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The butterfly effect

Opinion

The butterfly effect

We’re all in a state of grief thanks to the COVID-19 crisis, writes Leigh Robshaw. But there is much meaning to be found in life too.

My new passport arrived in the mail the other day. Ordinarily, a new passport is cause for excitement, but it’s a sad reminder of the once-in-a-lifetime holiday I had planned with my sister to Hawaii in June. It’s cancelled, of course. Cancelled, along with all of the other plans in the whole wide world.

There has been so much cancellation and devastation in such a short space of time that we are in a collective state of shock and grief. On top of grief for who and what we’ve already lost, we are also experiencing anticipatory grief.

In an article in the Harvard Business Review (look it up, it will make you feel better), Scott Berinato cites the work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler.Mr Kessler has added to the famous five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – with another stage: meaning.

In his book, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief, Mr Kessler explains that once you’ve cycled through the five stages of grief – not necessarily in linear order – you arrive at meaning. In our darkest hours, meaning is the light that never goes out.

For now, it may all seem like a meaningless, cruel act of nature (or a deliberate 5G cover-up, for the conspiracy theorists out there). If you want to be nihilistic and say there is no meaning in what we are going through, knock yourself out. That’s way too bleak for me.

I’ve been sad, teary, depressed, angry, scared and shocked (especially when I watched Tiger King on Netflix). But I’m trying to find something to be grateful for and something meaningful in each day. When I go for a bike ride with my sons, I feel the warmth of the sun on my back and it reminds me how lucky I am to be alive. How lucky they are to be alive. We see masses of blue tiger butterflies as we ride, swarming in numbers I’ve never seen before – or maybe I’ve just never noticed.

It’s the simple things that give me meaning. A beautiful butterfly fluttering around me, making me smile when I’m feeling down. Bringing me back to the present moment. Sunshine. Love. Kindness. Family. Friends. Connection.

For now, we feel awfully disconnected from each other. But while we are keeping our distance, even strangers are making a special effort to connect with their eyes. To manage a smile. We don’t even need words to communicate the universal sentiment: yeah this sucks, but let’s be kind to each other because we are all in this together and we must get through it together. And then we’ll have a massive party.

In my mind, I keep hearing Vera Lynn’s WWII-era song that my grandma used to play on her pianola. It means so much more now: ‘We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when. But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.’

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Leigh Robshaw is a journalist who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years. Originally from Sydney, she has lived and worked in London, Tokyo and Latin America. She joined the team in 2012 and is MWP's deputy editor. Writing, reading and travel are her greatest passions.

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