Grief is as unique and individual as the person who is experiencing it. There are no fixed stages or set sequence of emotions and behaviours. People can experience the same type of loss and cope in entirely different ways. Christmas can be a particularly difficult time. The following document provides some suggestions that may be helpful. Click this link: Coping with Christmas to download the document.
For five years Joyce had been battling cancer travelling to Brisbane from her beloved home on Mt Tamborine for treatment and surgery and to visit her daughter Annette and grandson Ryan. Earlier this year the time came when Joyce required palliative care.
Joyce’s husband Hank had witnessed the extraordinary in home care Karuna had provided his own mother in her last few months so he arranged for Karuna to do the same for his dear Joyce in Annette’s home in Brisbane.
Described by Hank as a daughter any mother would be proud of, Annette was determined to honour and protect her mother in her final days. Annette together with Karuna, set up the ground level of her home for Joyce to be cared for surrounded by family, friends and not to be forgotten – her faithful dog Bundy!
Bundy never left Joyce’s bedside ever watching and supervising the nurses and visiting friends and family.
“Having Mum cared for at home meant her favourite people (and animals) in the world could be with her, sitting with her, reading to her, even stay the night with her,” said Annette.
“Not only did Karuna provide daily, expert medical care the nurses and volunteers counselled Hank and I as well as relatives interstate on Mum’s final journey and what we should expect. Karuna also helped us liaise with the medical practitioners and even organised things like a hospital bed and wheelchair – Karuna thought of everything.
“This support made this heart wrenching time bearable and allowed us to focus entirely on Mum.
“I feel that looking after Mum at home in her last few weeks gave her the dignified death she deserved. As sad as it was, we have no regrets and we know that at my home she was surrounded by love and the memories of her wonderful life,” she said.
Hank said Karuna made it possible to grant Joyce’s wish to stay at home and pass away peacefully.
“I can’t thank the Karuna nurses and counsellors enough. I also thank Annette for her complete dedication to her mother in her final days,” he said.
But the association with Karuna hasn’t ended with Joyce’s passing. As part of the healing process for the family Annette has taken her 5 year old son Ryan to Karuna to make a Memory Box about his Nana. Ryan decorated a box which he filled with things that reminded him of Nana Joyce – their favourite chocolate treat, the tickets from the last movie they saw together, special drawings he did of his grandmother.
Annette, Ryan and Hank also hope to catch up with some of the nurses and counsellors when they attend the Karuna Christmas Market in late November.
“My experience with Karuna was so positive and profound that for the first time in my life I have a personal connection with a charity and I am committed to helping it. These wonderful people are now an ongoing part of our lives,” said Annette.
We welcome you into our home!
On 14 October, historic Rosemount House at Windsor will take part in Brisbane Open House festival for the very first time and we have a fascinating story to tell you.
You knew this house was old. But did you know its second ever resident was an extremely important figure in colonial Queensland? Or that several local streets are named after people involved in Rosemount’s history?
Our trained volunteers will be giving talks throughout the day on our spacious green lawn and in the grand dining room and they’ll be joined by our friends at the Windsor & Districts Historical Society, who will have a display.
There will be heaps of other fun stuff on the day too, like tea and cakes, live music and a teddy bear’s picnic, so get the kids to bring their favourite toy or teddy along.
So please join us next month for Brisbane Open House 2018.
We can’t wait for you to share in a story which stretches back to the dawn of our city.
When: Sunday, 14 October. 10am – 3pm.
Where: 27 Cartwright St, Windsor. Parking available at Flynn Oval at the end of Cartwright St. Short walk from Windsor Railway Station or buses to Lutwyche Rd near Bryden St, stop 11.
How much: It’s completely free!
Our animal companions are an integral part of our families so it is natural to sometimes be overwhelmed by feelings of grief and sadness when a beloved pet dies. Karuna will pay tribute to our departed furry, feathery, and scaly companions during a simple Buddhist memorial service to be held on World Animal Day on Thursday, 4th October, from 2.00 – 3.30pm at Karuna House.
Please join us in a ceremony of remembrance for our cherished pets. The service will be followed by a light afternoon tea. Suggested donation of $5.00.
