To mark its release, Ipswich mum Sally McAuliffe, below, one of 100 parents featured in By My Side, has written a heart-felt message to The Carousel readers about what it means for her and other Australian families to have this kind of resource…
“Ten years ago last month as I held my three-year-old son Conor in my arms and read him a story about a brave owl that was learning to fly on his own, my little boy took his last breaths.
It felt like a hole had been cut out of me, I had changed forever. Every basic life task I faced was now a challenge for me. I had lost my son to liver cancer and I had to learn to live without him.
In Australia the death of a child is thankfully less common than in some countries, but it does happen, and possibly more than we acknowledge.
The problem parents of children that die face is that conversations and understanding of death at any time is rarely discussed but when it comes to a child dying it is simply something no-one even wants to think about.
As a newly-bereaved parent I wanted so desperately to know I was normal, that what I was feeling was OK.
What reading By My Side shows is that every Mum and every Dad will have different feelings, different needs, use different strategies to deal with grief – because in fact when it comes to grief there is no normal. The whole situation is completely abnormal.Sally, centre, with author Leigh Donovan, left, and Redkite CEO Jenni Seton at the book launch.
Conor taught me many lessons and still does – that life is now, sadness is OK and laughter is essential.
I now accept that crying is completely OK. Losing Conor taught me that life is made up of good and bad things. Without sadness we can never truly recognise and appreciate happiness. I want my little boy back, I want to change what happened but I do have to thank him for the lessons he taught me.
I cry because I miss my boy, but I have accepted sadness. The other struggle a grieving parent has is guilt at feeling happiness. Over time I allowed myself to know that it’s OK to laugh. When I laugh it doesn’t mean I have forgotten Conor or that I am over his death, it just means I am feeling happiness that is still there. You can be happy and sad at the same time.
Conor is more than just a three-year-old old that died from cancer. He is a brother to three girls and one boy; two of my girls never met him, but he is still an important part of their lives. When asked how many children I have, my reply is simple. I have five children, four to look after and five to love.
By My Side will let parents know they are not alone. It will help family and friends know their grieving loved one is normal and given time they will live again. It’s a much-needed resource that will bring some comfort to grieving parents and their families.”