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Community steps out and new life beckons.

It’s a moment of reflection and a time to pause. Our wonderful graphic design team, Amy and Laura at the Good Stuff Creative have signalled some changes in their work and life schedule, so that’s a sign! Time to break for Christmas, regroup and do some strategic planning for next year.

Just as an encouraging aside though, I was the guest author, interviewed at Sydney’s Millers Point Markets last Monday November 30 – a new beginning for their community after these Covid-19 times. They are adding a Monday Literary program to the market that sells all sorts of delectable goodies – such as truffles, cheeses and the French imported vegan apple cider that I tried and found delicious.

The market has only just got the go ahead again, with the Council only now allowing larger crowds to gather in outdoor spaces. So it’s still early in the process of folk rebuilding their sense of what it is to come together again, and the market was still feeling its way. 

But ‘the vibe’ was good. My friend Graham, a writer and one of the team rebuilding the market said that after all we’ve been through in 2020 he feels he can explain why it felt just right.

“I think there’s a new appreciation of community that’s come out of Covid-19. People value community more now, understand its importance.”

And there’s something else as well, an appreciation of the need to connect, and to make the pathways to connection, especially when things in life become scary. Until 2020, that was all a bit abstract. But now we know how quickly scary can get very real.

Which is where there’s a more powerful fit than ever before between community and the Good Grief project, which is about sharing information in the end of life space, about the troubling threats that can come eventually or suddenly, building slowly or catapulting us fast into the unknown, the uncomfortable and the tragic; and about guiding people to get through this.

Graham and I settled in at the second hand book counter after we conducted our little interview and I chatted with some of the attendees about what Covid-19 did to us, while boys from a local school performed acapella beautifully.

One of those I chatted with was Maree, who  was allowed to take her mother out for the first time just a few days ago. But the old lady was so embarrassed by her slippers and her old, worn top that they stopped and bought a bright shawl which she could hide behind. 

Maree’s mother had no make-up on and her hair hadn’t been done, things that would not have been let slip in ordinary times. Maree has not been allowed in to the nursing home to see her mother until now. She has no idea what the care for her mother was like during that time. Unlike me, who in a similar situation was empowered to negotiate doggedly, she wasn’t.

The effects on mother and daughter will be felt for the rest of her mother’s life and then remembered for the rest of Maree’s own. There is much grief to do deal with.

But that’s the kind of year it’s been, isn’t it? I hope they can turn it around: that that bright shawl will symbolise a new beginning for those lovely women. But I’m under no illusions. They’re going to need help to get there – although I have a sneaking suspicion the Millers Point community networks will be more ready to deliver that support than they ever have been before.

In 2021, Good Grief! will do some things slightly differently, starting when we come back on deck, likely at the end of January. There will be some exciting new endeavours to help make grief good. We’ll shout out about those when the time comes. Until then Margaret’s team of elves will work away behind the scenes, on strategy and materials, ready for all that 2021 will bring. Like everyone else, our view of what that might be is much broader now. We are better equipped to expect the unexpected – we hope!

And from now we’ll do what this project does at Christmas time and New Year, turn to focus on festivities and family. Sadly, we know families and friends whose people have died at Christmas. This makes the grieving fragmented and conflicted. And no one else is listening. It will happen to other people we know this Christmas too. We send special blessings to those of you who will find yourselves in this situation. In the meantime, do what I’m trying to learn  – to plan cautiously but live optimistically.

And a heart-felt thank you not just to our graphic designers but to our advertisers, our loyal followers and the many others who’ve supported Good Grief.

In my family a new baby has just arrived. I have four grandsons and now a new baby granddaughter, my first. So we will make her the focus of our nativity scene. We will very much enjoy the gender twist.

I can see the Christmas card now (I think I’ve seen it before)….the three wise men approaching solemnly. And then one calls out “But it’s a girl!!” And indeed, why not.

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