Being while being without


I was given the chance to write about the ways people living with an unresolved loss might be able to ‘reconnect’ with the people they had lost…the big challenge there was the ambiguous part of it all. I think a few people thought I was a bit odd writing about reconnecting with missing people, people who had vanished or people that had been murdered but we didnt know where the body was…in the writing and thinking process (well the copious coffee drinking process) I sat and spoke to a few people about their own experiences. One of the women told me that in order to reconnect with her brother (who had been missing for a long time) she wasnt going to go and sit on a park bench or stare out to the ocean like she thought she was supposed to. She was just going to take some time to remember the things he loved, that she’d find him in his CD’s, in thoughts of growing up, in the books he loved and that she find ways to be with him despite being without him.

A picnic is being held in Sydney today for people to reconnect with loved ones who have died…I was drawn to the beautiful picture in the paper of a silk installation blowing in the wind. The article shared the power of coming together in a community to reconnect but it also talked about those within certain cultures or faiths having access to rituals to help them acknowledge what was lost. It touched on the fact that for some without faith or socially constructed ways of grieving people might be  ‘on their own’…it reminded me of the families of missing people I’ve worked with who might find themselves, in some circumstances, without culture or faith as well as without the access to rituals even if they wanted them – no funerals, no death notices, no public proclaimations that they had lost someone. Sometimes the only reminder of what was lost was an image on a ‘missing’ poster.

The idea of a picnic to introduce the dead back into the community is a way to provide ritual where ritual might be lost…but also a reminder that for those whose losses arent so clear cut – missing, miscarriage, illness, divorce – that we give everyone the space to say hello again* to a person, or connection, that is so sorely missed.

How do you say hello…again?

*Michael White, 2005


  1. I love this piece & the picnic idea. The not so clear cut loss is so incredibly hard. Often we don’t give ourselves permission to grieve, to acknowledge, to mark the loss – this seems to me to be because we don’t want to make others uncomfortable by speaking the truth – they don’t know what to say, how to react, how to fill the silence and so we say nothing about our pain. This means people suffer in silence – desperately wanting their loss acknowledged, heard, respected but not knowing how to make it so.
    For me the saying ‘hello’ is about allowing myself to be sad and being able to acknowledge (even privately) what might have been.
    Great piece Sar. Xx


    1. Thanks Lou…you’re explanation reminds me of a woman who told me once that she’d built a little fence in her mind – that some days she’d go in and think awful things, or think about her loss, or just sit with her sadness – but that what saved her was finding a gate to get out


      1. A gate. I like it. Your not locked in or out, you can just come and go as you need to.


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