Saturday 5th December 2020

Women Of Courage Series. #35. Jennifer Jones. 31/2020.

Women Of Courage Series. #35. Jennifer Jones. 31/2020.

A series of blog posts on Denyse Whelan Blogs to be found here from mid-May 2019: Wednesdays: each week until the series concludes in 2020.

Here is the introduction to the series.

Courage is strength in the face of pain or grief. It’s doing something that frightens you. We face situations that demand courage every day. These situations provide us with choices, and the way we respond to those choices determines our future. Dayne Shuda.

Whilst Jennifer Jones and I have not met, we share some common interests. We are bloggers and we are women from the group over the age of 60 who continue to stretch ourselves by our internet connections. Jennifer is someone I admire for all she has continued to do and be in her life right now. Thank you, Jennifer..on with your story.

 

What have you faced in your life where you have had to be courageous?

On 2nd November 1995, my life was changed when my eighteen year old son Craig, was killed in a car accident. In the car with him, was his friend Fiona, who at only fifteen years old, also lost her life. Craig was the middle child of three, with the eldest being 20, and the youngest 15 years old.

When Craig died, my daughter, Lisa, the youngest, was an exchange student in Japan. With just two months until she was due to return home, we had to make a quick decision, about whether she should come home for the funeral or not. I decided that she must come home for the funeral,for her future acceptance of her brother’s death, but that she must return to complete her year in Japan. I didn’t want her brother’s death to cause her any incompletion issues, in her future. Lisa came home for one week. It was a weird week. We were so sad, and yet, so happy to have Lisa at home.

It proved very difficult to get her home, and would have been easier to have her stay in Japan. On the day of the accident, she had moved to a new host family, and we were concerned about her getting the news from somebody she hadn’t yet had the chance to build a relationship with. Because we hadn’t as yet been given her new contact details, it took quite a few stressful hours to track her down. This was in the days before social media. It was also Melbourne Cup Weekend and getting a flight into Melbourne was almost impossible. Luckily, Rotary made sure that Lisa was well supported in Japan, and that she had a flight home.

I’m not sure that I was courageous at the time. When I think back, I was just doing what had to be done. But I have no doubt at all, that I have been very courageous in the face of the death of my son, in the years since.

 

How did this change you in any way? Please outline further if this has been the case.

Everything about me changed after this happened. This was the worst thing that had ever happened in my life. Up until then, I had lived a fairly pampered and incident free life. Immediately, I felt that I had  to handle the reactions, of the people around me. After Craig’s funeral, for some reason, my family, including his father, decided to never mention his name again.

At first I found this difficult to accept, and was constantly upset about it, until I decided that it was up to me how I was to live my life from now on. I didn’t want the death of Craig to define who I was. I was more than just the mother of a child who had died. As huge a part of me that it was, I was determined to live a life of happiness and fulfilment, going forward. But I came to realise very quickly that to do that, I would have to rely on myself.

These days, in my family, it is as if Craig never existed. This still hurts but it is one of the things I have had to forgive in order to live an exceptional life. To me, this is the best way that I can honour my son.

 

 

Is there something you learned from this that you could recommend to help others who need courage?

I learnt that I was stronger than I ever thought I could be, that if I could survive this tragedy, then nothing in life could ever faze me. I became less reliant on others, as I realised that this was something I had to cope with alone. Even though my family and friends were also mourning Craig, there was nobody at all in the family, who really understood what I was going through.

At least, that’s the way I felt and I still do feel like that today.

I’m still quite resentful of some family members, however my strength and resilience have allowed me to put that resentment aside. I also discovered that I could choose to be happy. In the early days after Craig’s death I suffered constantly with feelings of grief and sadness. I realised that living a good life was going to be difficult with these thoughts.

I made the decision that I could choose to be happy and that wasn’t being disrespectful to my son. It also didn’t mean that I had forgotten him. Craig is in my thoughts constantly, every day, but I can now choose to be happy without forgetting the sadness.

The advice I would give to someone else in the same position would be to do what you need to do for your own self care, and disregard the expectations of others. Put yourself first and don’t let others tell you what is good for you or what you should do.

 

Do you think you are able to be more courageous now if the life situation calls for it? Why is that? 

I am a much more resilient person now, and I would definitely be more courageous now or in the future. Since 1995, when Craig died, I have had many challenges thrown at me, and I’m pleased that I seem to be able to find a way to solve them or do what needs to be done.  If a similar tragedy were to happen today, I would not rely on the people around me the pull me through. I would not rely on the advice of others. I would have confidence in my decisions,

Eleven years after my son died, I had to show courage once again, when my 34 year marriage broke down unexpectedly.

