Robin Bailey and Rebecca Sparrow talk about everything on their podcast, The Well. And this week, they are talking about grief.
It’s a topic that both of these women are more than familiar with. Bec lost her baby daughter Georgie to stillbirth in 2010. And in 2014, Robin Bailey’s husband took his own life, leaving her a single mum to three adolescent boys.
Here, Robin talks about what she has learnt about her family living with grief (Post continues after audio):
“In the first year after my husband’s death, I was instantly thrown into the well of being a single mother.
I had been the breadwinner within our family, so financially that wasn’t as big a deal. But I had to go back to work, there was no question.
So the first year just me hurtling from one moment to the next and trying to hold on. It felt like a chariot ride. It felt like I was being thrown from one catastrophe to another. Because when someone suicides there’s a lot of reasons for that, and those reasons, in my case, became apparent as time went on.
And then there were the children. And I was dealing with teenage boys who were just not in a space to have any capacity or understanding of what was going on.
So those first 12 months were just us getting past every first. His birthday, Christmas, the children’s three birthdays, the first anniversary. Father’s Day was five days later. Then Mother’s Day.
Watch Robin talk to Mia Freedman about dealing with her husband’s suicide.
At the end of that year, I stupidly thought, ‘right, we’ve done it. We’ve gone through all the firsts, I’m good.’ But the second year was actually much harder. Because you are then trying to create a new normal and you’re dealing with your own pain and you’re dealing with watching your children fall apart. That was the kicker. I can cope with anything other than watching my kids in pain.
I’m one of those people that thinks it does take a village to raise a child, I just reached out to anyone that I thought could move us from one place to the next.
So early on I went to the head of childhood psychiatry at one of the Brisbane hospitals and said ‘help me, what do I do?’
Once he’d heard my story, he said “Whatever advice I give you will never be as relevant as your gut feeling, because you know what it felt like as a child.”
My father died when I was 11, and the overriding emotion as a child, I know now that I've seen it reflected back at me, is kids don't want to be different.
And when a parent dies, you are immediately thrown into a space that people A) find weird, and B) don't know how to talk about. I can even feel it now as we're talking about it, it's like that pointing and looking, that was what I just tried to say to people who had contact with the kids.
I said, 'They're kids. They're still the same people. They're trying to deal with this, but they're dealing with it as a bubble away from themselves. You've got to deal with them the way that you always have. Don't go up and patronise them. Don't go and hug them and cry on their shoulder and put all your crap onto them. Even though you're devastatingly sad and you're so upset for them, you can't do that.' And I think that actually enabled the boys to feel like they weren't the freak show that they felt like they were.
So my number one tip would be: DON'T BE WEIRD."
For more on dealing with grief, listen to the full episode of The Well below, and subscribe in iTunes.