An inspiring story of a mothers loss of a child and how she channeled her love of photography to help her with her loss.
This is Caroline’s story:
When Emily was alive because of her condition she slipped through all the nets and there was little or no support for her or us as a family unit. We, unfortunately did not hear about Barretstown when Emily was with us. On arriving at the gates of Barretstown my Husband Mike myself and our sons Colin and Conor were 4 lost souls not knowing what lay ahead. In the depths of grief as it was only a couple of months since we lost our daughter, sister and best friend we drove in the avenue. Met by the cara’s we entered the dining hall , I with that fake smile that I wore for the outside world. After about an hour I realised everyone here is in the same boat as us and I didn’t need to be fake I could actually show how I really felt without being embarrassed to cry. We could grieve here away from the world that really didn’t have a clue how we felt. I won’t go on about what we done but I will say it was the best thing for us as a family.
We attended each camp but by the 3rd one, I could see no way forward for me. I hated the person I was now, I hated people and their stupid one liners ,I hated life, I could not see my life without my daughter. I would not be very religious but I am very spiritual and believed that if I did go I would be with Emily. Peter the bereavement therapist could see this in me. After meeting with him I realised I couldn’t go on doing this to Mike and the boys. I could see Mike was sick with worry for me on top of his grief. I needed a plan.
I tried acupuncture. Exhausted and lifeless I went back running. I was trying to go back to way I was. the person I used to be. it was not working. A family member then said to me “why don’t you do a photography course you always loved photography before Emily died”. So I stared a 12 week night course in digital photography. It was great. I was with people that didn’t know me. people that only got to know the new me. Much to my surprise I actually liked it. I spent morning noon and night stuck in the module not knowing half the time what I was talking about but who cares I was kept busy and occupied. The week before my module was due my laptop crashed taking all my work with it. I cried for 3 days and then said come on girl pull yourself together. With the help of my sister typing for me we stayed up till 5am for the next few days. I managed to put something together to hand up resulting in a Merit.
This gave me a boost so I decided to take a leap of faith and went on to apply for a full time 2-year level 5 & 6 advanced photography and specialist darkroom course. I made no promises with anyone that I would stick this out which put no pressure on me. I wasn’t sure how I would cope. Would I be able for it while trying to deal with my grief also.
I stuck into it with my classmates choosing me to be class Rep. They decided that if something need to be said id be the one who would have no problem saying it but little did the know that was just anger inside me I didn’t hold back for no one. Making new friends some also dealing with different types of grief but still the loss of someone special I settled in. I now had to get out of bed not just for the kids but for myself.During the course in my work experience module I had to cover social care with children which led me to set up and take the image. I believe that art and crafts are a great way for children and adults to express themselves so that’s how the idea came about.
I paired back some of the crayons onto a black sheet and hung the crayons off a laundry sock holder. Using the skills I learned with my camera I took the shot. I was delighted with the outcome.At the end of my first year along with the second year’s we held an exhibition in a hotel in Limerick. it would be great to show off our work. I chose to exhibit this image and It won best in show. The image hung in the hotel for the year. I knew when choosing this image that I would be donating it to Barretstown that’s why I chose it. But of, course I had to wait 12 months to get it back from the exhibition. I gradated the year with Distinction. Covering business , history, darkroom and many more subjects. hope that the kids would enjoy the colours but most of all I wanted to give back.
Without Barretstown only God knows where I would be. They have helped my family through our grief and still continue to do so.
I have now learned to live with the new me. I live for Emily now that is what she would want. I have now finished my second year and graduate in a couple of weeks again with Distinction. I also won the exhibition again this year and continued to be class rep. 2 years in a row not bad. I have to say I’m proud of the new me.
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