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Member Contributions

At time our members share their experiences and represent their feelings by writing letters, stories and poetry. These contributions are usually published in our FOCUS newsletter. Some are also selected for the general public as follows:

Stepping Stones

IMG 7483  You are suggesting what?
- Perhaps take the step.
I cannot.
- Can you say why?
I am afraid.
- Of falling?
Yes and failing,
And leaving behind the memories
As well as my child
Leaving all I have left.
- You think that will happen?
I do not know.
How can I take the risk?
- Can I help you? Stand with you?

We stood a long while.

I finally took the step.
Stood precariously wavering on the stone.
An inordinate time.
Waiting, fearing, teetering on the brink of – what?
'Til I realised that my memories could not be left behind.
They would come with me.
As my child would.
As if he were saying, "Come on, we can do this."
One small step led to more.
Still hesitating at first.
Then with some renewed vigour.

Slowly I learnt that I could live in this new reality.
Built on bitter experience.
I could live and give to others.
Extending my hand and my compassion.
To bridge their gap.
So they could also take that first step.
On the stepping stones to a new life..

The memories come with us.
And the children smile.

© Carolyn Salter

Despair of Depression

tim webster  Thank you Ian, Shirley and Jeanette for sharing your stories of the tragic deaths of your sons, Daniel and Miles. The circumstances may be somewhat different but I also live with the image of my dead son as I, too, was the one who found him.

Since the death of my beautiful son, Tim, last August I have learnt a lot that I wish I'd understood before. I have gained a little insight into the depth of the pain in severe depression and how little is really understood of mental illness and its treatment.

Tim suffered from bipolar disorder and in manic phases, during which he felt on top of the world, he was wonderfully creative and achieved great things. Unfortunately the depression phases felt unbearable and though he really tried to work with mental health experts and the advised medication, he reached a point where he felt completely hopeless and took his own life. All the love he was given did not stop his despair. At his funeral it was already so apparent that he was loved deeply by so many, his friends, his colleagues and of course, his family, and since then I have become aware of how many lives he'd touched and how many of us miss him so terribly.

It wasn't until a friend, talking about friends of hers whose daughter had recently died of cancer, commented how awful it must have been for these parents to have seen their daughter suffer, that I realised how differently people view mental illness from physical illness. I had watched my son suffer, telling me how much it hurt, seeing him struggling to keep going but there weren't any scans to show what was causing his pain and there was the hope that he would come through it and be able to cope with life again. I certainly do not want to underestimate the enormous pain of seeing your child die of a physical illness or to lose your child for any reason. I just want people to understand that just as you can't cure a physical illness by saying "buck up!", mental illness can also be sometimes manageable and sometimes not.

If all my son needed was love he'd be alive and well today and celebrating his 30th birthday this month.

Helen Webster

(Members please feel free to login to the Forum and chat with Helen and others on this topic)

Suicide and Stigma

suicide  My son Daniel died by suicide on the 5th September 2008.

That date is etched into the brain of myself and my wife Shirley. I found my son on the morning of the incident and the image that confronted me will never leave my mind. I live with the nightmare of that image every day of my life.

After Daniel died, and the way he died became public, we certainly felt the effect of the stigma of death by suicide. Some people that we considered to be good friends seemed to distance themselves from us. Others that we didn't expect to, became very supportive and have since stayed supportive. We have also found that suicide is a taboo subject and not spoken openly about. We have had people come to offer their condolences and support only to tell us they have also had someone in their family die by suicide as well. But we did not know that until now because we are now a part of that so called "circle of taboo".

Suicide is also spoken about as being a cowards way out, or selfish, but it is anything but. If you just took a moment to sit down, think about the way you would do it and then take action, you wouldn't go through it because you wouldn't have the guts. Some people suffering from personal situations, being, depression, mental health, terminal illness can only see one way of taking the pain away they are suffering.

Our son Daniel was obviously in a lot of pain, anguish, depressed and in a lonely dark place. Buy he never showed any signs that he was struggling in any way, shape or form. We have since found out from other parents and some professionals that a person in the same place that Daniel was in mask their feelings and keep all their pain to themselves. So it was impossible to act on or be made feel responsible or guilty for the act of suicide.

My wife and I have only one piece of advice and support to any parent who has had a child die by suicide. Hold your head high and be proud of the fact that you have jumped that tremendously hard hurdle that life sometimes throws at you. Allow time for you and your family to grieve in your own way and not how people think you should. Also give a lot of thought about joining TCF as the love, support and friendship you get from the other members will give you the inner strength to go on in your everyday life.

