Jennifer Donohoe, Grieving Mother, (BBus. Comms. RN) CREATING CRITICAL AWARENESS IN COMMUNITIES FOR EFFECTIVE UNDERSTANDING AND SUPPORT OF BEREAVED PARENTS AND SIBLINGS, Consultant/Advocate for bereaved parents, their families as well as children and families who are facing life CHANGING conditions.
I have always lived life from an expansive, wonder filled, good humoured and loving perspective. My free spirit – enthusiastic to discover this world, fuelled my wanderlust and desire to fulfil unknown potential. Having travelled widely including remote areas of the globe, I’ve thrilled at witnessing how others live, communicate and love. In my work I’ve achieved exemplary success in two careers which I worked in often simultaneously spanning 30 years as:
- A Registered Nurse, including all acute settings, chronic disease, emergency, travel health, paediatrics, remote area nursing and an international medivac. Thirty years experiencing the highest privilege of caring and empowering others at their most vulnerable.
- A Communications Specialist and Public Speaker (Communications Degree majoring in Public Relations and Journalism) – extensive work in International Tourism, Golf, Health, Arts, Yachting and Marine sector.
In 2015, our world collided with a traumatic tragedy and agony which tore apart my entire life and soul. The eternal pain so immense and indescribable yet remains invisible to others.
My son, Sam, was completely healthy when trauma and tragedy descended on us, invading our incredibly loving, whole, appreciative and laughter filled family. A sudden diagnosis at just 9 years of age of an aggressive, malignant, and inoperable brain tumour. Sam’s little sister who absolutely adored and looked up to him, was just four years of age.
With my husband, we have endured the unimaginable and unrelenting pressure of living on the very edge of the precipice in sheer terror, searing pain, abandonment, free falling in the darkest abyss, while navigating corrupt medical systems and medical negligence at the most critical level. All this, whilst desperately trying to find a treatment to help save our son and keep our much longed for, exquisitely loving and life loving family together.
What followed Sam’s death in 2018 at twelve years of age, crushed my faith in humanity. Some family members and friends either abandoned us, or traumatised us further by not hearing our needs, respecting our grief and how we had to live with it. Most were consumed with their own fears and rigid ideas of grief which were fundamentally opposite to our reality.
What happened to us is one of the most unknown, unspoken, devastating and common cruelties and prejudice which occurs after the death of a child. Occurring in most Western cultures across the globe, it is a tragic indictment on society. “Closing your eyes to others’ pain, does not make it go away’ – Chinese proverb
It is not society which dictates how you love your child. And it is definitely not for society to dictate how you grieve for them. It is not for others to decide what should upset you – only you can know that when you are the only one enduring your child’s death. It is the insensitive remarks and empty platitudes insisted and determinedly put on us by others’ which more often than not, pushes families to the edge.
The love of your child and theirs for you, is the most sacred of places.
The vast chasm between bereaved parents and others urgently needs to be addressed so grieving parents and siblings worldwide are free to grieve for their child/brother or sister, without judgement and without explanation.
The reality is, supporting and understanding grieving parents is not complex. But it requires a complete rehaul on what society currently offers on grief and instead, not avoid grieving parents, but truly hear what each parent and family uniquely needs.
I am dedicated to making this happen.
In addition, I now challenge the negative reactions within communities on parental and sibling grief – through education of our needs and conveying the reality of what we endure. Grieving parents are systematically avoided in society when they should be held in the highest respect and integrity.