Sunday, 18 March 2018
International Women's Day - Local Hero
She told me that every year they hold a luncheon for International Women's Day and they have a main guest speaker and also a 'local hero'. She told me that his year the main guest speaker was going to be Jelena Dokic who was former number 4 tennis player in the world. She said she knew about my story and had read my blog, and had hoped that I would agree to be the 'local hero' this year.
I laughed and said I don't feel like a local hero, but after talking about what it would involve I agreed to do it. The week before I met with the MC Sara, who was so lovely. We chatted about how the day would run and that my part involved a 10 minute Q&A session where I would already know what she was going to ask me as we would chat about it then.
She asked me what two messages I would really like to get across to the audience as she wanted to make sure that came out during our conversation on the stage. I said there's so much to share, but I thought the two most important things I want people to know are that when someone is grieving the way you can help them is to just allow them to grieve. There is no wrong way or right way and everyone grieves differently. So many times I hear 'it's time to move on', 'he would want you to be happy' or 'when is she going to stop talking about them' but pushing away how you feel doesn't help anyone, especially not yourself.
As a friend the best thing you can do is to be there and be a listening ear. Don't try to push away how someone is feeling, because it may be uncomfortable for you. 'Moving on' doesn't have to mean getting remarried. I have moved on in many ways as I have no choice but to, but just because I don't want to get remarried doesn't mean I'm not 'happy'. I also said that how someone looks on the outside, doesn't always reflect what is going on the inside.
The other message I wanted to get across was that you can't always choose what happens to you in your life, but everyone has a choice about how they respond to what has happened. I shared with her that I had suffered depression and anxiety and you can't change how you feel, but I had to make a choice to ask for help and go on medication at the time. I still make choices every day, even though things are still hard. It doesn't fix things straight away, but eventually you can look back and see that those little choices that you made every day has helped you along the way.
Sara was lovely and said she was so excited for me to speak at the luncheon as she could tell I was going to inspire a lot of people. I was glad that it was going to more of an interview up on the stage, as I didn't really have to prepare a speech, but was more just having a chat and sharing my story.
On the day I was so nervous. I had been really busy at work and had hardly thought about it, and then all of a sudden I realised that I would be speaking in front of 350 people. I'm not a huge tennis fan, but know a little bit about it and some of the bigger players. I knew who Jelena Dokic was and just remembered her as this young blonde haired girl who was an incredible player, but who was always causing a drama. I remembered her Dad who was aggressive towards the media and I knew there was some controversy about her not playing for Australia at some stage, but playing for her home country instead.
When I arrived early for the luncheon I was taken to a room by Beck and Sara, where Jelena was doing Media interviews. She looks a lot different to the girl I remembered, so it was hard to imagine that the Jelena Dokic I was with, was the same as the young blonde haired girl. When we were introduced she was lovely and shook my hand and said she had heard a lot about me, and she was sorry for what had happened to me. We got our photo taken with Beck before we went in for lunch.
I was so happy to have a couple of good friends in the crowd who had gone along with their other friends and workmates. It was also lovely to see a few familiar faces in the crowd. The food was delicious and Jelena and I swapped our food as she didn't like salmon, but I love it.
Sara asked me to share my story in a few minutes, and I talked about Noah's diagnosis and how we were just starting to feel like things would be okay after he passed away, when Aaron passed away. Sara mentioned about being awarded the Barnados Tasmanian Mother of the Year in 2015 and asked me to share the story I told her when I found out that I was in the final, as she thought it was very funny.
I shared how embarrassed I was when I got the call that I was nominated and in the top 6, as I didn't feel like I deserved it, and how I didn't tell any of my friends about it until I had to when I was told I was in the top 3 and had to invite people to the ceremony. She then said she hoped that I knew now that I was deserving of the award and I said I still didn't think I was, as I'm just a regular Mum like everyone else who gets cranky with their kids. Everyone in the audience clapped when she said that I was very deserving of it which was so lovely, and she kept pushing, so I then said that I can see that I've helped my boys through their grief, but also that I am just a normal Mum and had been yelling at the boys to hurry and get their shoes on that morning. Everyone had a laugh at that.
After I spoke lots of ladies came up to chat. One older lady told me that her husband had recently passed away and how hard it had been, but said that if I can do it then she can. She then started crying and said she hardly ever cries, but said how good it was to talk to someone who understood.
Another lady came up and asked me if I recognised her. I knew her face, but couldn't work out how I knew her. She was the funeral director at Noah's funeral! She said how great it was to see me, and to see how 'well' I was doing. She said she really appreciated what I said about grief, and said she is going to share that in her work.
Jelena then spoke and shared that although she was such a successful tennis player, she suffered many years of terrible abuse from her father from the age of 6, when she began playing tennis. She was abused physically and emotionally if she didn't play well, or even when she did! Nothing was ever good enough for her father and she lived constantly in fear about what he would do to her.
After she spoke she signed copies of her books, which a book shop was selling at the event.
I went and bought one and when I took it up to her to sign she said she would've given me one. I told her I didn't expect her to do that and was happy to buy it.
She wrote a beautiful message in it for me. I read it over the last week and am blown away by what she's been through.