By Hazel Bradley
The first time Sandra Button went to a Solace WA meeting, a grief support group for those who have lost a spouse or partner, she had to force herself to get out of the car.
“I was sitting there thinking, ‘I can’t do this’. I didn’t know what to expect. In the end it was so hot in the car I just had to get out.
“That first time was very daunting but I am so glad I went in. I think at first I just cried listening to other people speak.”
Sandra’s husband David died five years ago. They had been married 46 years.
“The grief is with you every minute of the day,” she said.
“Your friends and family want you to be happy again. They want to see you get back to normal. But you are never going to be the same. “It doesn’t matter how long ago your spouse passed away, it never goes away.” Sandra said it helped to be with people who understood.
“At the meetings, you don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to.
“The two hours pass very quickly. It is very structured. “A lot of times you are hearing things you are going through yourself.”
Fellow Solace member Tony Haeusler started attending meetings after he came across the group’s stall at last year’s Have A Go day at Burswood.
Tony lost Beryl Cooper, his partner of 16 years, 18 months ago. Beryl died just 15 days after a cancer diagnosis. “My world fell apart; it was devastating,” Tony said. “I felt empty and hollow. I have never had to take so many deep breaths.”
Tony and Beryl had a bucket list of things they wanted to do together. Now he faces doing those things, such as taking a trip on The Ghan, by himself.
“We fitted together like a glove and it was unbelievable how much we had in common,” he said.
“When we met we were both getting over divorces. “We met at church but it was a while before we got together. “She had two tickets to the Hopman Cup (tennis tournament), invited me along and things went from there. “That was the first of 16 Hopman Cups we went to together.”
Tony’s grief made it impossible for him to drive long distances. He found everywhere he went held memories of Beryl.
“Going to Solace I met other people going through the same experience in different ways and I knew I wasn’t going round the bend.
“I have a photo album of our life together and I wondered if I was getting too fixated on it, but then I met someone else who had a number of albums.”
Sandra and Tony have formed new friendships through Solace. Tony meets some of the other men for coffee during the week and Sandra and four others are heading to a beach house in Falcon for a break.
“Other friends want to give you suggestions or advice and they think grief is a problem that can be fixed,” Tony said. “But in my own experience, just listening is the most important thing.”
Solace Grief Support Group WA meets the fourth Saturday of every month at City West Lotteries House, in Delhi Street, West Perth, from 2pm-4pm.
There is also a casual meeting at Cargill Cafe in Victoria Park every second Saturday.
Another group is due to start in Joondalup and there are plans for one in Mandurah, depending on whether a facilitator can be found.
Story courtesy The Senior WA – thesenior.com.au