What I cant un-see.

There is an image of a lady floating around FaceBook at the moment. She is missing after a night out in Melbourne and people are desperately sharing her picture in the hope that it will bring her home.

A few months back a friend wrote this. She spoke about the ways in which the careers we chose shape the way in which we see the world. When I was 19 I worked in a rehabilitation hospital on a social work prac, I did a visit one day to the Department of Forensic Medicine as part of the learning about the ways that social workers can work together. Its the place thats also home to the morgue. As part of our tour we were taken into that space where people are brought when they die suddenly and without reason. The group of students I was with shuffled into a room only to be asked to move to the left as a trolley was wheeled past with a person on it. A deceased person. A person who had been someones parent, or sibling, or lover or friend but a person I had no way of knowing. I saw no part of that person only the outline of their body under a large sheet, it was the body that no longer housed their soul. I caught my breath, I backed back against the wall and I felt a surging heat rise up my chest, along my neck as if someone was tightening their hold on me.

When your old friend anxiety comes to visit for the first time you don’t realise who they are until well after they have left. I remember mumbling something to the lovely social worker that was taking us on this tour – I turned and ran up the long and winding stairs and pushed a door open and ran out into the street. I remember standing for a moment and feeling blinded by a sunshine that I hadn’t noticed before. I smoothed down my hair, took a deep breath and wandered back to my car. I didn’t tell anyone what had happened because I didnt really understand it myself.

Ive been back to that same building umpteen times over the years, for meetings, for court cases, to have coffee with old colleagues who have became friends and despite glancing around corners I never saw that door again. The one that allowed me to escape from what lay below.

I think part of the reason I embrace the world of the space in between, about losses that aren’t quite clear to us, about the world of missing is that it signifies hope  – it might be false hope, it might be positive hope but it still leaves that door open a crack to provide the possibility that we all live happily ever after.

I hope the lady is found, I hope she just took a wrong turn and that someone reveals the door to her.

Does seeing the image of a missing person fill you with hope for a good outcome?



Giving power to the loveliness

I had a story published at Daily Life this week. It had been a story that had been rattling around in my head for a long time. Its something that Ive been pondering when I study – its about the fact that if we are all going to experience some type of loss, at some time in our lives, why dont we talk openly about living in that space after the loss has happened?

I think there is a common thread through our desire to hear people’s real stories – to hear the nitty gritty details, why the news is so invasive, why we watch people having microphones pushed into their faces to give us the scoop on just how it is they will go on. We then mutter to ourselves that we dont know how they’ll survive – that if we were in their shoes then we wouldn’t be able to cope. I cant even type the things that Im frightened about losing in my life, its too awful a place to go to.

The thing is people are still walking, talking, ordering coffee and going about their lives in spite of what has happened to them. Chances are that if we ask a person about their life they will have a story (or 7) about something catastrophic that happened to them at some point or continues to happen to them. But we dont ask ‘whats your tips for surviving, well?’. We either say nothing or shake our heads and give our condolences.

The story I wrote included some thoughts from Ingrid. Ingrid came to talk at my work a few weeks ago, she finished up her hour long chat by reminding us that in the midst of all the awfulness the world was still out there, that it was still a beautiful place and that despite what had happened to her she would continue to believe that. Turning off the news, closing the paper and not honing in on the trauma wont stop us from remembering that it happens – it will go on regardless – but it might make us take notice of the lovely things that are still here, not gone.

What do you think?

Is resilience an innate skill that we all have lurking somewhere in side of us – waiting to jump out??

cracks through to light…

I’d been following Kristian’s blog since I saw that snippet of his life on a big American TV show. I was impressed with his honesty , his integrity and his capacity to put into words what love meant for him.

It was with great sadness that I saw a little post on twitter the other night saying that he had slowly slipped away. I went back to his blog that I had been reading and was really struck by what a fast decline there had been in his condition – only a few short months ago he was talking about his hopes for the future but probably the most difficult post to read was how he was slowly answering his children’s questions. I kept wondering after I saw that little blip on twitter what his boys must be thinking and how they could slowly be sitting with that first layer of sadness hearing that their dad was now gone.

I did some creative writing prompts early on in my blog career (well September). This one played heavily on my mind when I read about answering stuff. It also played on my senses when I thought back to last week and the struggle I had in explaining how unfair life can be to my beautiful girl. I watched her struggle with the rawness of truth, the shitiness of how other people’s behaviours can impact the very core of you and how loss can be exaggerated at different times. Some of the year we happily skip about not noticing what is absent and then at certain times loss knocks at your day and you just cant turn it away. Difficult concepts to explain to little people.

I got an email from a research fellow this morning asking for some thoughts about how young people live with the loss of a missing person and I pointed out that there was so little (well nothing) written about it but that many moons ago when I had sat with some kids I did notice that no one should fear saying “I just don’t know’. It doesn’t provide the answers to any of life’s questions but it does give a response that is honest, respectful of the child’s need to know and the starter of a conversation that might lead to more uncovering of layers as time goes by. It provided an opening line to a very long dialogue.

