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Byron Shire
November 30, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Lean In

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For the families of children who have died – I wonder where they find their strength. How do they make peace with the loss? Can they find again their belief that the world is a good place?

I didn’t know true fear until my first daughter was born. I remember this profound awakening on her arrival. The awe of the ordinary miracle of flesh and blood. The love I felt was unbelievable. It was so much bigger than anything I’d ever felt before. It filled all of me. Like my body was full of light. I could almost see it glowing under my skin. There was a moment when I felt truly ecstatic; ‘This is what pure love feels like!’ I was so full of joy I thought I might burst.

I looked at her perfect little face. Her tiny hands. Her deep soulful eyes that seemed to look into the abyss of all things, like some newborn sage. Then it hit me. She could die. I could lose her. The world is a dangerous place. I suddenly saw a world full of pointed corners, falling branches and wild seas. What would I do to keep her safe?

This connection to the divine, this experience of grace is fragile. There are no guarantees. No certainties. As a Godless woman it is hard to reconcile this space. I understand the need for a creator; A loving God who looks out for you. It keeps the lid on the fear. But I’m not a believer. So there’s just me; a flawed, selfish, unworthy human tasked to keep my baby girl safe. It was brutal. In one blinding moment of awakening I had found both true love and the crippling fear of loss. That was the moment that changed me forever – not having a baby – but understanding what it meant to truly love. It makes you powerful and vulnerable all at the same time. Love’s shadow is grief and loss. It is the night that follows day. The darkness we all fear.

Just over a week ago a mother and father lost their twin daughters. As the country celebrated the return of four-year-old Cleo Smith, two blonde-haired girls slipped away, right here in our midst. Safe in the love of their parents, then, just like that, there was no hope. No search. No alternative narrative. No second chance.

I have not experienced this loss. I have stood on the shores and looked out to the vast sea of human experience and I can only imagine the pain for the people in that place. It hurts to think about it. How you can wake up one day and your life has become entirely different. For the families of children who have died – I wonder where they find their strength. How do they make peace with the loss? Can they find again their belief that the world is a good place? How do they look at the children of their friends and not wonder why this agony befell them?

I think about those little girls. But mainly I think about their parents and family. The people in the shadowland. I want to tell them everything will be okay, but I don’t know that. I don’t really even know them. This is a small community. When tragedy strikes, and the wave consumes one of us, the ripples hit the rest. 

It’s both a blessing and a curse to live in a small community when you have experienced profound loss. Everyone knows your story. Your private pain. A friend who lost a child explained this unnavigable place where an ordinary trip to the supermarket saw strangers step forward and people she knew avoid her. She yearned for the anonymity of the city. Where she could just be a woman at the shops, instead of the woman who had just lost her child. But at the same time it was the care of her community that got her through. 

To the mother and father who lost their girls, you need to know, we don’t know how to act in the face of your grief. And there’s no right way. There’s nothing to say. Even what I’m saying now might be wrong. But there is something about living in a small community… you are not alone. Your community has you. You can lean in. That is what we are here for.

I’m so sorry. We’re all so sorry.


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2 COMMENTS

  1. Dogs are not allowed on most of Sydney’s beaches, not even on a lead. I’ve lived here for thirty plus years and it is really getting out of hand on Tallow Beach. And if dog owner pressure is too great – at least restrict the hours to 6 – 8 am and 6 – 8 pm. Enough already!! We want our beach back!!

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Entertainment in the Byron shire for the week beginning 1 December, 2021

All your entertainment news in one brilliant place

Grumpy Grandma’s 

There are few in the region who aren’t familiar with Grumpy Grandma’s olives. Tim Stone and his wife Lynne produce these olives and extra...

Calming Curry

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Byron Supper Club

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