The GroundSwell Project and understanding death as a part of life

A guest blog post by Jessie Williams, CEO, The GroundSwell Project

  • 14 January 2020
  • Author: Guest
  • Number of views: 1233
The GroundSwell Project and understanding death as a part of life

Last year I agreed to write this blog on death being a part of life.

But the start to the year has been hellish for us all, and now I am left reflecting on this message...

Everyone in Australia has been impacted by these fires in some way, and we know it isn’t over yet. Death is never easy, no matter what the circumstance and whether you have been directly impacted by the fires or you know people who have or you’ve been following the news closely, it all takes its toll because we are confronted with unprecedented loss.

An estimate of 500 million animals have died in this country in a few short weeks. Thousands of homes and so far 25 people.

Tragedies like this give us the opportunity to take a moment to appreciate our lives, renew relationships, connect with those around us. Being faced with loss can allow us to live more deeply.

In my eight years with The GroundSwell Project, I’ve never met a person who does not know that their life will end at some point. And yet plenty avoid the topic, the planning, the conversation. It feels too hard.

It’s often not until we’re shocked into noticing mortality that we get a wake-up call.

I was shocked into it when I was 30 years old and my first baby died at birth. I remember vividly the deep sense of outrage that no-one ‘told me this could happen.’ I blamed my parents mainly. I became a member of ‘that club’ that so many people find themselves in, but no one wants to join. 

Having not faced mortality so head-on before, I couldn’t accept (let alone embrace) that in nature things grow and things die. Now in my late 40s, a few more big losses under my belt, I find myself in this bush fire season, coming alive to the fact that we all ARE nature.

It is time we stopped separating ourselves from the natural world we are in (as our indigenous communities have expressed for so long). It is time to listen.


Death does not need to be at the forefront of everyday life…  life is for the living ...however having a soft, in- the-background know (ing) of the inevitability of death brings forward a fuller appreciation of what is right in front of you.

To the things you care about, whether that be people, objects, nature, thoughts...

Ten years ago, The GroundSwell Project formed to develop creative and profound ways to make death a part of life. We’ve spent the last three years identifying ways that help people to connect with each other, to learn and lean on, when facing dying and grief.

We’re all seeing people in bush fire communities gathering, talking, loaning, giving and taking which is very heartening.

This from Murray Lowe on Central Coast of NSW:
“I ventured out into the fire grounds today to capture some images of how the Aussie bush responds to fire, and the way it regenerates itself and comes back to life. Even without any rain, life bursts through the burnt bark from the heart of the trees and the life cycle begins again .... These images were captured in the Kulnura area on the Central Coast, and I'm happy for anyone to share this.” 

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Jessie Williams, CEO, The GroundSwell Project


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