciliation in 2000:
“They said over a quarter of a million people walked that day, and then more in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide…all around the country…
Who would have thought, eh?
I guess we can’t go back now.”
If you want to read the full article by Gabor Mate: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/…/how-do-w…/article29612969/