A Thousand Little Griefs

Until recently, we had two cats.

Both were in their late teens.

One was always a wanderer. However, having not seen her for a few months now, we are pretty sure this time its for good.

The other was a homebody, and we watched her become more and more frail in the last weeks. Sometimes we had to check twice to see if she was still breathing. Her bodily functions were becoming unreliable and to pick her up felt like she would break. And then one day she went out and didn't come back.

It took me a couple weeks to be ready to clean up their food bowls. Well, I have moved them to the laundry, anyway.

Last week, I had a further loss. We finally made the hard decision to end our English classes for refugees and asylum seekers. I had been involved there for the past two years, but due to dwindling numbers of students and teachers, it was time to bite the bullet.

Travelling home, as I reflected on my feelings about this change, I realised that there had actually been many little griefs along that journey.

Working with people who are somewhat itinerant, we would sometimes have them in class for months and then they would simply not turn up. Sometimes they would come back for a while, and then other times, nothing. Sometimes other students would say, oh, yes, they have gone to Adelaide, or Sydney and so on. Other times we just didn't know. They may even have been sent back to their country of origin to face further persecution, or even death.

When previous students did drop by, our joy was great. As much as we hoped to have added into their lives, they certainly enriched our lives, with their care and acceptance of us, despite their own pains. For people who had been through so much, they always asked after us and our families, even though they were often separated from their own. They are mostly generous, caring people, the sort you would love to share your life with.

Reflecting on these little changes, I wonder how we should deal with the small griefs that drop in from time to time.

There was a point where the cat was really struggling with her continence, and as I perceived her imminent demise, I was really upset. However, since both have disappeared, I have not felt that same level of grief or loss. There is perhaps a belief that they might still come back, a denial that they are gone. So it is easier not to think about it, to just keep going.

How many of these little griefs do we all experience day in day out? Our ability to minimise and deny them means that we can continue to function. However,

is there a point we hit a critical mass, where all those little griefs add up to equal one big one that comes back to bite us?

There is a level at which the pressing needs of day to day living do not allow time to grieve these losses. And part of me is still far too rational - what is the point? Will crying and being upset change the outcome? So I move on, carrying a little more baggage than I probably need to, hoping the weight won't overwhelm me.