HELPING TO NORMALISE THE GRIEVING PROCESS: Catherine Campbell, right, helps Sandy Clark work through her grief at the loss of her husband Peter.
HELPING TO NORMALISE THE GRIEVING PROCESS: Catherine Campbell, right, helps Sandy Clark work through her grief at the loss of her husband Peter. Ute Schulenberg

Helping through the grief

WHEN Sandy Clark’s husband of 20 years, Peter, died suddenly of undiagnosed brain cancer in 2008, the shock and grief for her and her three children was overwhelming.

While friends and family were there and hugely supportive, with all the best will in the world their emotional involvement meant they were not always able to support Sandy, then living in Bellingen, in the way she needed.

So she approached Catherine Campbell, co-ordinator of the Bellingen/Nambucca branch of NALAG (National Association for Grief and Loss), having made a connection with her as the celebrant at Peter’s funeral.

“Catherine was someone to talk to, someone who knew how to listen,” Sandy said.

“She helped normalise the huge range of feelings I was having, including feeling like I was going crazy. She allowed me to just ‘be’ and guided me to draw on what I knew to give me the strength to move forward.”

As a volunteer with Miindala (the local NALAG branch) Catherine admits there is nothing anyone could do or say to make someone feel better during this time in their lives but as independent companions they can support a person’s strengths as they move through their individual grieving process.

“In Sandy’s case it was her music and her song-writing, which was the avenue of expression for her, so I encouraged that,” Catherine said.

She said Miindala volunteers were trained to walk beside people and understood emotional pain.

“Our training involves us looking our own emotional pain and our relationship with that pain, we learn how to be comfortable with that pain,” she said.

“Grief is everywhere in our lives and so often goes unrecognised. Apart from the almighty grief of the death of a loved one, there are many other things we grieve over - broken and damaged relationships , migration, pet loss, suicide, imprisonment, unemployment… the list is huge.

“Just just because you are in grief doesn’t mean you know how to grieve - we have a culture that has hidden death and the conversation around death and grief away.”

With Grief Awareness Week (21 to 27 August) approaching, Miindala is inviting people to attend a tree planting ceremony this Sunday from 11am to 12.30pm at The Point beside the Bellinger River, off James Eather Way, Bellingen.

The theme is ‘Rebuilding Hope’ and the ceremony will include live music by Sandy from her recently released CD, Dragonfly, which is a collection of songs she wrote as she grieved the loss of Peter.

Miindala is a volunteer community service offering support to people in grief and people experiencing life threatening situations . For more information phone Catherine on 0448 084 792 or for support in Coffs Harbour 6648 3674. 

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