I’m not sure who came up with the logo, KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON? I get it sounds all warm and fuzzy but it also slightly annoys me in its vagueness.
I read amongst the sad details of the unexpected death of Peaches Geldof this week that she’d said previously of her mother Paula Yates death from heroin in 2000, ‘… I just blocked it out. I went to school the next day because my father’s mentality was ‘keep calm and carry on’.’
And there it was again. Those five little words that appear to be so comforting and universal and although the essence of this suggestion is offered with love when heartbreaking things happen, it seems to be more about the fact we don’t know the first thing about dealing with grief.
I certainly don’t mean to point out that Sir Bob Geldof was lax in his parenting during this awful time where he’d have been dealing with his own grief but having to be the patriarch of a family that now had four young girls all mourning the loss of their mother. I cannot begin to imagine how he would manage much else than a practical to do list and as he may have suggested, to keep everyone calm so they could carry on.
But I do think we are completely clueless by and large when it comes to supporting ourselves and each other in regards to grief, and what an enormous literal stress that puts on our hearts as we continue our lives thinking we’ve moved through the worst of it?
I even noticed it recently watching the news and seeing how the Chinese families of the victims of the Malaysian Airlines crash were reacting to the lack of information and the shocking circus that was under way. They were utterly hysterical and really loud, clearly in the full throes of the grief process, albeit with the extra angst of not knowing really what happened, my point being is that they weren’t holding back on letting their grief go… and show.
We see TV footage of non-western communities and families grieving the loss of their loved ones where they literally throw themselves on the ground screaming from the depths of their lungs and you can’t help but feel a pang of shock that has, if we’re honest, a lot to do with the fact that we westerners are programmed to think we have to have this dignified grief. It shocks the system seeing someone so emotionally hysterical outwardly.
One of the most famous mourning images in our western history is that of Jackie Kennedy mourning President Kennedy. We admire her and the family for their composure. But is this really the healthiest way to mourn, or is this the healthiest way to mourn so others feel more calm? So we can supposedly quickly carry on?
Lorraine Webb, the Director at the Adelaide Healing Energy centre believes “With grief we must allow our bodies to do what they’ve got to do. Our body knows what it needs to do. You’ve got to surrender and allow all the processes to move through you.”
Lorraine says it’s important to feel ok to be able to say what you really feel in that moment, if that happens to be ‘It’s not ok with me, this isn’t fair’, then we should say what honours our grief process instead of this western response of ‘it’s ok, I’m getting there.’
We talk about the so-called grief process but how many of us actually allow the natural process of time to take us through all stages of grief such as denial, anger, resentment, guilt, remorse, without limiting it through personal or societal pressure?
Depression is suppression. It signals we chose a stop sign in our grief process with something big that happened in our lives. It’s no wonder we have such high rates of heart disease in our culture when we think it’s best to keep calm and carry on which puts an horrific strain on our hearts.