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Grieving Australian Style

It is a brave soul who sheds a tear under the harsh light of the Australian sun. Don’t laugh. Well actually, laugh all you want, but just don’t commit the solecism of crying. Don’t even look slightly downcast. There are eyes everywhere, ready to quickly avert if they see you starting to mist over. Don’t give the game away for goodness sake, this country was built on unflinching emotional repression! If you do have a suspicion that beneath your thorny exterior lies a curious space that doesn’t obediently sneer, satirize or scathe on demand, then you may well be a candidate for re-education.

Re-education I am learning comes in many, many forms in contemporary Australian society. There is ‘I am worried about you’ style of re-education where friends suggest you may need some time out, a night at the movies, dinner with the girls or some good old-fashioned shopping therapy. For Australian men it might be a night on the booze or watching a game of footy. Then there is the ‘I know the name of a good doctor’ style of re-education if you continue to create awkward moments by sniffling into your tissues at unscheduled moments. After that there is the ‘tough love’ approach when family and friends mobilize with the wholesale support of the Australian community to show you the right way. ‘Are you ok’ day where everyone talks about you, a roster of phone callers and cheery email messages, Helen Steiner Rice cards and books about the black dog.

I draw the line. I know I’m cutting it close. I not talking depression. I’m talking sadness, grieving and a sense of loss. You know who you are, that catch in the throat, that moment of vivid, heartbreaking memory, that goodbye that still hurts, that unrequited love, that sister who never speaks to you, that dog that was run over, that movie that had a terrible ending, that seeing your neighbour in their pajamas.

My friend from Argentina said ‘I put a picture of myself crying on Facebook today as saying goodbye is so sad. What is so terrible about crying?’ It’s not terrible my friend, it’s just not allowed in Australia.



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2 thoughts on “Grieving Australian Style

  1. It is also not allowed in Northern Ireland. Nor in the aid world. Maybe because people believe it is a sign of a problem, a weakness, a call for help? It would be much healthier if we could all cry simply because we are sad, or we have been touched by something.

    I remember watching a demonstration against oppression in a part of the world where peaceful protestors are dispersed not with megaphones but with bullets. And I felt this overwhelming sense of the dignity of human beings and the amazing things we will do when we really believe in something.

    It made me cry, but I was careful to wipe those tears away before any of my colleagues noticed.

    Miss you loads x

  2. It’s mental health week this week and here in this tiny corner of the aid world we committed to looking after each others emotions, even just for the week. We have juicy apples for our health, flowers to lift our spirits and coloured paper to write notes to each other. So far though we have had mostly tears. Oh dear. I guess if we only get to cry once a year, mental health week is going to be pretty intense!

    I think you are right – if we could just show that we have been moved by something and still be seen as well rounded human beings then we would feel healthier.

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