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Is it time to move on?

How many vigils, concerts, mosque visits and remembrance services are we expected to read about or see, let alone attend?

Can't we move on from the March 15 terrorist attacks in Christchurch that left 50 people dead at two mosques? Two weeks is time enough to grieve New Zealand's 9-11.

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Some of us are suffering from compassion fatigue. We've made our donation, sent flowers and we're tired of hearing the same sad news over and over…

Tomorrow, we'll see yet another community gathering - this one at Baypark Arena to watch the Hagley Park national memorial service. Comments about the event online ranged from "interested," to "I'll be there," to "Isn't it time to move on?"

Moving on is what you do on a trip through Europe. Three weeks, six countries - moving on.

Moving on is what you do when you start a job — new location, new colleagues, new systems - moving on.

Moving on is what you do (literally) when you buy or rent a house — new digs, new neighbours, new interior - moving on.

Moving on cannot adequately describe overcoming sadness, denial, bewilderment or even apathy that follows an event splitting your country's history into "before" and "after."

Moving on is a droplet inside a deep well of sadness for someone who lost a loved one during the mosque rampages - or during any other month or decade.

Can we be more specific about our needs? This is a time of grief and reflection for some. For others, this season of love-each-other-multicultural-blah, blah, blah...is getting annoying.

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Instead of saying we need to move on, say work is really busy, and I need to focus.

Instead of saying it's time to move on, say it hurts too much to think about terrorism, and about the fact that next time, it could be me.

Instead of shouting, "Move on!" let me know you've had enough of news coverage and you'll process events (or not) in your own time.

Instead of saying we've got other things to think about, own that you'd rather change the subject because mourning is "meh".

Be honest - if with no one else, with yourself. Be specific. Be brave and self-aware enough to emerge from the cliched cloak of "moving on".

Western cultures, in general, do a shoddy job with grief. We expect people to return to work days following the death of a loved one. Mourners get two months, three if they're lucky, before they're expected to find a new normal: goodbye, casseroles, farewell flowers, adios, visitors. We (and I mean me, too) rush grief as if it's a 12-step programme we can skim because we're too smart to wallow and too rushed to reflect. If we could get a Disney FastPass to skip the mourning queue and head to evening brews, we would.

Part of my desire to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow Kiwis at this moment stems from my experience as an American after the terrorist attacks of 9-11. My husband and I had arrived in Dublin on September 9, 2001, to start our belated honeymoon through Ireland, Luxembourg and Italy. We were grabbing bags at the hotel when we saw the first of the Twin Towers smouldering on TV. We jumped in our rental car and turned up the radio to hear then-Irish president Mary McAleese express her condolences for America and for the world.

Planes were grounded. We couldn't fly home. Trying to reschedule flights would've been futile, so we spent the next three weeks marinating in a mixture of disbelief, sadness and shock. We also felt guilty we wouldn't be in Spokane, Washington, where the news station we worked for was covering 9-11's aftermath 24 hours a day.


We tried our best to play tourists, marvelling at white cliffs, blue seas, enormous breakfasts, long-lost relatives, good friends and plates of well-oiled pasta while our colleagues cried and worked their bums off.

Aside from my accidental viewing of the first plane strike, I refused to watch video of the Twin Towers and the carnage during our trip. Being so far from home spared me the worst of the event's horrors but also robbed me of the chance to be supported and to help others during a national tragedy.

I can lean on my neighbours this time. My neighbours can lean on me, too. And my children are witnessing compassion and inclusion as we seek to explain the inexplicable.

There's a sense of dispossession so many of us feel after one of the last, best places on earth has suffered such violence, lost so many souls.

Grief can't be fixed, only carried. We can't will it away, or set an expiration date of months or even years. I will always carry sadness for New Zealand's 9-11, but I hope grief strengthens my resolve to help other people who, like me, are at times hurt, tired, lonely, sick, invisible or sad.

I can cope, manage - call it whatever you like. Please don't call it moving on.

Dawn Picken also writes for the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend and tutors at Toi Ohomai. She is a former TV journalist and marketing director who lives in Pāpāmoa with her family.