Fathers of Loss Support Series: Paul’s story
Fathers of Loss Support Series:
Meet Paul, loving father of five children. His second child, Bernadette, died from SIDS in 1988 at just seven and a half months old.
Paul is a Musician, best known as one of the founding members of The Cockroaches, Managing Director of The Wiggles and solo artist who has recently released an album called Love Songs for Lonely people.
That night I was talking to Pauline and Bernadette on the phone. I was on tour at the time. Pauline, my wife, was visiting her family in country NSW. Bernadette had just learnt to say ‘Ta Ta.’
But they were the last words that I would ever hear from my baby. Early the next morning, she passed away from SIDS.
I got a phone call mid-morning my father was with me. I was grateful he was with me.
I was spared the horror of finding her and racing screaming to the hospital as my wife with her dad and poor brother had to. My brothers were in the same hotel with us and they heard this primal yell when I was told.
It was unbelievable for me. But it was a fact. Bernadette had passed. Both my wife and I felt the same in that we had no control over anything. There were moments where we both thought we couldn’t even survive. But we did.
I’m sixty now and was 27 when it happened. It’s been thirty-three years, but what was a raw open wound is a very real scar. It’s sadder now, less raw. I have four other children, one of whom has a child. Another is going to have a child, and I’ve missed all that with Bernadette. There is an ever-growing sadness that I haven’t got to see Bernadette do that.
Advice for future dads, their friends, and family
There are few things I would have done differently at the time if I could do them again. I was asked if I would like to see Bernadette at the funeral home, but I said ‘no.’ I now wish I had seen her. I believe it would have helped me. I wish I could have just talked to her to say goodbye with her there.
When my family and friends talked about Bernadette, it really helped. It still does. When it first happened, the simple, practical things around the house helped, and people just being present with us.
The contrast of this is some people avoid you. It makes them uncomfortable. I’ve heard people say I don’t like going to funerals. Nobody likes funerals. If you’re a mate, a friend or family, you have to be there. If you don’t know what to say, just being there can help. Just say sorry. It’s thirty-three years since my daughter died, but having someone call and ask how I’m going makes a difference. There’s nothing like hearing from someone.
Bernadette is still a constant presence in my life. I talk about her regularly and post about her on social media. I do like to talk about her.
I will do anything I can do to help other families going through what I did.
Red Nose has been an essential part of my grieving process. It has given me lots of opportunities to talk about Bernadette publicly.
Red Nose 24/7 Bereavement Support Line 1300 308 307.
Last reviewed: 29/11/23