Bereaved mums help others with loss

22:45, Jul 31 2014
Loss and Grief Awareness Week
UNITED IN GRIEF: Christchurch mothers, from left, Chris Guerin, Hayley Austin-Howe and Barbara McDonald all know what it is like to lose a child. They want others living with grief to join them at a candlelight ceremony tonight as part of New Zealand’s first Loss and Grief Awareness Week.

Three Christchurch mothers are in a club they say no-one wants to join.

It is a club where parents like them try to heal the wound of losing a child.

Tonight, Bereaved Parents Christchurch group members Chris Guerin, Hayley Austin-Howe and Barbara McDonald want to reach out to others who suffer the same pain with a candlelight ceremony as part of New Zealand's first Loss and Grief awareness week.

"I really struggled with accepting I would never hug her again. There is really no love like the love for your children," Austin-Howe said.

She lost her 1-year-old daughter in January 2001, when she was run over by a boat trailer while on a family holiday in Lake Brunner.

Austin-Howe was devastated and 13 years on the tears still flow and the what ifs come to mind when she speaks of her only girl.


"When I look back I don't know how I functioned. The whole family dynamic just changed - the one thing I really battled with was my husband still has his son to do boy stuff with, but I'm the mother and I don't have my daughter."

It was only three weeks before her daughter's death that Austin-Howe heard over the radio news of 2-year-old Annie Guerin-Toomer, who was fatally run over by her father in her Barrington St driveway.

Annie's mother, Chris Guerin, wrote to Austin-Howe to let her know she was not alone, and the two have been close since.

Guerin, who is the co-ordinator of the group, said sharing similar experiences helped the grief process.

"When I first joined what was called Compassionate Friends at the time, I made the initial phone call to say I'm interested and the first thing the co-ordinator said to me is 'you have joined the club', and it's one no-one wants to join.

"We are all linked, you can't say 'we know how you feel', but we have shared experiences."

For Barbara McDonald the group has helped where no counsellor or expert could.

She lost her 28-year-old son Daniel McIntosh four years ago when he was struck on his bike in Australia.

McDonald had recently moved to Christchurch and knew nobody but she, Guerin and Austin-Howe hope tonight's candlelight ceremony will help anyone battling grief.

Tonight's Christchurch event is at the Beat Street Cafe on Barbadoes St from 6.30pm to 8pm.

Participants should take a candle and a photo of their loved one. Candles will be lit at 7pm.

The Press