Group unites those in grief

Karly Rauchelle with her children Ben Hardie (3) and Phoenix Hardie (2). Picture: David d406688
Karly Rauchelle with her children Ben Hardie (3) and Phoenix Hardie (2). Picture: David d406688

At 35 she was newly married, pregnant and life was generally a picture of happiness ” until her husband went missing.

He was found dead in the bush. The news her husband had committed suicide was a confronting reality for Ms Rauchelle, who had never experienced grief before.

Feeling isolated, confused and terrified about the future, she tried to reach out for help by turning to the internet in search of a support group.

Instead, she found nothing suited to her emotional needs.

‘There were support groups, but they were more for older widows. I was 35, newly married, pregnant and I felt there was nothing for me,’ she said.

She decided to form her own group and started working around the clock, researching and developing an online community support organisation ” Widows and Widowers United ” that immediately started attracting new members.

‘It was a coping mechanism for me. People turn to all sorts of things, but I threw myself into work.’

After a report about Ms Rauchelle featured in the local paper, membership exploded, attracting people from Australia and overseas.

Widows and Widowers United began to offer interventions at a new member’s house, to welcome them to the group and enable them to feel supported and less isolated in grief.

‘You go through different stages of grief and it takes a long time to heal ” four months can seem like a few days,’ Ms Rauchelle said.

‘People have to go underground with their grief, because others are uncomfortable about it. They just want the person to get back to being their normal self, but it’s not that easy.’

Ms Rauchelle recently received a grant of $9000 to put towards her vision of supporting all kinds of grief, not just the loss of a partner, and formed the organisation Phoenix Grief Support Incorporated.

It offers a range of services including in-home counselling, group counselling, seminars held by a psychotherapist, domestic help and youth counselling in addition to the 24/7 online support group for widows and widowers.

The grant has allowed the launch of a 10-week term of group counselling starting next Monday,

Although it’s been almost three years since the death of her husband, Ms Rauchelle said she still was going through the grieving process, but was determined to help others in need through her own experience. ‘I want to revolutionise the way our society handles grief,’ she said.

– Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78.