As friends of her late son, Luke, battle through Year 12 in isolation, Rosie Batty has opened up about how she gathered with them just prior to stage four lockdown to mark what would have been Luke's 18th birthday.
In a podcast about resilience, survival and coping with isolation, Ms Batty says staying in touch with friends Luke had at age 10, before he was killed by his father at cricket practice in 2014, is both painful and something she needs to do.
Rosie Batty, at home in Tyabb on Friday, has opened up about grief, pain and resilience for a new podcast to support those struggling with isolation.Credit:Simon Schluter
"I'm challenged by the connection … I want to and then it's pain, [then] I want to, and then it's pain. But I've realised it's important for them," she said.
"The kids who came on what would have been his 18th birthday are those who he started prep with and they get together at the anniversary of his death each year."
Ms Batty told the wellbeing podcast Bounce Back that contact is vital for survival in times of great stress, including during pandemic lockdown, and revealed how she belatedly realised friends had kept "suicide watch" on her after Luke was killed.
"What everyone will say is whether you've received news of a terminal illness or had a failed relationship or a death … eventually you're on your own. I found that incredulous because I thought, actually I'd welcome a bit more time on my own. I've got people all around me.
"What I didn't anticipate was that people were doing suicide watch; it never occurred to me people were concerned of what I might do."
She urged people to contact those alone or vulnerable, and to stick with friends even if their emotions are challenging.
"What I have struggled with as time progressed are the people that don't keep up that connection.
"I know they don't think you are going to be 'over it' but somehow their life's moved on, or the different stages of grief you go through, or the pain you feel is real and raw and bloody hard for people to be around when you're not coping.
"People that you think are going to go the distance … that you've thought were brilliant at a particular place, you look around and realise you no longer hear from them. For me, I felt senses of abandonment and rejection."
The upside is that "amazing people come in". As calls to mental health lines during the pandemic hit unprecedented levels Ms Batty has urged people to take the time to get in touch with friends.
It was important for people struggling with feelings of anxiety, depression or loneliness – all of which are reported to be at very high levels in the community – to know "you will always get through that".
"Just a week ago I was at a place where I couldn't think, my chest was beating rapidly, the anxiety had just come straight back, wham … it can be all-consuming and very difficult so what I feel is important is to be able to reach out to people you know and can trust that have your back," said Ms Batty, who is isolating at her home in Tyabb.
She urged people who know those living alone or going through difficulty to "really be reaching out proactively" and said even those who had developed skills to cope with adversity, which she has, needed those around them to check in.
"I like a lot of space and alone time, but I can feel very overwhelmed with the sense of isolation … Don't wait for [people] to reach our to you, keep a connection," she said.
The Bounce Back podcast is presented by DrinkWise.
If you or anyone you know needs support call Lifeline on 131 114, or Beyond Blue's coronavirus mental wellbeing support service on 1800 512 348
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