When I woke up this morning, the world felt broken.

When I woke up this morning, the world felt broken.

A plane carrying 298 people had been shot out of the sky, children lay dead on a beach in Gaza, and an Australian suicide bomber had taken lives.

It felt like the morning of 9/11: significant and heavy, like we should remember where we were when a Malaysian Airlines plane carrying innocent civilians was gunned down over East Ukraine on its way to Kuala Lumpur. When four young boys were blown up on a beach in a war that shouldn’t have touched them. When a terrorist was identified as Australian.

As journalists, we watched rolling coverage of the news all day, covering every detail comprehensively ourselves. A pall hung over our office, like it surely did in every household and school. And throughout the day, things only got worse. The death toll rose, victims were named, and politicians got involved.

We tried to balance out the sadness by playing upbeat music (‘Africa’ by Toto, ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’ by Toploader) but nothing could shift the mood. “What a fucking awful series of tragedies,” we said. “What a fucker of a day for humanity.”

It’s a weird kind of grief though, isn’t it? Like it doesn’t properly belong to us. We didn’t get a call from DFAT to say a family member was on that plane. We haven’t lost anyone we loved – not even anyone we knew. So do we have any right to mourn the deaths of strangers 14,000km away?

I think we do. It’s not just normal; it’s important.

“Of course you’re going to feel emotionally depleted today,” says psychotherapist Sally Tayler.

“When people die in horrific circumstances like this, it brings our fundamental fear of death to the front of our minds. When four random children get blown up on a beach, it’s scary. When planes full of civilians go down, it’s threatening. There’s a profound anxiety there, like ‘Am I next? Is someone I love?’ It undermines our faith in human nature, rocks our trust in the world, and shifts the ground on which we walk.”


So what can we do with all this sadness? Can we channel any of it into helping someone?

Sally says we should start by acknowledging that we can’t resolve conflict in the Middle East, or bring back any of the passengers on MH17. What we can do is start small, encourage tolerance, and be kind. We can, as Gandhi would say, be the change we want to see in the world.

“Start with a simple resolve that tomorrow you’ll put a bit more kindness into the world,” she says.

“Be thankful for what you’ve got, be mindful not to be cruel. The awful things that happened this week happened because people were not tolerant of one another. Look at your own world – who can you be kinder to?”

Sure, kindness to the world sounds great. But can I have a big old glass of wine and a cry first?

“Yes! Do anything you can to soften the edges of a harsh week. That might be chatting to a friend on the phone, going to bed early, having a hot bath, or just stopping to be kind to someone.”

For me, today’s sadness comes from feeling powerless to help.

If that’s how you feel too, let’s find a way to channel despair into change. Here are some suggestions, if you’re looking for somewhere specific to send your kindness.

You could donate the the AIDS Conference in Melbourne, where researchers and advocates were headed on flight MH17.

You could donate to Toowoomba Hospital in Queensland, which lost two of its doctors, Dr Roger and Julia Guard.

You could wear black and join the Australian Federation of Ukranian Organisations in a vigil for the victims of MH17.

You could write to Prime Minister Tony Abbott to ask him to help stop Russian President Vladimir Putin from attending the G20.