Anzac day this year was an incredibly difficult one for me, my emotional reaction to being at a service took me by surprise. Dad passed away a little less than a year ago, Anzac Day was our day together, I’d made a pact over a decade ago that Dad would attend Anzac parades. Dad was an SAS Vietnam Veteran, he had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and for many years wouldn’t attend Anzac Services. Instead he’d go to the the RSL club, self medicate and come home when the bar closed.
Over the last decade, as a family we did our best in making sure Dad was remembered for his service and given the respect he so rightly deserved, in which he paid the ultimate price.
This year for Anzac Day I was involved in the organisation of the Anzac Service in an FMG mining village. It was an honor to be a part of it and on reflection it was something I needed to do to busy myself in what was about to be one of my most difficult days to get through. The photo featured in this article is of me after the second service. I considered not sharing the photo because of the immense sadness in my face, I’m just hanging on by a thread. My gorgeous son Danny told me when he saw it he could see both pride and sadness. For this reason I think it’s perfect to share along with my learnings. I was proud, proud to be wearing Dad’s medals, proud to have been a part of the Anzac Day service and proud of myself for pulling through an incredibly difficult day.
I didn’t expect Anzac Day to have such a huge impact on me. The deep, hollow, heaviness of grief flooded through me as soon as the flags lowered to half mast and the bugle began to play The Last Post. That bugle call gets me at the best of times but this time my body shook as the tears started streaming down my face. I couldn’t stop them and didn’t want to, despite standing at the front of the crowd as one of the speakers. Too often we mask our emotions and stop ourselves from fully experiencing them. Whilst I find the feelings of overwhelming grief extremely uncomfortable they are a beautiful reminder that I have wholeheartedly loved.
Mental health is a major focus in mining and with good reason. The remote nature of the work, isolation and the distance from loved ones heightens your emotions. The positive response I received from sharing my insights in a vlog encouraged me to publish the essence of it here.
Allow yourself to feel the emotions
We are living, loving human beings that have been blessed with a whole range of emotions which allow us to feel life’s experiences. Everyone responds differently to life’s events, however many suppress their feelings or allow them to take over.
Let the emotions to wash over you and give yourself time to just be in that moment, without judgement. Just like waves that rise and fall, so do emotions. Let them rise, peak, and break gently on the shore. Know that where you are in that moment is not where you’re going to stay.
Speak out if you’re in company or in the workplace
After the service I was in no state to be working. I messaged the people I was working with and let them know I wasn’t doing well and why. I advised them I needed some time alone to reset and just be. They were very supportive and understanding of my circumstances. Fear stops many people letting their bosses, clients or colleagues know when they’re having a hard time.
Own your space and how you’re feeling, let people know what you need. For me it was alone time, this may not be your choice, it may be a distraction or someone to talk to. Do what feels best for you without fear of judgement.
Own how you’re feeling and avoid letting it own you
After a period of time I intuitively knew it was time to get moving. I knew that staying in my room was making it worse for me as I continuously replayed scenes whilst thinking of Dad. With each scene that played in my minds eye the tears would flow. I was by no means completely ready to get back to work, my eyes were puffy from crying and my nose was red and watery. That awful,pit of grief in my stomach made me feel empty. Going back to work was the distraction I needed, it provided me with a sense of purpose and helped me to move through how I was feeling.
If you find yourself unable to eat, sleep or enjoy the things you usually do for an extended period of time, seek professional help.