I’d spent a long career planning, managing, speaking, and teaching about community engagement, but that life ended abruptly when Karl died. My concussion and the PTSD from witnessing Karl’s death severely impaired my cognitive abilities for many months. So I was astonished when I found myself even considering engagement to heal my grief. However, action can be strong medicine in times of trouble.

While action cannot undo the trauma we have suffered, I have found that making people accountable for the wrong that caused our loss can offer a sense of well-being. Engagement in the broader community allows us literally to step outside our grief. It can steer us away from isolation and any negative tendency toward self-absorption. Activism drew my attention away from my sorrow and directed into the unfamiliar realm of road safety activism.

The Helper Principle

To contribute to a community project or action builds our confidence by reminding us what we might easily have forgotten in our grief: we can make a difference. The well-known “helper principle” in psychology applies here: when we help others, we often help ourselves, as we begin to acknowledge the power of our resilience and resourcefulness. We may experience the fusion of activism and spirituality and be uplifted by it.

Many months after Karl died, I was astonished by my first sense of “pleasurable mastery” (being able to do things competently that I could not do for many months) and “personal agency” (a sense of control and awareness of initiating and carrying out my actions in the world).



2 thoughts on “My re-entry into activism

  1. Wendy it has been such a joy to observe and hear about the restoration of your “personal agency” over the last while. You are such an amazing human being and a wonderful touchstone, should we all find ourselves dealing with grief and disability at some point.

    1. HI, dear Diane, Thank you for your comment. I think that there comes a time in everyone’s grieving process when you need to get out the door and face the world. I was lucky to have two friends who encouraged and supported me. And one is a road safety specialist. That helped a lot. With the other, Kev, I had done activist work in the past in Blackwater, Queensland, so we had a history of successful campaigns. After a while, a focus on “self-care” becomes, to be honest, pretty BORING. And now I feel that I have channelled my pain into a positive outcome that I know would meet with Karl’s approval. He was a hard marker, so that is no small thing for me.

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