Wesley LifeForce Memorial Service honours loved ones lost to suicide
Remembering lives lost to suicide and offering a space for the bereaved to grieve was the focus of the Wesley LifeForce memorial service in Sydney on 14 September.
“The suicide of someone you care about is a devastating tragedy. It happens in the best of families and to the best of people—and leaves the shattered lives of shocked survivors,” said the CEO of Wesley Mission, Rev Keith Garner.
“The journey to healing starts with small steps, leading from darkness to hope, from death to a renewed commitment to life.”
Guest speaker and Order of Australia recipient, Dianne Gaddin, who lost her daughter Tracy to suicide over 10 years ago, shared her family’s difficult journey of dealing with the fragmented mental health system, when her daughter was diagnosed with a mental illness. Dianne went on to explain how she reached a breaking point along the journey and also attempted to take her life.
“A heart attack would guarantee you a bed in hospital but not a psychotic attack. I felt helpless and afraid. Imagine see your daughter once sweet, gentle and kind, just change,” shared Dianne.
Now a mental health advocate, Dianne has devoted her life to petitioning the government to bring about change in the mental health space.
“The only way to dispel the stigma of suicide is by talking about it,” said Dianne. “It’s just up to you… to stop the silence that surrounds the topic of suicide that often prevents people from seeking help.”
Dianne also shared about the importance of hosting events such as the Wesley LifeForce Memorial service as a way to help people grieve.
“For me it’s important to be here with you all and one of the few occasions I am not alone. I am among people who really understand. We have walked the same walk.”
Mr Garner then read a letter from Julian Leeser, Federal MP for Berowra, detailing his painful personal story of losing his own father to suicide 21 years ago and his commitment to advocating for mental health issues within parliament.
“We need to have more Australians know that their lives matter. And we need to encourage every Australian to notice the people around you. To recognise the signs for someone contemplating suicide and to know what to do to get help.”
Carol Garner, Mr Garner’s wife, shared the symbolic meaning of a sunflower, expressing hope, warmth, strength and support before handing them out to those present at the service. Then, people placed the sunflowers at the foot of the Wesley LifeForce Memorial Wall—a place where people can leave messages of love and remembrance regarding their loved ones. An online version of the Wesley LifeForce Memorial Wall is also available for people to leave remembrance messages.
At the end of the service, Mrs Garner released a dove into the sky, symbolising the hope this community has for the future.
Wesley LifeForce Memorial Days give the bereaved a place to remember and reflect, and a reminder that they are not alone in the journey. Wesley LifeForce hold annual memorial gatherings in Adelaide, Sydney Newcastle, Darwin and Brisbane.
For further information about the 2017 memorial days, email [email protected]