Is it wrong to do this?

Caroline Yabsley

5 December 2020

I came across this photo a few days ago, of the loungeroom we lost to the fire almost 12 months ago. When our whole house was taken. Stuff we have collected over the years, some of it as junk which we painstakingly restored and kept in our lives for over 40 years, other stuff passed on to us by relatives who have left us.

I know it’s just stuff, but the meaning behind that stuff is hard to let go of.

And I’m finding it hard to flick past the picture. As New Years Eve approaches, the first anniversary of the fire that took it all, I’m finding it harder to say I’m over it and I’m moving on. I’ve grieved and cried so much this year, I was sure it was done. But this picture grabbed at me. Perhaps it’s not finished yet. I’m going to stay with this picture for a bit then. Try to understand why I can’t flick past it.

I’ve done a lot of learning this year about grieving and emotions, from varying sources. I’ve learned that if you stay with what you are genuinely feeling in the moment, a wave of emotion being experienced will last just 16 seconds. The felt experience then moves on to something else. “But what if that wave is an urge to cry and I’m with other people and it’s inappropriate to cry”, I ask. Well, as I’m told, that’s just a cultural constraint. If I don’t allow the crying to happen, the emotion gets buried and entangled with other buried emotions and the feeling will last much longer than 16 seconds. And cloud my perception of the real world.

So if, as the anniversary approaches, I’m with you and you see me suddenly crying, don’t be too concerned. Don’t try to comfort me or stop me. Just give me the space to experience what I’m experiencing in that moment. Perhaps just stay with what you’re feeling in response to me. And hopefully it will only last 16 seconds. And then we can move on.