I had no warning of this, and I am very proud of how I was able to show the strength to move on, and start a new life in a city where I knew nobody.

Since then, I have been in a few situations where I’ve needed to show courage. I don’t doubt myself any more, in fact, I’m quite proud that I’m able to recognise the problem and then make whatever plans are necessary to deal with that problem.

The death of my son, is the worst thing that  I have ever had to face. I know that my experience in coping with that, and the strength and resilience I have gained since, stand me in good stead if I find myself in such a dreadful situation again.

 

Is there any message you would give to others facing a situation where courage could be needed?

All I would say to others facing a situation where courage is needed, is to be confident in yourself , and believe that you are capable of handling the situation. Also don’t put pressure on yourself to be a certain way, behave in a certain way or to think there is anything wrong with how you are feeling.

I do wish somebody had given me that advice.

The way I coped, was to spend time on the bike every day. Craig and I both had road bikes and we would sometimes go on training rides together. After he died, I felt the need to get on that bike everyday and ride my heart out. It may sound silly, but I can remember feeling that Craig was on my shoulder when I was riding. That was a hugely comforting feeling for me.

Try to find someone who truly understands what you are going through. People around you will think they understand, but they may not really understand your pain.

At the time of the accident I had never met the mother of the young girl who died with Craig. After a fearful first meeting, when each of us wasn’t sure how the other would react, we became close friends and still are to this day. We were able to support each other in the days following the accident, and we were there for each other in the days following the funeral when everyone went back to their lives. We don’t catch up often these days due to distance, but when we do, we pick up where we left off, and are able to have fun and laugh together and also talk about our children and cry on each others shoulder, whilst laughing about our fabulous memories of our beautiful children.

 

 

 

How anyone manages to come through life when challenges of unimagined tragedy occur as they did for Jennifer, tells me we have more inside us than we can ever imagine in which to learn, change and grow. Of course, NO person wants this example, ever but Jennifer has so eloquently and kindly shared what she has learned. I am in awe of her courage and appreciate her decision to write this story as a response to the questions.

Thank you Jennifer. For more about Jennifer and her reasons for blogging..please see the links below.

Denyse.

 

 

Social Media

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/jennifer.jones.3532507

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jenniferalisonjones/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jennifer_Jones0

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com.au/JenniferAlJones/

Links to my blogs:

https://nextphaseinfitness.com.au/

https://bestbookishblog.com/

https://jonesfamilyhistory.wordpress.com/

Joining each Wednesday with Sue and Leanne here for Mid Life Share the Love Linky.

On Thursdays I link here for Lovin Life with Leanne and friends.

Copyright © 2020 denysewhelan.com.au – All rights reserved.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Hi Denyse and Jen, I’ve read about Jen’s incredible life journey and only have complete admiration for her courage and resilience. Jen, you are as always an inspiration to me and many others. Thank you for sharing your story and to Denyse, thanks for sharing at #MLSTL. x

  2. Hi Denyse and Jen, Your story touched me, my heart goes out to you. I lost my mum at 24, sister at 46 and dad at 52 and, while they were all periods of intense grief, I cannot imagine how much harder it would be to lose your son. It is one of my greatest fears. While I understand that everyone copes in their own way, I’m stunned that members of your family refused to mention his name! That’s so dysfunctional and I can empathise with how hurtful that would have been. I had to deal with many family members who caused more pain and stress to me by their actions after the deaths of my loved ones and I find it hard to forgive their actions. I don’t ever want to see some of them again! Like you, I feel that I grew more resilient after losing my loved ones and I know I could cope with most of what life has in store for me. I keep close the people who stuck by me and were genuinely caring while I was grieving. They’re the people worth keeping in your life. Thank you for your story, regards Christina

    • Thank you Christina for your heartfelt comment and kindness in your sharing some similarities with Jennifer. Life is really really tough for many. I send my best and caring wishes to you both.

      Denyse.

  3. Hi Christina your comment rings many bells for me. I really think how we deal with adversity goes a long way towards having a successful life. You’ve also had to show resilience which I’m sure has made you also a strong and courageous woman. I appreciate you reading my post and sharing your story

  4. Denyse thank you so much for providing the space for me to tell my story. I do appreciate the faith you showed in me.

    • It was and is a privilege Jennifer when women such as yourself are prepared to share was has been truly challenging life. Thank you indeed and I am sure many will join me in admiration for your generosity in your story.

