Grief in Times of Conflict

Regardless of where we live and our personal or political identity, news of conflict on the world stage can be deeply unsettling. This conflict can involve national, ethnic, religious, or political affiliations, affecting relatively few or relatively large numbers of people.

Such events can have profound emotional impact on individuals and communities who are far away from the conflict but feel a deep sense of affiliation or identification with those involved. Sometimes reports of current acts of repression, of violence, of injury, or death happening far away can stir up difficult, disturbing memories of other times and places that we, as individuals or as communities, have personally experienced, heightening the emotions we might experience now.


In multicultural Australia, it is likely that each report of conflict will impact on some of us who were born in, or are descendants of those born in, the lands and territories affected. In addition to the grief and anger that such things can happen, we may be overcome by fear and worry for loved ones still living in areas affected by conflict. We may also feel a sense of helplessness or guilt that we cannot help those who are being devastated—those who have lost their home, land, security, livelihood, and, most importantly, their own lives or the lives of those they love, as well as those left with physical or psychological injury. We grieve for and with them.


In our diverse nation, some of us may experience similar feelings of frustration, despair, and anger when we see or hear of unconscionable acts of repression, oppression, or violence targeting individuals or whole sectors of communities—people with whom we may identify in some other way (e.g., gender or sexual identity). We grieve for and with them.


What can we do? Research suggests that our emotions may be “triggers for destruction or catalysts for peace”1. Even while we acknowledge the pain of grief, of anger, and of guilt, we can hold on to empathy and hope—we can remember times when the worst got better, and remain open to possibilities for future reconciliation, forgiveness, and understanding—recognising that this benefits us and those we support. Here in our communities, we can choose to fight against despair and against hatred towards marginalised people irresponsibly portrayed by the media as aligned with those initiating or perpetuating conflict. We can celebrate and support the resilience and defiance of those who stand against their oppressors and, most importantly, we can find our allies against the darkness. Alone, we can despair and give in, but together, we can hope and act.


So, when you can, reach out, find what you can do and do it. Speak up, sign up, share resources, offer kindness to self and others affected by news of conflict. If emotions become overwhelming, consider speaking with a trusted health professional and/or community leader. Below are some resources that may be helpful.


PEACE Multicultural Services

Free support for people from diverse language and cultural backgrounds.

(08) 8245 8110

Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm

Free interpreter available


Uniting Communities

Free counselling and peer support.

1800 615 677

Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm



Free peer support and referral for LGBTIQA+ people.

1800 184 527

Every day, 3pm-12am