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Grief, Loss and Emigration.

This beautiful and deeply personal piece was sent to us by Aoife Butler. She speaks candidly about mental health and the devastating effect it has had on her family. If you are struggling, wherever you may be, there is help out there, reach out and you will find light in even the darkest of places...

My name is Aoife Butler and I am a qualified mental health Nurse, originally from county Wexford, Ireland. I came out to Sydney in 2019, soon to be 2 years ago. Like many, my hopes and dreams of Australia were something that I held for years, while I studied my nursing degree in Ireland. My dreams were driven by my brother Matthew who emigrated to Australia back in 2013. I was always dreaming of the day when I would qualify as a nurse, and too join him out in the land of Oz and experience all the amazing things that so evidently made him happy. However, things didn’t pan out as expected. In August 2016 whilst I was traveling through San Diego, USA my life changed forever when I heard the unexpected and devastating news of my big brother Matthew’s passing. In absolute shock and disbelief I made the lonely trip from America back to Ireland. The Kevin Bell repatriation trust from Newry who are an amazing organisation repatriated Matthew’s body from Australia home to Ireland. Just like that, everything changed and life was put on hold. Despite the grief of losing my brother I completed my nursing degree and after 2 years of qualifying I always knew that Australia was still calling me. On my brothers 29th birthday I landed in Sydney, feeling so many different emotions. I had always imagined the journey to be so different. One that would be seeing my brother after 3 and a half years and getting to experience the life he loved so much. Instead, it was my own journey of grief, healing and growth. One that after nearly 2 years being here and nearly 5 years on since my brothers passing has served me so much. Matthew loved Australia, and I can see why. The Irish community here is second to none. We still have yearly anniversary masses for Matthew in the local church. The central coast GAA club that Matthew was apart of opened their arms to me and treated me as one of their own. I love meeting his friends and random people that he met along the way. Hearing stories and spending time in places that I knew he used to often visit. This experience and country has given me so much. I have already had many amazing opportunities in my job as a nurse that I wouldn’t get back in Ireland. I have seen and met some amazing people already In my short time here. Not forgetting the beautiful weather and beaches Sydney has to offer. Although the pandemic is something that I never imagined happening, it often makes it so difficult knowing we can’t get home. I know first hand what the distance of emigration did to a family when we hadn’t seen Matthew in 3 and a half years, and always promised my family at home in Ireland that I would visit as often as I could. But as time goes on and the idea of when the borders will open is not very clear it is the warm memories of my brother that I try and take comfort in when I’m missing home. Since Matthew’s passing I’ve always taken opportunities to talk about him and my story. I am a mental health nurse. I’ve been qualified coming up to 4 years. Devastatingly, Mathew took his own life and although I help people every day suffering with their mental health or mental illness I hope that talking about Matthew also helps. Because, although I know for the majority of Matthew’s life he was happy and I know that Australia was some of the happiest times of his life. Still, for whatever reason we will never know, he thought it was best to leave us. I want people to know that, no matter how green the grass may seem on the other side, You never really know what’s going on in someone’s life. So be kind to one another. If you’re struggling, PLEASE reach out and get help. There is help out there. Talk to someone, a friend, a sibling, your GP, professionals or local emergency department.

It is so important to raise awareness around mental health and suicide, and the impact on families. I will be forever grateful to the Kevin Bell repatriation trust who did so much for us in our time of need. Always remember, that no matter how dark and stormy your life may get. To hold on, and keep going, keep believing that one day you will get there. And although it may look different than what you may have expected. It will eventually all make sense.

“Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam” For more of my journey follow me on Instagram: Aoife_abbie *If you have been effected by the content of this post or may know someone who is struggling please reach out or call any of the below numbers: Australia- Beyond blue : 1300 22 4636 Life line : 13 11 14 Ireland- Pieta house : 1800 247 247 Samaritans Ireland : 116 123

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