It's okay not to be okay
WORDS BY HAYLEY NEW
“I just- I just don’t know how someone could do this. And to children.”
– Me to my Mum after hearing about the Manchester Attack
The Manchester Attack is just one of many international attacks that has rocked us lately, and for many people, we are still trying to find a way to process what happened.
When events like this happen, it is impossible to try and make sense of them, so we often fill that space with mourning and sadness. In the case of the Manchester Attack, that grief came far too easily, as children were the ones who were targeted in a space that is all too familiar to us – a concert venue.
But, while we mourn these young people, there is a moment of doubt in our grief, a kind of guilt, while we ask ourselves the question once again – are we allowed to be upset over the deaths of people we didn’t know?
Yes, yes it is.
In fact, I think it is important to be sad right now.
Public tragedies are strange things, especially when you consider that most of those tragedies do not directly happen to us. But I think it is important to acknowledge that even when these horrible things happen half a world away, they still impact us. We are still affected by the aftermath. More than that, it is this grief that moves us to respond thoughtfully and with kindness. It is that grief that has seen us send supplies to victims of war, to travel to disaster zones and help rebuild communities, to donate blood and help people wandering the streets of a town they don’t know while they try to find their loved ones, or on a smaller scale, retweet the hashtag started by a mother who can’t find her daughter after something terrible has happened.
In Manchester, it is the shared grief and sadness of the community that saw such a quick and loving response in the wake of tragedy. I started crying all over again when I saw that blood donation clinics in Manchester are having to turn people away because so many people turned out to donate blood almost immediately.
Personally, events such as this, not just in developed or Western nations, but also in areas often ignored or forgotten by media coverage, have a deep impact for me. Events like this feel like an attack on us all, because they don’t just take innocent lives, they try to take our hope and love away from us.
I still remember how terrified I was when the Lindt Siege happened in Sydney. My sisters were in town that same day for a school event and I couldn’t get hold of them. I know how scary it is not to know where your loved ones are during an attack, and then the conflicting relief of finding out they are safe while knowing someone else’s brother or sister isn’t. Manchester brought back all those same feelings for me, that fear and pain and worry, and then the grief for the people who never heard back from their loved ones at all.
But it was our shared public grief that made us stronger, and knowing that support was coming from all around the world from people who felt our sadness just as strongly as we were was one of the biggest things in helping us get back up again.
We don’t always have to be strong. We can cry and hug the people we love and mourn the dead and hold the hands of people who need us. It is those small acts of pain and emotion that make us better than the people trying to take it away from us. Our heartbreak for the people halfway across the world is a message of solidarity in a time where our ability to empathise is being challenged everyday.
So, it’s okay not to be okay right now. Grieving is a sign of our humanity, and we shouldn’t surrender our sadness to our attackers, because if we do, they win.