Parenting in happy and sad times probably teaches me more about life, resilience and moving on than any book I could ever open.

Vale Kristian Anderson


Older than my older sister…a TSIB interview

This blog is working just as I had imagined in the dark recesses of my brain (and thats a pretty odd place for most of each week) its creating opportunities for people to come forward and share their own space in between. This year has been a time of reflection for me, Ive been able to sit with friends facing so much sadness and then spend my spare time studying the exact same things. I feel like Im a vessel for the stories that fill my time and I want to share them.

So sit back, grab a cuppa and read about Alicia..she bravely puts words to the space between hope and despair and she takes great pics of lovely things. If you don’t believe me click here

Alicia tell me a little about you…

I am 31 years old, I live in Cairns, Far North Queensland the town that has been called “home” for my entire life. My husband Jamie and I are proud parents of 2 beautiful, energetic children, Kiara who is 5 and Noah who is 2. The words often heard around out house is “life is Never Dull”, and it sure isn’t. We are constantly kept on our toes, stressed out, entertained, delighted, or rushed by some event happening, though more often then not it may be some self inflicted accident Jamie has had around the house!

Jamie and I met when I was still a teenager, our relationship, like many others has been filled with many ups and downs, laughter, joy, tears, but it has all been worth it. We married in a simple ceremony at a local beach 7 years ago, there was many people who didnt want us to get married, or thought that we wouldnt last, and we have proven them wrong so far.

I have had many different jobs over the years. On leaving school, I went straight into working in the childcare industry, which is the one job I have the most experience in over the years (although many years of child care couldnt even prepare me for what motherhood is all about!). I have held a variety of other jobs. I am currently working part time in my husbands family business, Jamie is the manager. I am actually having a lot of fun working with my husband, more then I expected. At this  point in our life, this position fits our family well.

I feel blessed to be living in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, I love the beaches, rainforest, cane fields etc that make North Queensland so beautiful, we are lucky to be living in a place that so many people love to visit. I love raising my children here, and feel there is a sense of freedom of running around barefoot, at one with nature. Though I have to be honest in saying that the summers still get to me at times, the heat makes me tired and cranky!

Photography is a real passion of mine, I still have a lot to learn, but I do enjoy taking photographs, and the creativity it releases, and the memories it captures.  I have afacebook page, in which I take a photograph of something I am grateful for each day for a year.

When thinking about your space in between what stood out for you?

I think that there are so many spaces in between in each of our lives. I tried to list all mine down, and the list was huge, so I will just focus on one.

The space between hope and despair..my sister was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 12, our family relocated briefly to Adelaide for Tamina to be operated on and treated, it was scary watching her in so much pain, witnessing her hair fall out, and
being only 8 at the time, I briefly thought that her cancer was contagious.

It was a long tough fight, but before we knew it, we were hosting an end of treatment party for her, and celebrating the hurdles she had overcome.  Fast forward 10 years, and as a young Mum to a toddler, Tamina sadly relapsed. The cancer this time was throughout her body. After months of treatment, the Doctors said there was nothing more they could do but send her home to be comfortable.

While I knew that she was sick, I still held onto hope that she would overcome this battle as well, and was wondering how we would celebrate this time. Sadly this wasnt to be, and in April 1999, at the age of 22, my beautiful big sister passed away.

I can’t even think of words to describe the feelings, thoughts and emotions that I felt in that time. I was very close to my sister, we often joked that we would be found on the verandah of a nursing home in years to come, rocking chairs side by side, as we
chatted about life.

Some people, would comment “at least her death wasnt a shock, unlike those who lose their loved ones in accidents“, but I had to disagree. In looking back on photographs now, I am shocked by the frail, 30kg body, but at the time, all I could see was the spark that she always had in her eyes. In hindsight, I realise that she was terribly ill, but at the time, I held onto every inch of hope I could find, that she would be ok.

There was so much guilt in Taminas death, guilt that we were created by the same parents, raised in the same house, on the same food, yet she was the one who got cancer. I especially felt guilty as I attempted to clear her airways  on the night of her death, as instructed by the paramedics as we waited for the ambulance to arrive. I
held so much guilt over the years that I had not tried hard enough, or that there was something I could have done differently to save her life. The Ambulance took Mum with them as they took Tamina away to the hospital, with their words faint heart beat in my head. I followed behind, my heart filled to the brim with hope that she would be ok. I arrived at the hospital, told them I was there to see my sister Tamina, expecting to be directed to a hospital bed, instead I was directed to the social workers room, where my Mum was waiting, tears streaming down her face, and the 2 words that took away any hope I had….she’s dead.

I felt guilty that she would never get to see her beautiful daughter, Jazmine grow up, or that Jazmine would never get to know her Mum, yet here I was, with no children at the time relying on me.

For a long time after that, life was a dim, dark, place. Losing a loved one is not something you ever get over, it is just that you eventually find a day that you can utter their name without bursting into tears. The tears still come, sometimes unexpected, sometimes without warning, but thankfully less frequently. The ache for the person you have lost, the wish that they were still there to walk life’s pathway with you is still there.

