Understandably, something that happens quite a lot in my life is that people, friends and strangers, reach out to me for support or advice.
No matter how much I try and shake the tag, I’ll probably always be known as “the guy that experienced grief”.
Most of the contact is mental health related, where either that person or someone they know is in a pickle and they want some advice.
Other times it’s someone experiencing grief who just wants to open up about how they are feeling.
I’m not an expert, but I guess I’ve put myself out there and shared that grief is a big part of my story.
I do try to understand, listen and hopefully just get where they’re coming from.
This can be challenging at times, because I’m human too.
I have tough days – sometimes finding the energy to support someone else after my own day can be tough too, or I can get caught up emotionally in what a person has to say.
In recent times I’ve fortunately found effective ways to show up for others while creating some emotional distance for myself.
One person who reached out last year was Damien Green. He is someone I’ve known for a long time – same circle of friends, same sporting clubs growing up, but to be honest we had never been close.
When Damien reached out, he and his wife Hayley were six months into the most tragic time of their lives.
On February 24, 2020, they lost their 7-year-old son Archie in a boating accident in Tasmania.
Damien said he had an idea of how to honour Archie, and a few friends had mentioned he should contact me for tips on how to help make it happen.
We caught up for a coffee and the first five minutes consisted of catching up on old times, touching on our illustrious footy careers, current work situations, and then finally, we ordered a couple of lattes so we could delve further into our chat.
What I didn’t anticipate was that after fifteen minutes two grown men would be sitting opposite each other in a Hobart café doing our best to fight off tears. Classic!
I’ve not asked him, but I’m pretty sure Damien walked in that day never expecting to feel comfortable enough to disclose the amount of grief and sadness he and his family were experiencing.
But I’m sure glad he did, and as we walked out after an hour together, a special friendship and bond was formed.
After many texts and calls, we are now working on a tribute day for Archie’s 9th heavenly birthday this August with an amazing group of Damien’s friends and family.
“Archie’s 100” will be a fun-filled fundraiser with any money raised going to equipment in the NICU unit of the Royal Hobart Hospital.
Little Archie ended up being an organ donor, which was a final nod to his beautiful and caring nature.
The story of the Greens’ grief and loss has gone against my new rule of not letting myself become emotionally connected to other people’s stories.
This time, I’ve done the absolute opposite – I have constantly thought about their pain and put myself in their shoes thinking about how I would feel to lose my own child in such traumatic circumstances.
Last week was the one year anniversary of losing Archie, and like anyone impacted by his loss, that date loomed large and was always going to be a challenge for anyone who knew him or the Green family.
And while this was terribly sad, I did reflect on how lucky I was to be a part of the journey.
I wouldn’t change my level of involvement for a second. Being part of this experience has brought a lot of people, and a community, together.
The roundtable discussions have been filled with sadness – but our driving purpose is to help others who may walk a similar tragic journey in the future.
At the end of every text, Damien always thanks me for my support and guidance. His gratitude shines bright with every interaction we have.
But the reality is, it is the Green family I want to thank.
Thank you for reminding me that even though we sometimes want to fall because we have nothing more to give, somewhere deep down it’s human nature to want to help others.
And we ALL need you to remember… Archie will always be so proud of you for this!
Mitch McPherson, Founder of SpeakUp Stay ChatTY