For catering purposes, please RSVP by Thursday 27th September via email firstname.lastname@example.org or phoning 3632 8300.
Welcome to the Spring 2018 edition of the Karuna newsletter.
Our Spring newsletter includes a voice from the heart, an experience of why palliative care matters in the community and information about upcoming events that we hope to see you at.
For the best reading experience we recommend clicking the link below to download a PDF version of our newsletter.
Click to read the newsletter here.
Eight months after giving birth to her ‘miracle’ daughter Mia, Christine Walters was diagnosed with terminal cervical cancer and given one year to live.
“It was devastating, I looked down at my beautiful miracle baby in her pram and thought how will I say goodbye,” says 44-year-old Christine from her home in Caboolture.
After the news had sunk in, she told her oncologist, “you have to find a way to get me more time so that my little girl can remember her mum”.
Four and half years later, having given up her job as a high school teacher, Christine is still collecting Mia from kindy, teaching her to ride horses, cooking meals and reading her bedtime stories.
“For a long time I felt mentally broken, and I still catch myself sometimes looking at Mia when she is sleeping and I feel a sense of anger over what we have lost. I won’t get to see her graduate high school, or get married or have her own kids. I would do anything to live to see those things,” she says.
“Day to day, however, I refuse to dwell on it, I just get on with the job of being a mum as much as my body will allow me to.”
Christine left Denmark and arrived in Australia as a backpacker in 1994. She has called Australia home ever since. She met husband Neil, who has two sons Daniel and Luke from a previous marriage, in 2006. They married three years later and began trying for a baby straight after. But after three years of trying they turned to invitro fertilisation.
“I remember so clearly the day they rang and told me I was pregnant, it was the most ecstatic feeling ever,” she says.
Mia was delivered via caesarean section and although there were signs that something might not be right, Christine felt fit and healthy.
“Mia was seven months and I had been climbing Mt Ngungun three to four times a week when I was diagnosed with an inoperable tumour.”
Over the last few years, in an effort to squeeze out more time with her family, Christine has had chemotherapy, radiotherapy and braccotherapy while also trialling new drugs and immunotherapy.
“It’s been a roller coaster ride, each time I go downhill a new drug comes up but there’s nothing after this, it’s the last chance saloon. If I go down now, I know what the outcome is going to be.”
Karuna has been caring for Christine for the past six months, offering psychological support whenever she needs it.
“Karuna has been a godsend, it helps knowing the nurses and counsellors are always there. When I feel really distraught, I can send a text to the counsellors and they will get back to me, put things in perspective and calm me down.”
“I’ve felt grief like I have never felt before and I just didn’t know how to process it, Karuna is helping me through it.”
Our Autumn newsletter honours Australian Ballet dancer Carolyn Rappel, who died of Motor Neurone Disease, and includes stories on paediatric palliative care nurse Kelly Oldham and the work of our psychosocial team.
For the best reading experience we recommend clicking the link here to our magazine style reader.
Grandpa has ‘The Cance’.
Graham and Jeanette Ferguson’s four-year-old granddaughter Emily is talking about her most beloved bear Fergus.
“He has ‘The Cance’ like Grandpa, and he is very skinny so make sure you don’t hug him too tight because you will hurt his bones.”
Emily attaches a mask to Fergus’ head so that he doesn’t get any germs because ‘germs can make him dead’. Emily has been regularly role playing ‘The Cance’ since her mum Karina and Dad Tim broke the news that her Grandpa was sick. Emily is one of nine beautiful Ferguson grandchildren, ranging in age from four to twenty-one.
“Keanna, Jay, Luke, Amelia, Sam, Georgia, Alex, Jack and Emily, half of them call me Paga and the others call me Grandpa. We see them all the time, we’re very lucky,” says Graham.
The upstairs of their two story home at Albany Creek is set up to house their four children (Lee, Ricky, Tarcia and Karina), their partners (Jenni, Jazzy, Tim 1 and Tim 2) and their grandchildren whenever they wish to stay.
They are all looking forward to spending Christmas together – it will be their last with Graham.
“My family is the most important thing in my life, there’s nothing better than having my grandchildren climb up on the couch next to me to watch TV. It’s the little things, “ says Graham.