In memory of our darling son Daniel

Ian and Shirley Usher

As You Travel Life's Way

 stock-photo-19828109-man-silhouette-walking-on-the-autumn-forest-road When your heart is aching 
And teardrops are calling
Remember there is always hope
Hope for a new tomorrow

May the road you tread upon
Be soft upon your feet
May all your troubles be soft upon your heart
May your destiny lead you through pathways
Of happiness where gentle rivers flow

The sun by day shall be your guiding light
And in the silence of the night stars above
Shall guard you till morning light

Barbara Micaleff - City Chapter

Miles' Story

milesphoto  My youngest son Miles passed away on 9/10th April 2010 aged 18 from suicide. We still can't believe he has gone and know part of me died with him that day. Here is a little of his 'story'.

In October 2011 we took some of Miles' ashes back to England to bury them there with his Dad who had passed away nearly ten years previously. When I stood in the church that day reading the eulogy, it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be and I took strength from remembering how as a little boy of age 9, Miles stood there in the very same spot and spoke so eloquently about his dad all those years ago. The first thing he said was he wished his Dad was there that day to see all the people who were there for him. I could say that about Miles as the church was packed to the rafters and it was the third service there had been for him. In Miles' words, he would have been stoked. I think it was a testament to what sort of young man he was, always ready to give a kind or cheerful word to help someone and always there to support his friends when they needed him. It has been quite amazing to see how many people's lives he has touched over the years on both sides of the world.

When his sister read the eulogy at his funeral in Sydney, she talked about some of the funny things he had said and done over the years and there were many to choose from – his unnatural fear of ducks – plastic or real, his delight at being rescued from a locked toilet as a child and loving "Fireman Sam" all the more for doing it and even selling sweets at his Dad's funeral to help cheer everyone up that day and amassing forty pounds in the process!! He always saw the best in everyone, had a great sense of humour and fun but was always very caring and compassionate too.

He did go off the rails as a teenager and made some very bad choices, but it was the nature of the addictions he had that caused him to have to go through his private pain again and again. I try to remember that his final response to this pain was to see it over, both for him and for those he loved. I also believe that in Miles' case his addictions having started so young, and in the ignorance of his age, are themselves an indictment on our society and culture but not on Miles himself.

My pain as his mother will never be over with and I am also angry at the waste of life and potential everyone saw so clearly in Miles, but I am not angry with Miles because I know he genuinely tried over and over to have a different outcome. I just hope that one day I will become stronger through my pain and the memories of my wonderful son who loved life, perhaps a touch too much, will bring me immense joy and will help me to grow through my grief. He was and will continue to be a wonderful younger brother to his two siblings and would also have been a terrific uncle to his two nieces born since he died. He will continue to be a huge part of our lives forever. He might have lost his way for a little while, but he never lost sight of the fact that we all loved him, were always there for him and always forgave him. It was just that he wasn't able to forgive himself.

He will never leave our hearts and we will grieve for him every day for the rest of our lives.

Miles Alastair Liddell
11th September 1991 - 9th/10th April 2010

Jeanette Bath - City and Met Chapter

Poppy's Story - Living in the Moment

Respite is a wonderful thing, especially for those whose world has been fragmented and changed forever by loss and grief. In the first months after my son, Andrew, died, there was only one day of the week when I would wake up with a sense of anticipation and enjoyment. That was the day when I joined a small group to walk the dogs being held in a council pound.

We would take the dogs out of their concrete enclosures and walk to a large park nearby. There was lush grass and interesting smells for the dogs, plus lots of attention from the walkers and the other dogs. In a corner of the park was an old bowling green, fenced off and used as an offlead area and, to our charges, doggie heaven!

Here we could let the dogs run and play, free for a time and get lots of cuddles and licks in return. Some of the dogs were still young pups and very affectionate. Their spontaneity and enjoyment of the moment was undimmed by the prospect of returning to their isolated enclosures. I, too, felt isolated from the world that had changed so much for me, but I was able to enjoy this respite of 'living in the moment' with the dogs.

Recently, I cared for a very special dog called Poppy, following reconstructive surgery on its jaw after a dreadful accident in Fiji. Poppy had been left to fend for herself after the accident but she was unable to compete with other dogs for food and was barely managing to stay alive. People began to notice this emaciated and badly injured, but still friendly and gentle dog. Gradually one person after another helped Poppy and she was eventually brought to Australia for specialised surgery.

Poppy had an initial operation and during her recovery from this, needed to be hand fed in a particular way before a second procedure restored her ability to eat independently. Throughout all her painful treatment, she remained gentle and accepted everything and everyone. Again I was reminded of the resilience of animals and the respite of 'living in the moment' with them, along with the unconditional love and affection that animals give us in return for our care.