The Chaucer Family

My name is Giovanna Chaucer. I live near Frankston in Victoria. I was married to my husband Peter in 1999 and we were together for nearly 20 years before he took his life in October 2015. We have two beautiful children: Angelina, 13 and Marco, who is 10.

Peter had been battling mental illness in the years before his death. His first hospitalisation was in 2012 when Angelina was in her first year of primary school.

Due to Peter’s illness we had been separated for less than a year when he died, however, when he was in recovery we got along and co-parented our children. The hardest thing is seeing our marriage deteriorate due to mental illness and watching Peter’s mental health decline. Being a sole parent and holding all the responsibility for the children is also very hard. The children miss out on having him at our special events and he has missed out on all the things they have been up to.

At the time of his death, we engaged with suicide support services. I attended a group for bereaved partners, while our children became members of a number of groups that helped them with their grief. My children know the details of their father’s death. We light a candle for him most nights and have his photos on the walls of our home.

Peter loved footy and coached a premiership game in 1993 with Moorabbin West FC. They held a remembrance game at the club a few years back. It was really lovely for the children and Marco got to toss the coin for the senior’s match. During this time we also created Butterfly Healing Boxes – gift boxes we delivered to families affected by suicide and other tragic deaths that contained items including essential oils, stress balls, worry dolls, journals, sketch pads and pencils, and a ‘healing blanket’ blessed by local Buddhist monk.

Someone on Facebook told me about Feel the Magic and I enrolled Angelina and Marco into the Sydney camp. We were accepted, however, the children did not feel comfortable going and to be honest neither did I so I put it on hold.

When I heard that Feel the Magic was coming to Victoria, I re-enrolled the children hoping they would be okay to go. They both wanted to go but were understandably very nervous about being away from me for the weekend.

Of course, we needn’t have worried. Camp was fantastic – the mentors were so caring and kind to my children. I attended the carers’ group pre and post the camp which was great, as it went through our own grief and we got to hear what to expect for the children. The four seasons of grief is practical and makes sense. Hearing other family stories also helps you feel normal.

It is a great opportunity for children to be supported and to work through their grief in a non-threatening way – the activities make it fun while also dealing with raw emotions. I would absolutely recommend Feel the Magic and have done so since the camp. It is such an important service for grieving children.

I also became a volunteer mentor so I can give back at some stage but also to know what my children were experiencing at camp.

Peter was the love of my life, he was a kind, caring, loving and very thoughtful man. I was lucky to have met him and have his children. Marco is very cheeky and looks like his father. Angelina looks like me but has a heart like her father. Marco would love his father to watch him play footy, Angelina would love to have her father see her graduate from Primary School and becoming a young lady.

Peter was a great father to Angelina and Marco, and they have kissed their father goodnight and have said I love you to him in the air before bed every night since his funeral.

Knowing the circumstances of his death is really difficult for me as it causes much angst and sadness that we never got to resolve our differences or had the opportunity to reconcile and live a happy life together.

Grief is such a personal experience but when you are with others – like Feel the Magic – it really helps as you navigate the rough seas and stormy weather.