When grief came to my town
By Molly Carlile, Deathtalker
Almost two weeks ago, Jill Meagher was living in my town with her partner, a long way from their home in Ireland.
She went out one night with her friends and never came home.
Now Brunswick grieves. Those who knew Jill and those who didn’t. Old people, young people, Mum’s and Dad’s. The Baptist Church in Sydney Road is awash with flowers and candles and an Irish flag flies from the pedestrian crossing on the Blyth street corner where her lost moments were captured on CCTV. The ‘guerrilla knitters’ have bound all of the bollards along the street with brightly coloured yarn.
Last Saturday 30,000 people marched up Sydney Rd in her memory. Some cried, most were silent and all grieved.
The grieving is raw. People are sad and angry. Jill’s death is the focus of their distress, but there’s also a very strong underlying theme of our town somehow losing it’s innocence.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “Things like this don’t happen in Brunswick!”
I’ve also heard “out of towners” say, “What are these people on about, it’s awful, but most of these people didn’t even know Jill Meagher”.
And they’re right, most of us didn’t.
So what made 30,000 people march? What made people come out of their homes and stand vigil outside the Baptist Church? What has made people like me, get in the car and drive to the Church in order to pay our respects?
Brunswick is an eclectic, inner city suburb. Culturally diverse, arty, alternative and parts of it very “well to do” and “upper middle income”. But Brunswick is also a place where there are lots of people “doing it tough” and yet diversity is embraced.
People talk to you up the street. Shop keepers call you by name. You know your neighbours and share the veggies you grow in the backyard. Street folk aren’t ignored, passers by speak to them (also by name) and slip them a couple of bucks here and there. Difference is welcomed. That’s what drew my family and me to Brunswick. It’s like a country town, in the city.
It’s this sense of community that makes Brunswick a great place to live. The same sense of community that is outraged that “one of our own” was not safe on our streets.
The same sense of community that has driven the outpouring of support for Jill’s family. The people of Brunswick have realised that “our people” shouldn’t grieve alone.
I can’t help but wonder, in this age of urban isolation, where an old lady can die in her home and not be found for days, ‘cause no one missed her. In this age of secularism, where we’ve thrown away all of the meaningful rituals that support people in their grief when we discarded formalised religion, whether we’ve “thrown the baby out with the bathwater”. Grief rituals have evolved over the ages to enable people to express their distress, reflect on the life of the person they loved and find support from their community. Jill Meagher’s death was a tragedy, it should never have happened. I only hope that her legacy may be, that our communities grow stronger. That we learn the lessons that need to be learned. Grief rituals have become rituals over time, for a REASON. As communities, we need to re-engage with the reality of death, acknowledge the impact of a significant death on the people left behind and help grieving families to celebrate the life of the person they loved and support them in creating a sense of meaning in the face of their loss. That’s what a community is all about.
RN, FACN, FAICD, AFACHSM, MAIPC, MACA
International Journal of Palliative Nursing, Educator of the Year Award 2012
Arts and Health Australia Award for Health Promotion 2009
Churchill Fellow 2008
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