Remembering for me is something I do whenever I feel the need. For the most part I can live my day to day life without making any fuss over it, but sometimes there is a need to sit and dwell on my memories. Maybe even shed a quiet tear or two.
As parents, Ross and I often sit together and perhaps raise a glass in toast to Kelly, and we often wonder what she would be like or be doing if she’d lived. Of course we can only imagine, dream about this, but it gives us some comfort I think.
In the early years after Kelly left us, we celebrated special days like her birthday, Christmas and the anniversary of her death. We’d get together, have a few drinks and talk about our girl, how we missed her, and tell stories of her exploits, sharing our grief. We needed that then, but as the years have passed the need has lessened and become a much more private grieving. I believe this to be a normal progression, healthy even, but not something that must fit into a regulated timeline. For some, this will come sooner than others, and that is fine, as we each work at our own progression. What hurts terribly today, may only cause a fleeting grief next month. There are no rules.
On Australia Day in Geelong, a group called SPAN – Suicide Prevention Awareness Network hold a march or rally, for those wishing to come together in a combined public sharing of grief for our loved ones lost to suicide. This group was formed eight or nine years after we lost Kelly, and by that time we didn’t feel the need to be a part of it, probably because we’d had so much support from our family and friends. SPAN serves a need in our community, and provide a valuable service for any or all who require it. But this year we decided we would attend the march, to see what it was about.
I registered online, and then on the morning of the march we joined around five hundred or so others to remember our loved ones. After we’d checked in, we had the opportunity to purchase SPAN merchandise — many people were already wearing t-shirts, caps and scarves in the colours of black and teal. There were dogs on leashes – several wearing scarves, families and others who were there simply to support those who needed it.
We also were able to add Kelly’s name to the list to be read out later. Then we gathered for the short service prior to our march. We were then asked to clear a large space in the middle of the group, and when they began reading out the names of our lost loved ones, we were asked to move to the centre and form a spiral.
So as the names were called out, people moved into the centre space and gradually formed a large spiral of people holding hands. So we stood there holding hands with strangers, joined in shared grief for the loss of our loved ones. It was almost reverent, I listened to those names being called out as our spiral grew larger and larger, and thought that there were too many, yet we only represented a small section of the community. Something that struck me too, was the predominance of male names being called out. Our menfolk seem to be overrepresented amongst the suicide statistics — perhaps we need to be paying more attention to the men in our lives. Tears were quietly shed as we stood there in our togetherness. The stranger holding my hand turned and patted my shoulder when it was finished in silent acknowledgement of another’s grief.
We then did our walk — two kilometres around the city, returning to the park for coffee, sausage sizzle or just to chat before dispersing.
It was a new experience for us, but one we will repeat next year. The SPAN motto is “Tough Times Pass” and yes they do. We settle back into regular life, but the memories will live on with us forever.