Graham was 63 when he was diagnosed with kidney cancer in February 2015. In a rare complication, a tumour was discovered in his heart a year later and tumours were subsequently found in his brain. He is now being cared for at home by Karuna.
“It was a total shock, we were all devastated, there were no signs,” says Jeanette. “We are a very close knit family and this has been a real shock for us all. We used to think that this kind of thing only happened to other people, but now we are the other people.”
Graham continued to work for 12 months after his cancer diagnosis but for the past 18 months he’s relished the time at home, the serenity of the bushland behind their house and the comfort of being able to have family come and go.
“One of the positives of this disease has been stepping away from work. I feel lucky to have had this time – family holidays, days at the beach, out for coffee with my girls.”
“I couldn’t have had this time without Karuna.”
Jeanette says Karuna has been a life-line for her and their family. “Knowing that we have nurses on call and counsellors to go to is a relief. We don’t have to worry about getting Graham to the hospital in the middle of the night, we know that we can call Karuna and a nurse will be here.”
“It’s a wonderful service, we feel very blessed.”
Just over a year ago, my 26-year-old son Charles was told he would have little more than 24 hours to live. Family and friends gathered at the hospital to send him off with love. But true to his courageous spirit and infinite humour, Charles woke the next morning, turned to us and declared “anyone would think I was going to die”.
We counted our blessings but knew he didn’t have long. Shortly after, our six month journey with Karuna began. Charles was born with Cystic Fibrosis and had spent his life in and out of hospital, but his spirit was indomitable.
He didn’t just want to survive his last few months, he wanted to truly live surrounded by his beloved pooch Shadow, his friends and his family. Karuna empowered him to do this.
Being wrapped in the arms of Karuna was akin to a young child being cuddled by a loving parent. That feeling of calm, of being secure in the face of adversity. When our Karuna nurse Millie first arrived she said, “we laugh, we cry and we give great hugs”.
As a young boy, my Charles enjoyed a very physical life. He was an incredible sportsman, excelling in every sport he set his sights on. When he left school he completed an apprenticeship, travelled, established a Marine business and was a self taught pyrotechnics expert. Charles was adventurous, independent, passionate and a loyal friend. Karuna allowed him to be himself right to the end.
Our first meeting with Karuna was in March 2016. There was a chill in the morning air, heralding not only a change of seasons but a massive change for our family as we were told he had less than a month to live.
Our house is a haven for young men. Charles had his dream car in the driveway, he had his pyrotechnics in the garage, his dog by his side and he had his mates. A month passed and he was still driving up to Mt Coot-tha in his beloved Mercedes. Two months passed and he was setting off fireworks in the backyard. State of Origin came and went with Charles and his twin Toby cheering on Queensland.
The seasons changed and a tsunami of friends flowed in and out of the house. Five months went by and his devoted Baptist pastors John and Nick were by his side playing guitar, taking song requests. It was so calm.
Having Charles at home meant we could walk this journey with family and friends – Sunday roasts, long lunches, his dog at his bedside, praying and sharing funny stories.
Charles required specialist care that is most often delivered in a hospital setting. Medicines needed to be administered, syringe drivers need to be changed and Charles and our family supported. Charles could not have had this precious time without the wholistic palliative care provided by Karuna at home.
Our Karuna nurses Millie and Cora would tend lovingly to all his medical needs as well as liaising with all of Charles’ medical practitioners. They became important family members, knowing how to comfort me when I felt overwhelmed and supporting close family and friends. Karuna volunteers would come and go, doing the washing, ironing, tidying and staying at home with Charles when I needed some air. I was able to focus entirely on Charles.
When Charles was born I was overjoyed to be able to care for my baby. With Karuna’s support I was again able to be a mother to my baby as his 27 year journey came to an end. Charles’ last 24 hours were incredibly special. Charles hosted his last supper – Thai takeaway – with his closest friends and family. It was such a beautiful journey and one we could not have taken together without Karuna.
Few terminally ill Australians get to spend their final days at home. When it happens, it can be the greatest gift of love.
We are pleased to be featured in the February 11 – 12, 2017 edition of Weekend Australian Magazine. Click below to read the full article entitled ‘Dying Wish’.
Or download the PDF.