Grief & Bereavement Specialist
This is my story...
Everything changed when at 38, my partner Nathan died unexpectedly and I was left to manage not only my own grief, but that of my young children. I didn’t know how I was going to survive such a traumatic experience. I missed Nathan terribly and felt like I’d never smile again. Every single aspect of my life was affected by Nathan’s death. In my early grief, I couldn’t see through to the next day and I was terrified of the new path I had not chosen.
While I had professional experience of grief through my work as a Social Worker, nothing could have prepared me for the shock of losing my partner and the complexity of the grieving process. From the loneliness, deep sadness and uncertainty, to navigating awkward questions at the supermarket and the ‘brain fog’ of grief, it all felt overwhelming, stressful and confusing.
And while I had the amazing support of friends and family, who were also missing Nathan, I felt I needed to connect with other widowed people who were surviving, or had survived, their partner’s death, and learnt how to manage their grief. A friend introduced me to another widow, and when we met we talked for hours. I realised I needed to connect with other people who shared a similar experience; people who I could relate to and learn from.
So I founded the Grief Connect Young Widowed Support Group – an online space where widowed men and women could have honest discussions about the harsh realities of losing a partner.
The creation of grief connect...
Four years later, my father passed away unexpectedly. He was my real life superhero and I found myself devastated once again by the loss of another special person in my life. I wanted my mother to have access to the same support and comfort that I had received from fellow widowed people, so I founded the Grief Connect Over 55’s Widowed Support Group and Grief Connect.
Grief Connect fills in the gaps in care by providing grief and bereavement counselling and service referral information that clarify the next steps once you’ve lost a loved one.
Along with the emotional trauma of losing a loved one, many people are unaware of the practicalities of dealing with a death. There are often many formal and informal processes and tasks that require attention in order to move forward with life. Grief Connect can provide the relevant information and connect you to services that meet your individual needs.
Improving conversations around death and dying in Australia
Through my work, I’m often reminded how difficult grief is, not only for the griever, but for the wider community. In western society, there’s no clear blueprint for how to support someone who is grieving.
The Grief Language Project provides grief education and equips participants with the language needed to support someone experiencing grief. People walk away with the confidence to have conversations and hold space for those who are grieving, without feeling awkward or uncomfortable.
While an in-person seminar on grief may feel awkward, the topic is approached with sensitivity, and participants are empowered with an educational awareness of grief and empathy for the grieving process.
Combining lived experience with professional qualifications and expertise
I completed a Bachelor of Social Work from Edith Cowan University and have worked as a Social Worker and Counsellor for 19 years. I am a registered member of the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW).
My personal experiences in grief, combined with my professional skills, fuel my passion to equip every Australian with grief language skills and psychological management strategies to better cope with grief and bereavement.
But most importantly, I create safe and supportive spaces where people can connect and find they are not alone in their grief journey.
“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”
– Vicki Harrison