      Denyse.

  5. Your story really touched me. What you’ve been through is unimaginable. I’ve admired you (via your blog) for your camino and dedication to your fitness but now that’s notched up a number of levels. #MLSTL

  6. Thankyou so much for your lovely comments Jo. do appreciate you taking the time to read my guest post

  7. Jennifer how did I not know about you losing Craig? I’m so sorry and cannot even begin to imagine what that would have been like for you as his mum – and also to not have had the family support that you needed and deserved. Your resilience and grace shine through in this post and your wise words spoke volumes.
    I was also interested to see how you and Fiona’s mum connected – no blame, just support for each other – and that’s a truly beautiful gift from your children.
    Denyse, thanks for sharing Jennifer’s story with us at #MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM.

    • It is one very special story shared here by Jennifer I agree Leanne. Almost one that is unimaginable but it did happen.

      It makes me feel honoured that this blog can have a place in sharing such stories of courage.

      Thank you.

      Denyse.

    • Hi Leanne I tend to share birthday and anniversary posts on my other blog Leanne. This is the first time I’ve written about it from the heart. I usually just state the facts. Thanks for reading my story. I agree with you that the relationship that I have with Fionas Mum is very special.

  8. Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your heartbreaking story. Your courage and resilience shine through in this post. I’m glad to hear that you and Fiona’s mum connected to support each other.
    Unrelated to this, for some reasons my comments have not appeared on your Next Phase in Fitness blog. I tried several times. Maybe they go to the spam folder? I can leave comments on your Best Bookish Blog. Thank you to Denyse for sharing Jennifer’s story. #lovin’lifelinky

  9. Oh Jennifer, I have goose bumps as I sit here on a rainy cool day! I have known bits of your story over the years of following your blog and various comments but to hear your story in one go like this touches my heart deeply. You are the true embodiment of courage, with what you’ve had to go through and I feel for you getting your life back and doing everything you’ve done since.

    Your story about Craig’s name not being mentioned again is sad but I know it happens a lot. I have learnt that grief affects everyone differently and we have to accept that but when my brother in law died suddenly we have worked hard to keep mentioning his name and sharing memories. My sister in law, his wife, didn’t want us doing that when she and her children were around which made it very hard for my husband and his parents.

    Thanks very much fro sharing your story with us all and thanks Denyse for showing us another fabulous woman of courage. It’s amazing what stories we all have and how we manage to do what we do! Sharing for #mlstl

    • It is a great space and place for those who wish to share and I am privileged so many have chosen to do so here.

      It is said that we keep memories alive by mentioning the names of those who have died. How sad, that some people feel that is not the thing to do. So much is changing and has changed as far as grieving and grief is concerned and it is a shame to hold the ‘secrets’ of loss so hard inside.

      Thank you Deb, beautiful words.

      Denyse.

  10. Thanks so much Deb I appreciate your comments very much. You’re right about how difficult it can be sometimes for families in grief and we all cope in different ways. It’s lovely that you try so hard to keep your brother in laws memory alive. I’m sure his wife will appreciate what you’ve done when her grief isn’t so raw.

  11. Thank you Denyse and Jennifer for sharing this incredible story of courage. I have never lost a child and cannot imagine how that must feel. I did lose my youngest brother suddenly and remember that feeling of guilt if I started to feel happy or have fun. It is a real aha moment when we realize we can be happy and still honor the one we lost. I also appreciate the assurance that we should grieve and grow in our own way and not worry about what others think. We also need to allow others the same respect, to grieve in their own way. Still, it must have been so hard for you when your family wouldn’t speak of your son. I got the most comfort from sharing stories, laughing and crying with my family. I admire your courage, Jennifer, and your confidence and love of life. Thank you for sharing this very personal story. May you be surrounded by love and well supported in your life’s journey.

    • Thank you so much Christie for your kind and thoughtful words to support Jennifer. Sharing our stories is so helpful.

      Denyse.

  12. Thankyou for your comments Christie. I agree with you that we should have the freedom to grieve in our own way. I have no issues with my family over this. They were facing grief and loss also and doing the best they could.

  13. Oh Jennifer, this is just heartbreaking. I’ve just gone to give my Miss 20 and Mr 16 a hug. Thank you for sharing xoxo

  14. Such a moving read. “Everything about me changed after this happened” – I really identify with that. Sadly it’s another thing we share- grieving mothers. Thank you for sharing Craig’s story