The Briggs Family

The Briggs Family

My husband, Bobby, passed away in March 2015.  He took his own life and it was a huge shock for everybody.  He was the last person you would ever have expected to do such a thing and we will never understand it.

He left behind our four children Max who was 19, Oscar who was seven, Matilda who was six and Felix who was two. On the advice of the police psychologist, I was honest with them immediately and explained that daddy had made his body stop working because his brain was sick and he didn’t go to the hospital to get help.

Felix was too little to understand, Oscar said ok and Matilda was distraught.  The next year or so was a bit of a blur as I tried to navigate the shock of losing my best friend, the kids’ daddy and contemplating how I could go on without him practically and emotionally.

The following January we went camping with some close family and scattered some of Bobby’s ashes in the river where we sometimes go swimming and caught our first yabby with Bobby the year before.  That night Matilda was quite emotional and asked why they were the only people in the whole world whose daddy had died.  I tried to explain that they weren’t the only ones and that there were other people out there who had lost their daddy too.  It led me to start looking for other kids in similar situations.  I had seen many support groups for widows but I just didn’t feel like that was something that I was ready to do.  I wanted something for the kids but I wasn’t ready to share my feelings etc.  I selfishly felt that my grief was enough to deal with, hearing other peoples’ grief journey would tip me over the edge. So I put a request out on the ‘Canberra Mums’ Facebook page asking if there were any kids out there who had lost a parent who would like to meet my kids in the hope that a friendship would develop.  The idea was that in years to come they would have their own relationships with each other to navigate their grief.  I thought it would be awesome if say on Fathers’ Day they could text their friends and say how crappy their day was and they would have somebody who exactly understood.

I got quite a few messages which was so great!  We met with some families that had suffered similar loss and I could see already how much the kids benefited from knowing they weren’t alone. I also posted an advertisement in ‘The Canberra Chronicle’…not that I thought anybody even read it anymore!  Through this I met another widow who told me about Camp Magic and this was the catalyst in our grief journey.

Oscar and Matilda attended their first camp magic in April 2016 and it was a life changing experience for all of us!!  It was the most positive thing to have ever happened to us following Bobby’s death.  When I arrived I felt so lost and it broke my heart to see so many grieving families there.  The kids all seemed quite excited.  Up until that point Oscar had never really cried or opened up to me about losing his daddy.  Matilda was still crying herself to sleep every night so I was worried she wouldn’t make it through the weekend without me.  I shouldn’t have.  By the time I came to pick them up, they were just beaming, massive smiles from ear to ear.  The feedback their mentors (Bede and Felicity) gave me made me so happy and just so proud of my little humans.  When we left, Oscar gave Bede the most amazing hug, he just didn’t want to let go.  This was exactly what he needed, it was as if Bede had given him permission to grieve.  Somebody away from me who he could be open with.  Matilda didn’t open up on that camp but the following week at school she presented her ‘seasons of growth’ poster with her entire class! Matilda grew incredibly close to Felicity so I needn’t have worried about her being apart from me.

On their second camp magic, my beautiful, sensitive little lady opened up and spoke in front of the whole group at the Memorial Camp Fire.  Felicity was so proud of her, it made me feel so honoured, that somebody would volunteer their time to help my little lady and be so invested in her progress.  The mentors all deserve a medal!  They are such selfless, giving human beings.  I hope that one day I too can give back in this space once my grief isn’t so raw.

Next week Felix will attend his first Camp Magic.  I’m super nervous about my little guy being apart from me and how he will go without me.  But I know now from experience that the benefits he will gain will far outweigh any anxiety I may be feeling.  I think this will be the turning point in his grief journey as it was for Oscar and Matilda.

The kids have been so lucky to have been matched with perfect mentors every time.  Matilda’s last mentor was Lee, once again another beautiful human.  Matilda bonded with her just as she did with Felicity and made me realise that I underestimate how happy Matilda can be sleeping away from me when she is surrounded by love. On Oscar’s second camp he was matched with Michael.  Oscar was nervous about it and worried he wouldn’t bond with him like he did with Bede.  At the end of that camp, Oscar actually told Michael that he had been worried about this but he shouldn’t have been because Michael was perfect for him too.  It was so sweet to hear.  Since then we have formed a friendship with Michael and his wife Debbie and have even been fortunate enough to spend time with them in Bali when our holidays overlapped one time!  Seeing Michael and Oscar walking through some temples deep in conversation about the history of it all just made my heart sing, we are all so lucky.

I always said that I didn’t want the death of Bobby to be something that breaks us, I wanted it to be something that makes us instead.  Camp Magic gives the kids the tools to be able to do just that.  They have turned this tragic story into something to not be embarrassed about or scared of sharing.  Camp Magic has shown them that they are not alone, grief is not something to be ashamed of.  It is the most amazing experience.

Through trying to find other kids in similar situations I have now formed amazing friendships with some of the parents, I would be so lost without them!  I look back now and berate myself for thinking I wouldn’t have benefited from finding people via support groups.  I am blessed to have these people in my life.  They offer so much support and guidance, and just ‘get it’.  I can have a moan to them about so many things (current topic is what high school to send the kids to) that normally you would discuss with the other parent.  It’s so supportive

I can’t begin to thank everybody involved in Camp Magic, especially James and Kristy for making it all possible.


Liza Briggs

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