Many moments in my life bring up the pain of my sisters passing. The day I turned 23 was the worst birthday in my life, suddenly I was older than my older sister, something I found very hard to deal with, and a issue that is still rather huge in my life to this day.

I hate that my sister never got to meet my husband, that I have photographs around the house of a woman that was so significant in my life, yet no one in my house apart from me has met. I talk about Aunty Tamina to my kids often, and want them to know what a wonderful, inspiring person she was, but that is just not the same as getting to
meet her.

At the time Tamina passed away, I was working at a Child Care Centre only minutes away from the cemetary she was burried in. I would often go to her gravesite and sit beside it, while I ate my lunch, and had a silent chat to her, tears streaming down my face as the many cars drove by. I look back on those times and feel a bit crazy, but at the time, I needed to feel like I still had some sort of contact with her.

The best way to describe that moment between hope and despair is that it only took a second for the hope evaporate, and the despair of not only losing my sister, but the woman I considered my best friend to take over, and in a way, that despair still lives with me. Thankfully not as suffocating or overbearing as it was to begin with, but its there, in the depths of my soul, and I will continue to miss her every day.

Losing my sister forced me to also change my way of thinking, my views on life and death, and to realise that life is just too precious, and too short. While the despair lingered on for a long time, I found things to give me hope as well, things to look forward to, the biggest being a backpacking trip around Europe, which I did just before I turned 22, the age Tamina was when she died. I decided life was just too short to keep saying “one day”, and I had always wanted to travel, so I jumped in head first, and went on an adventure, I made sure that the inspiration of Tamina and what she brought to my life lived on.

I have also been fortunate enough to witness Taminas daughter, Jazmine grow from the toddler she was when her Mum passed away, into a beautiful young lady of 14 that she is today. There is hope when I get to look at her and see a piece of Tamina continues to live on in her.

What prompted you to start your gratitude project?

I was in a pretty negative mind set, there was no huge reason to be in that position, but the aspects of every day life all mounted up, the worry of finances, working a night job at the time and constantly being exhausted, as well as health problems, I was becoming a bit of a poor me person, and I really didn’t like the way I was heading. I would listen to myself on a daily basis bitching and moaning about so many things, and would silently tell myself to just shut up, I was aware that many people had it worse off then me, but I just didn’t seem to change the vicious cycle.

I accidentally came across the idea of a 365 gratitude project one night when searching the internet for something completly different. Something inside me just clicked, and I knew that this was a project that I just needed to do, it ticked all the boxes, a tool to assist me to become more positive as well as an excuse to take more photographs!

The project was set up on its own facebook page as I didn’t want to annoy my personal friends by posting picture every day on my page. I thought by giving them the choice to view my gratitude project or not would be a good idea. I never expected strangers to show any interest, or the love and support I have recieved from doing it.

Do you think that being mindful is a way that we can a manage life with its up’s and down’s?

Most definately! As a friend said to me today “negativity breeds negativity” and that works the other way too “positivity breeds positivity”, you change your way of thinking and you change your way of living. It is so easy to let your thoughts dig you into a big huge pit of despair, but with little steps, you can dig yourself back out again.

On saying that, of course it’s ok to have a bad day and tough moments, and acknowledge them, without having those challenges in life, we won’t always be thankful for the great moments. The most important thing is knowing when to let go of the negative moments. It is important to be mindful of your feelings and emotions, not to stuff them inside until
they explode out.

It is however also important to not let yourself be suffocated by all the negative thoughts and feelings that you may have, it will only spiral into a huge mass of negativity, and before you know it, you will be looking at everything with a negative point of view, and only seeing the bad in life, when in fact there is so much good.

Sometimes you just need to trust yourself, tune into your own needs, perhaps that means you need time out to yourself, or a friend to just listen to you talk about what is going on in your life, or the simple words from someone “I am here if you need me”.

What have you learnt in sharing your gratitude? What have others taught you?

I have completly changed my way of thinking, I look back on my project so far and am so thankful for all the wonderful people, gifts and moments in my life.  I have also realised that regardless of how bad a day may seem, there is always at least something to be grateful for. On an absolute shitty day, having a roof over my head, food in my belly and air in my lungs is more then enough to be grateful for. Life really has many wonderful joys laying out for each and every one of us.

Through my page, I have met some wonderful people, have been inspired by so many beautiful stories as well. I have also been forced to look at the people in my life with fresh new eyes, I knew I was blessed to be surrounded by a great gang of people, but I never really stopped to think what a wonderful support team I have, and what great moments they all bring into my life. I am blessed to have friends who are more like family. Without sounding cliche, you can have a load of tough things going on in life, but if you have at least one friend to listen to you, or support you, then it is all going to be ok.


Thanks Alicia…so often we forget to give ourselves the chance to hear the story behind the story. Talking about your sister, honouring her memory and taking the time to reconnect with her is a brave way to acknowledge your loss. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

What resonates most with you about Alicia’s story? For me it makes me grateful for my bond with my sister, she makes up half of me and I’d be lost without her….