No parent should have to bury their child. But, sadly the death of a child is as much a part of life as birth itself.
The death of a child through ill health or an accident is traumatic enough, but for the parents whose child has taken their own life, death seems to take on a different perspective
Seven years after her daughter Sarah committed suicide, Julie Bryant-Whitfield is still trying to come to terms with her death.
Like the majority of parents, Julie had a great relationship with her 25-year-old daughter, who she described as a hardworking young woman who was respectful and loved everyone.
“She was a bit of a Tom boy, but loved to dress up and go into town with her girlfriends,” Julie said.
But, as close as the mother and daughter were – they even worked together in the hospitality industry – Julie had no idea her beautiful, vibrant daughter was a troubled young woman.
“I never knew anything was wrong to the extent she would take her life.
“You would never know there was something depressing her.”
Unable to cope with the constant reminders following Sarah’s death, Julie and her husband left the family home in Canberra 11 months later and settled in the Great Lakes.
Wanting to reconcile her grief, which had resulted in a loss of both confidence and memory, Julie sought help from a number of sources, but these early days were difficult.
She sought help from a number of organisations and self-help groups, with little success.
”I just couldn’t click with some people,” she said.
The closest support unit to help people who had lost someone close through suicide was in Port Macquarie.
However, suffering from post traumatic stress, Julie was reluctant to make the hour long drive.
She turned her attention to TAFE courses, but concentration eluded her.
“I found it very hard to take to people, and many make assumptions as to how and why it happened.”
“They make judgements; there is a lot of stigma attached to suicide.
Julie finally found some solace through a Lifeline program Surviving, held monthly in Taree.
Through this project Julie has found other methods of coping with her grief; snorkelling is her preferred pastime.
A similar Lifeline bereavement support group, Support after Suicide is beginning in Forster from April 12.
Conducted by experienced counsellors, the group offers support and friendship in a closed environment. Meetings will be held fortnightly in a room donated by Club Forster.
Lifeline Mid Coast life matters co-ordinator, Lee-Ann Foord said the sessions would cover a range of topics “that go where people need to go.”
Lee-Ann said it was sometimes difficult for family and friends to speak with others who had not had the experience of coping with the aftermath of suicide.
“When you lose someone you don’t want to continue to burden your friends.
“But, we connect people; we support them through their journey.”
She assured the sessions were held in strict confidentiality by facilitators who too had lost a loved one to suicide
“What you say in the group stays in the group.”
Contact Lee-Ann Foord on 6581 2800 for more information.