The mortality rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is 1.6 times higher than for non-Indigenous people. The high prevalence of premature deaths in Aboriginal communities means that Aboriginal people are grieving and attending funerals all the time. Tauto Sansbury talked about this prevalence of premature death in his letter, 8 Funerals in 13 Days, which helped inspire the Rising Spirits Project.
Grief is deep, intense, enduring suffering from the loss of life of a person of significance. People also experience grief over losing aspects of their life which they hold dear. Grieving is compounded by intergenerational trauma of collective loss, stemming from colonisation and structural inequality. This trauma has involved shame and the loss of cultural identity, as land and children have been stolen and connections with family, community and languages broken.
During Sorry Time or when a person you know has had a loss, sometimes it can help to ask if they’re okay. It’s important to look after yourself and know your limits too. If you feel up to it, you can help others too by- Asking them how they’re going, be there for them and listen when they need to talk, asking the person how you can help, suggest they talk to someone who knows about grief and loss or help them to find someone to talk to, but only if they want to.
Grief comes when we lose someone or something that is very important to us. It is a natural response to a serious loss. This loss can be of a job, or any number of things that bring a big change to our lives. We all grieve in different ways. Aboriginal people have experienced terrible losses over the past 250 years including of country, culture, identity, and way of life. Today one of the saddest losses is of a loved one. Because of compounded grief and the gap in life expectancy, many Aboriginal people are in constant grief.
Suicide was not known to Aboriginal people before invasion, but now the prevalence of suicide in Aboriginal communities is alarmingly high. Suicide has increased among Aboriginal people in the last 30 years and young Indigenous people are most at risk. Experiencing grief and loss can trigger thoughts about and completion of suicide. If you or someone you know is going through a hard time and have been thinking or talking about suicide, you must remember that you are never alone and that there is help available.