Becoming a Peer Supporter – Siria’s Journey
By Siria Thomas
Peer Supporters play a vital role in the delivery of the services of Red Nose Grief and Loss by offering a very special and personal service that can only be delivered by those parents who have directly experienced or been impacted themselves by the loss of a baby or child. For information about our Peer Support Program, call 1300 308 307.
I have always found Christmas a bittersweet time for my family. It’s a time of year where happy families are everywhere I look, and all of the joy of the season seems to highlight for me that someone is missing from my family circle. My child who should be celebrating all of the excitement that Christmas brings, but she never got to see a Christmas tree, or open a present, she never even got to come home.
As another year passes, and another Christmas time falls upon us, I reflect on my journey from ‘that day’ until now. A year after Skyia died during her birth at 41 weeks, I was pregnant again, not the happy, excited pregnant, but that scared, disbelieving, ‘I’m sure this baby will die too’ type of pregnant. When my second daughter was born healthy and screaming, I felt like the breath returned to my own lungs and a little light returned to a world where I had been in total darkness. Stumbling beside me for that dark year, was my friend, and my life-saver Susie, whose own baby daughter Ava, had died 7 weeks after Skyia. We had been introduced by a SANDS representative in Wollongong, in those very early weeks, and my memory of before and after Susie is almost as profound as before and after Skyia. We found something deeply healing about spending time together, she was another bereaved parent who completely understood me. When we were together, it was like there was a lantern guiding the way through this nightmare. I wished I could bottle that remedy, and eventually, it was our experience of how beneficial that connection is, that inspired us both to do our parent support training with Red Nose and start a support group for bereaved families in the Illawarra area.
The response was overwhelming, with so many families coming to us and finding that same understanding support. It is something special to see how much just sitting and talking over a cup of tea can mean to a grieving parent. For me, facilitating a circle of parents who have lost babies is a humbling experience. There is an energy that is created in that circle that must be felt to be understood. Smiling through tears has come to be my favourite emotion and I see it so often in the group. We have met hundreds of families in their darkest hours, and gone on to see the light return for them, to meet their rainbow babies and to see deep friendships begin and flourish through our support group.
It has now been almost 15 years since we started up the group and it is still going strong. Although Susie’s life took her in a different direction over Mudgee way, she will always hold that amazingly special place in my heart, and the group that we began is a legacy to that friendship. As our last support meeting for 2017 draws near, I would like to encourage any of you reading this who may have toyed with the idea of attending a group, to take the leap. The feedback is always the same – “I came with a heavy heart but somehow, as I leave I am feeling lighter.” Sharing that pain does help ease the load of grief on your heart. This Christmas time, I am sending much love to you all. They were but a little life, but not a little loss.
Last reviewed: 13/4/21