Grief after loss – how death can create new beginnings

After losing his friend to suicide eight years ago, Thomas Bailey wanted to get more involved in the community to help those struggling with their mental health. Fast forward to 2021 and he has launched Veteran Benefits Australia, Classics for a Cause and newly Veteran Mindfulness Australia – all with veterans front of mind.

The feeling of loss is inevitable in life; the loss of your favourite toy when you’re younger, your relationship or even losing financial stability. In extreme cases you can lose someone very near and dear to you. 

The feeling of grief goes hand in hand with loss, said to be a natural response, accompanied by the emotions of shock, anger, disbelief, guilt and profound sadness. Dealing with one of these on an average day can be difficult, so an artillery of challenging emotions can feel extremely overwhelming. 

Losing my best friend 

I know the feelings all too well. Just over eight years ago, after battling issues with anxiety and depression, I lost my best friend Kerry to suicide. 

It affected me more than I expected and created this desire to do everything I can, to help those who need it most. I started by donating to small suicide prevention charities with the limited resources and money that I had at the time. Researching key groups with a focus on men’s health, the staggering suicide statistics pointed me to veterans. 

I was baffled that ex-servicemen weren’t aware of the current free services available or worse even, eligible to receive funding. To bridge some of this gap, six years ago I started Veteran Benefits Australia, a free service that connects Aussie veterans to service providers for psychology and exercise services. 

We have helped over 30,000 veterans find service providers to help them free of charge and to date it’s one of my proudest achievements. Although I would love Kerry to be here to work on it with me, I know he would be proud of what we have built.

In my dealings with veterans, I found that many ex-serving were not actually eligible for the free services, so I wanted to raise money for veteran charities that help non-eligible veterans receive those services. 

Turning grief into action

So, in 2019 I took a risk and bought a 1967 Eleanor Mustang with my own money, raffled the car online and donated part of the profits to veteran charities and with that, Classics for a Cause was born. Fast forward to 2022 and we’ve donated over $2.5 million dollars and given away 21 cars – four of the winners were even veterans! 

This is my journey dealing with grief after loss and one that has spanned across a decade. It wasn’t an easy path, and everybody faces different trials and tribulations. With that in mind, here are my top tips for turning grief into new beginnings. 

Take the time to grieve: I know this may seem obvious but not allowing yourself to truly mourn the loss of that person can leave you haunted by the memories. Distracting yourself by keeping busy all the time can feel okay for a while until it keeps you awake at night in the silence. Take a break – maybe even do an activity they loved. 

Give back to the community: There are people everywhere that need our help. Donating not just money, but your time as well, can make the world of difference and it might even be how you find a new passion or hobby. In fact, our research reveals that 62% of Australians feel that their hobby helps with their mental health. 

Take a chance: It’s undeniable that the loss will make you reflect on the now. Take a chance and make that bold decision you’ve been umming and ahhing about. Quit that stressful job that you hate or leave that relationship that you’re not happy in anymore. For me, it was taking a risk and co-founding a company. 

Find like-minded people: Always know that you’re not alone in your grieving. Finding a support group or network is always beneficial and as you’re reading this via the Saving Brothers page – you’re certainly in the right place.  

If at any time it all feels like too much – seek support from the below resources: 

About the research
The research by PureProfile was carried out on a national representative sample of 1006 Australians aged 18 and over in August 2021. Methodology: The data sample was weighted against ABS data for age, gender and location using an online survey that is independently conducted and verified by PureProfile.

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