Red Nose Day saves little lives through research

MEMORIES: Xavier's mum Joni wishes her son happy 12th birthday as she reminisces about her love and loss over the years.
MEMORIES: Xavier's mum Joni wishes her son happy 12th birthday as she reminisces about her love and loss over the years.

The first Red Nose Day, in 1988, paved the way for today's landscape of national charity fundraising days, urging Australians to wear a red nose and be "silly for a serious cause". It's a chance for parents, like psychotherapist and counsellor Joni Bennett, to tell their stories and help others who may have similar experiences.

"Today is my son Xavier's 12th birthday. And like many SIDS parents, we spend time thinking about what could have been. SIDS robs a family of their future. It forces you to find new meaning in a world that appears meaningless," she said.

"Losing a child suddenly makes you question everything. The 'what ifs', the unknowns, and guilt plague your mind. SIDS challenges your identity as a parent and your sense of self. You question your relationship to the world, including your spiritual beliefs. Life moves on for others while you remain stuck in a lonely, unfamiliar space.

"This is the reality for many SIDS families and people grieving. Grief is a unique experience for everyone. It is not a linear process, and like all things in life, it shifts and changes over time.

"However, grief, at its core, is the perseverance of love. And because of this, it has the power to transform, but it takes work. It requires persistence and strength to keep going even when you feel lifeless, 'talked out,' or sick of your own tears.

"What I have learned is that grief needs to be processed through body and mind to ultimately ease the burdens of the soul. In sharing my story, I want to provide hope, personal support and gateways to other therapies that can empower grieving families.

"In terms of 'talk' therapy, initially the SIDS helpline and later the SANDS support group connected me to a community of parents also dealing with loss. Later, my studies in holistic psychotherapist challenged my healing again and confirmed my belief in a multifaceted approach to grief.

"Trauma, of any kind, forces your mind 'offline' while our bodies store the traumatic event until it's processed. That's why body work is so important. Local businesses supported me to work with my panic attacks and anxiety. They helped me process my trauma in different ways, grounding me back in my body, which became a safe haven. I visited shamanic and somatic healers that worked to free trapped energies, which were triggering my nervous system response.

"I gave myself permission to explore my spirituality through healers, clairvoyants or simply by reading. This, a personal journey for everyone, gave me a new way to connect with my son. It reassured me that he was OK and filled me with wonder about the universe once again.

"Grief is a process. However, choosing to be an active participant in your grief is the fundamental difference between healing and surviving. You can feel empowered in a somewhat powerless situation, and it is the key to transformation.

"Because of this, I now see Xavier's death differently. I hold tender the moments we had rather than suppressing memories. It has led me to connect to something greater than myself and feel his love in ways I didn't think possible. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't want my baby in my arms. But allowing myself to process grief means he now rests peacefully in my heart, our souls forever connected.

"We never forget our loved ones; how could we? But in time, we can learn to love them in a new light, not out of grieving but living. Today I say happy 12th birthday beautiful Xavier. I love you. I miss you. But I am with you always."

For more information, visit www.rednose.org.au.

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