Grief in Melbourne

Awale Ahmed
August 14, 2020
5 minute read

Typically we follow up our Moving Conversations with a reflection on each event, including different themes explored, quotes from attendees, and further research into each topic. Following our August 2020 conversation on Grief, we received this insightful reflection by participant and poet, Awale Ahmed. In this article, Awale shares with us his heartfelt and beautiful reflections on the grief he’s felt since his beloved city Melbourne went into lockdown.  

Awale’s reflection

"There are no quick fixes to grief. No easy answers. Every expression of grief that wants to be felt and honored and given its space, must be allowed... in order to heal." Tom Zuba

I was in an online group event tonight, Moving Conversations, discussing the topic of grief and how we deal with it. Most participants were from Melbourne and, of course, the pandemic and how we are coping was a big part of the discussion.  

People have different ways of processing grief; some seek support groups, some deal with it alone and go for long walks, meditate, pray or write, and try to get busy.  

We experience different feelings: anger, frustration, denial, anxiety, depression and acceptance. Maybe we go as far as trying to find a meaning to our loss and find some kind of solace in the shared suffering.  

Personally I prefer to write if I can, it helps me get out some emotions. Perhaps I should've written on Sunday night when the curfew and stage 4 was announced. I felt a great deal of energy going through me from fellow Victorians. I could feel their sadness, sorrow, worry, disappointment, exhaustion, and confusion. I write my best when I channel some type of a feeling, but have lost that window now. I can only do my second best and write after we have had some time to process.  

It's disheartening to see the empty streets of our beautiful city that, for a long time, was the most liveable city in the world.  

Everyone dreamed about visiting or moving to Melbourne. I know I did, and it was the best decision I have made. Moving to Melbourne gave me the chance to live a new life and in just a few years I have had a lifetime of experiences and I am so grateful.  

Maybe most Melburnians who were born here or have lived here most of their lives can now appreciate how beautiful our city was. I fell in love with Melbourne since my move and have pretty much kept that sense of awe and connection with its beauty.

I loved the busy streets and my walks in the city, people here are generally nice. They say “Hello,” smile at strangers, and sometimes engage in small chats. Now we can't see that smile behind the mask, or stop for a chat with a stranger; our brains are constantly analysing threats and we are living in survival mode.  

Ask yourself: what do you miss the most?  

Maybe it's the little things. Some of us are missing that human interaction; feeling the loss of sensory, loss of freedom to shop with your sister, to hug your mum or nan.  

Maybe you miss dining in your local restaurant and being served by that local barista you developed a good relationship with.  

Maybe you miss going to that weekly or monthly poetry gig where you face your fears to get up on the stage and laugh about silly jokes.  

Maybe you miss playing a good competitive soccer game with your mates.  

Maybe you miss that family atmosphere where you go with your dad or mate to the footy game at the MCG. Arguing about footy or solving the newspaper quiz with your workmates during lunch time.  

We are wired that these kinds of engagements are indeed acts of kindness and joy, but now, in a sense, they could be considered acts of manslaughter - you could infect them without even knowing! It's a tough predicament and frankly one that will take us a long time to overcome psychologically, even after we find a vaccine.  

What's crazy is that I don't only miss the things I used to do and enjoy, but I also miss the things that I didn't get the chance to do and can’t do now. All the events that I got too lazy to go to, the parties, seeing friends, etc. I miss just walking in the CBD and stopping to listen, connect with and support buskers, going to gigs, the state library. Maybe it’s that holiday or travel you have been putting off for a while, that graduation ceremony you have been dreaming of and many more.

It's the first time in Melbourne’s history to have a curfew and the first time the state of disaster has been announced for all of Victoria. Many of us are doing our best and it's understandable to look for someone to point at or blame. It's frustrating to see some of us are not taking it seriously and are ruining it for the rest of us. And now there are both incentives and punishments in place to push people to do the right thing.  

We are all tired and we want this nightmare to end. We want to have some sense of COVID normalcy at least. The rest of the country are living their lives and we Victorians feel left behind. Victoria makes up 25% of Australia's economy, so there is no real recovery without Victoria.  

Australia is like a team of seven players, we were all doing well in this COVID race, but Victoria fell down and got injured. It's time the other players turn around and extend a helping hand. After all, we are all in this together, right?

On Sunday night I went through my old photos of Melbourne and I stumbled upon some from ''White Night 2018''; one of the busiest nights of the year where the whole city turns into a giant gallery of arts.  

Awale is facing the camera. He is standing in the centre of the tram tracks in a Melbourne city street. It is night time. The area is brightly lit. Crowds of people fill the street and walk around Awale who is standing still.
Image Credit: Abdulrahman Daud

I found this photo of me among the crowds on Swanston Street and on the next day I saw photos of the empty streets online. It was a startling contrast!

In my eyes Melbourne is still the most liveable and beautiful city in the world. A modern city with the perfect recipe of culture and amazing humans. I do miss the Melbourne I knew and loved before the pandemic. But true love doesn't just happen in the easy and beautiful days, you have to show your love more in the difficult days.  

I have personally been through ups and downs in my life and I consider myself an old soul that has lived through multiple lives. If anything, I have learned that life is like a masterpiece and pain is part of it, you can't see the full picture without going and growing through it.  

I am sending my love to all Melburnians. Please take your time, grieve in your own way and support each other. Maybe after all of this we can gain a new perspective on life, appreciate the small things we took for granted, and love harder. Although we can't see the enemy, we are at war and we have no option but to win and rebuild our city from the ashes.  

We will get through this and shall become proudly again the most liveable city in the world.

Awale Ahmed

Moving Conversations is now a podcast series. You can follow the podcast at:

And connect with the Moving Conversations community on Facebook.  

Header Photo by Silvestri Matteo on Unsplash
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