Wendy McWilliam – President of WINGS of Hope

How did you come to know WINGS of Hope?

I wasmd_wendy-mcwilliam-profile-pic bereaved by suicide over 12 years ago when my mother took her life. After years of managing my grief alone, my Aunty came across a bereavement counselling group. I eventually joined the Restoring the Heartbeat of Hope program, which is still being facilitated by Dr Diana Sands PhD. The group program supported me with ways to communicate to my family, friends and colleagues about my loss.

From this program stemmed a small group of bereaved people that thrived from the connection and similar loss. We wanted to continue to share and support each other. So to achieve this we formed an organisation called WINGS of Hope. We quickly identified the lack of awareness around suicide and those bereaved and this is still one of our driving forces behind WINGS of Hope.

The loss of someone we love to suicide has a huge impact on those left behind. Can you tell us something of how it was for you?

My mother was 49 years old and suffered from anxiety and depression that no one knew about. Neither of her 2 closest friends, husband or myself had any idea what was eating away at her.

Loosing my mother by suicide is the time of my life that will forever be the hardest, most emotional and tiring time of my life. And absolutely yes, it has changed me.

At the time, my family and I were overwhelmed with friends and community support that was available to us living in a rural region. The 6 weeks after my mothers passing is still a blur for me.

I was in a state of shock and disbelief that this would happen to my mother without anyone knowing or helping. This loss is like no other, unanswered questions and emotions continue to fill me 12 years on.

Why is it important to tell your story?

Even though sharing our stories can be hard, it is the connection my story may have with another bereaved person or understanding of grief from a relative or friend that was struggling to understand.
The reason I tell my story is that I never know how much my mum was struggling to a point that the only person who did was her GP. Sharing how you feel and coping with situations, life and decisions are so important.

What are some of the things that were helpful to you in your loss?

Communication –  Suicide is complex and every story is different. I learnt from my experience that I need to keep all lines of communications open with my partner, family, friends and collegues. When you go home today or back to the office, recognize someone in your life that may need the supporting words of YOU’RE DOING A GREAT JOB!

Community – I never expected myself to be faced with losing someone close to me to suicide. I felt alone, isolated and angry through much of my grief. It wasn’t until I joined the bereaved community and discovered others had also suffered a similar loss that helped me feel less alone and really validated my emotions that I was feeling and still feel about my mother.

Gratitude – The loved ones left behind form part of the ripple effect of suicide! We need to take care of ourselves. By starting a gratitude diary – each evening before you go to sleep, write down 3 things you are grateful for, this will ensure you’re keeping in touch with your own happiness and well being.
I also use this tool to reinforce that I am doing a good job! Life is hard, with constant speed humps but at the end of the day, we’re all doing a good job, we’re here aren’t we.

What are you dreaming of?

I’m dreaming of the day funding by the Federal Government is injected into the mental health sector across metro and rural Australia. The need to address the ever growing population suffering from depression and other mental illnesses is becoming more prevalent than ever before. This includes providing rural support for suffers and provide education to those bereaved that is they are not alone.

How does your involvement with WINGS of Hope give you hope or encourage growth?

Over the years I have used resilience and energy that I learned from my mother, to assist others bereaved by suicide. I’m now President of an Association called WINGs Of Hope set up to inspire growth after losing a loved one to suicide.

Spending time with WINGS of Hope enables me to focus on bereavement and communication with community members that is outside of my circle of friends, family and work colleagues.

 

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