Melissa Reader lost her husband when he was just 40 years old. He had been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer shortly after the birth of their third child.
“Not only did everything change in an instant, we lost the tools we once had to communicate openly. My silence was driven by a self-imposed directive to “stay positive”, and with that came the denial that he was in the last stage of his life. So there were no honest conversations. And when he died, he was in an intensive care setting. It was clinical, it was impersonal and if we had understood the reality of his situation, he may have chosen a very different path. As his wife, and main caregiver, I didn’t know how to manage what was going on or prepare for what might lie ahead. I came away from that time holding a lot of regret.”
This experience has driven her to become CEO of The Violet Initiative, a social enterprise that is helping Australians to be better prepared for this difficult end-of-life stage. Supporting a friend or family member who is dying is never going to be easy. However, when there is acceptance, communication and planning, we can reduce the regrets caused by the experience.
Violet provides free, one-on-one support to informal caregivers as well as a growing digital library of personal and professional wisdom. Businesses can access training and education for key staff so that they can better support customers and employees.
The Snow Foundation has been supporting Violet, formerly known as LifeCircle, since 2010.
“Many people with a terminal illness want to die at home, yet only a small percentage do,” says Snow Foundation CEO Georgina Byron. “If we can help people to have honest conversations in the last stage of life, we can ease the pain and trauma caused by death.”
The Snow Foundation’s support for Violet sits within a broader commitment to supporting end-of-life care, including the extension of palliative care at Clare Holland House, a KPMG research report on palliative care reforms, and the establishment of a not-for-profit funeral home Tender Funerals in Canberra.
For more information about Violet, visit www.violet.org.au